Singing requires the ability to change breath pressure, proper vibration from our vocal cords, and resonance from the pharynx. These three forces together allow us to sing different musical pitches and words, creating a unique musical instrument for expression.
Exercise 1: Hiss
Now try using the same muscles with a tss or hissing sound. To do this place your tongue to your upper teeth with your lips almost completely closed. We are making a small space for air to escape from to better feel out how we build up pressure with our belly.
Try pushing out and then relaxing these muscles. Too much pressure and the air stops, too little and you run out of breath. Play with this for a moment and just notice if it's hard or easy to control this pressure. The key is eventually having a dynamic control over these muscles, but first just try and get them active in a big way.
Our vocal cords also come together and start vibrating. Put your hands on the front of your throat and say a few words. Now try to stretch those words out a little longer. Can you feel where the vibrations are coming from? You may notice you have to use a few more distinct pitches as you do this. This is our larynx, which houses our vocal cords. It's a hard protrusion and you should feel that it is the epicenter for all the vibration.
In general, we want to let this area function freely, so the best thing we can do is feel if the muscles around the larynx are locked in place or able to adjust as we sing. Try swallowing for a second, can you feel the larynx rise and then fall? If it's too high, that's an issue. Swallowing is very helpful to reset these muscles. Also take in a breath with your mouth open. Can you feel the larynx drop a little bit? This is also helpful, but we can push it too low and lock it in place this way as well.
The last important thing is to feel out your vowels and consonants. Our tongue, lips, nose, and mouth are all part of this. We create a lot of different shapes here to form the words we sing. If these muscles work too hard, then they block this resonance. This squeezes the muscles around our vocal cords from working and leads to a lot of facial tension and vocal fatigue. Adjusting our vowel shapes just right gets us an ideal sound or tone for whatever style we are singing.
Exercise 2: Zah
Let's try some more singing. We are going to use a Z sound first. Try gently singing up and down in pitch. Pay attention to your belly pushing out as the pitch rises and and relaxing as the pitch falls. This is very similar to the TSS sound we did earlier, but with our vocal cords involved. Then we are going to open into an AH or Uh. Feel for that space in your mouth. Can you still get the first to rise and fall on an AH vowel.
Let’s get specific. We are going to sing ZAH on one lower pitch and then one higher pitch and back. Play around with this on your own. Once you are able to control this better, you can start singing and following along with songs that comfortably fit your range.
0:00 - Intro
1:13 - Exercise 1
3:09 - Larynx
6:30 - Exercise 2
9:30 - Outro