Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Loose Jaw - and Bicycle Stabilisers

Singing with a relaxed jaw is good.

But, Guys and Gals, in can be disruptive to one's singing.

Think about it like learnnig to ride a bike. When you're very young, you start on a trike. It's safe, you aren't going to fall over but, as you use bigger tricycles, you find that cornering is restricted.

Later you go to a bicycle, but you fit stabilisers, usually fairly close to the ground. So sometimes you're on two wheels, sometimes three. Gradually you raise the stabilisers, and finally you ditch them altogether, and you're away in total freedom.

I asked a Laryngologist why it is that relaxing the jaw is so disruptive to singing. He replied that the "muscles of the jaw are closely connected with the muscles of the soft palette and the middle ear."

I my experience, I would add to that list the muscles bringing the vocal chords together ("the vocal kiss") and the muscles tensioning the chords themselves (ie those making the pitch go up and down).

When you let the jaw go loose, you clearly let some muscles relax. But the voical instrument still needs muscles around it for stability and control, and so you have to sense where those muscles are, and you have to re-learn how to use them, and if necessary, develop them.

I have found that trying various actions - starting a vowel, singing on a "Z" or "V", raising lowering pitch, raising the soft palette - with both tight and loose jaw is a very useful exercise. You'll start to notice how you managed these actions with the support of your tight jaw, then you have to see how you do it with a loose jaw. You have to be aware of these quite small changes, and then add the support back in, otherwise the voice can just wobble around and be very unreliable. I felt I had to completely re-learn how to sing in the middle of the voice, before it was worth exploring the upper register.

So, my advice is, don't try and transition between tricycle and bicycle too quickly, or you night fall off.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Philosophy of a Warm-Up

Warm-ups are a singer's best friend. They should be treated with reverence and exploration.

But don't go about them 'religiously' - trying to find something you found before. Your objective is to find something new (and hopefully exciting) every time. Go for the pleasure of it.

You start with a sound. Any sound, something that feels right for that very moment. You notice how it sounds, how it feels, how it resonantes, and you work with what you find - not what you expected....

Then you start modifying that sound - changing your mouth position, changing the pitch, changing the vowel, adding a consonant, repeating short syllables, etc etc. Notice how this new sound feels, modify it, and go again. Eventually, you'll then end up in a very different place to where you started. Then you go back, either to your start note, or to some other sound you like along the way, and see how that sound develops the second time round.

And so on!

Happy Warm-ups!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

'Sore Throat' Remedies - Steaming

Keeping the (Vocal) System Free of Rust...

My normal remedy has been gargling with salt water at the first sign of any throat pain. But recently I've had a couple of bouts of really nasty ENT problems, for which the even more ancient remedy of steaming has proved the only defence. Since I've noticed 1 or 2 of my pupils suffering with strange blockages behind the nose/in the ears, I thought I'd share a few simple tips on Steaming:

a) Get a good bowl 9" or 12" in diameter. Pour about half a cup of cold water in, then fill to 1" deep with boiling water.

b) Put your face over the bowl, cover your head with a hand-towel or similar, and inhale steam through either nose or mouth. Keep going for about 5 minutes. (Perhaps I should have said - put on some nice music beforehand, or a song that you know lasts the right amount of time?)

Afterwards you can always put a little Olbas Oil on the water and sniff that, but otherwise I don't add anything to the main steaming.

I use steam twice a day -- and will continue to do so until this blessed ear nonsense passes...