How to Get Forward Vocal Placement Without Trying So Hard
Sing in the mask.
Move your placement forward.
Feel it vibrating in your nose.
I've mentioned all of these things in the past (hey we all get caught up with what's "cool" or "hot" at the time), but not anymore.
I get a lot of emails and messages from singers who are desperate to sing "more forward" - and I've noticed that this tends to cause more problems than it solves.
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When I used to teach whinge exercises trying to get singers to experience "twang", I would ask them a lot of questions. The single most important one would be "How does that feel?"
For those of you at home, this is ALWAYS the magic question.
Often they would say it felt tighter, stretchier, pinched or a little forced. None of which singing teachers want their students to experience in the practice room (and none of which singers want to experience on stage).
And even if the slightly forced feeling wasn't there, there were other issues. The more singers experienced "distinct" or more extreme twang, the more they thought that was the way all their singing should feel.
Have you ever heard someone sing an Adele ballad with the bright nasality of Idina Menzel? It's just not quite what we ordered.
So if we don't want to contort our voices into singing more forward, how do we get a balanced, non swallowed sound without the discomfort?
Check that your support/breath control/air pressure balance is going swimmingly.
More often than not, a swallowed or stuck sound is because something's going wrong with a singer's support.
If the breath is shallow or you’re not using correct air flow and air pressure or your abdominal muscles aren’t flexible, you'll run into issues.
Don't know exactly how to train this? I have a full workshop on this (which comes with exercises to help) over in the shop here.
Work with more natural sounds.
The witch cackle, the whinging child, the teasing kid - all of these seem natural for children, but when you ask an adult to attempt them, the sensation is often foreign and sometimes forced.
Instead, working with adding a little of our own "cry" or "call" sounds in our exercises and songs can adjust our tone just enough to get the change we're after.
Some vowels are naturally better behaved than others for feeling "forward placement". Ee and Oo for example can be a singer's best friend (but not always, just in case you feel like a freak because you can't get those two to behave).
Getting curious around vowel shaping and exploring how you can keep more of the shape of your effortless vowels on your tricky ones can help a lot.
That and double check that you're not overlifitng your soft palate (check out the video below if you think you may have Soft Palate Over-lift-itis).
SO, NO TWANG?
I'm not saying that you have to throw your "Nyah Nyah" whinging exercises CD out the window but I am asking you to check in with how it feels when you make those sounds.
Is it effortless or do you feel a forcing, picking or stretching sensation?
Is there still a fullness to the sound or does it get shrill and shrieky?
Remember, you want to become your own best teacher It's worth questioning everything to see if there's a better, more efficient way of doing things!
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