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The Case of the Singer with ‘Tight Top Tones’

Rachel Bennett

Jane had written and performed several songs with her guitar and was beginning to attract attention – she had just completed a short tour as support for a signed singer.

She was preparing for a headline gig set up by a promoter and was expecting some industry interest.

Jane possessed a strong and expressive voice that could also shift to a soft falsetto which flipped into this easily.

Her problem was that some tones at the top end of her chest voice –where you sing close to speech level – were lacking resonance or vibration, and Jane’s soft palate – that squidgy part at the back of the throat – sounded low and tight.

There are two shapes in our phonetic library (teacher’s speak for the shapes we make when we speak!) that allow for a raised soft palate – those are ‘I’ of ‘sit’ and ‘U’ of ‘put’.

When I teach this exercise, I place an ‘H’ after the vowel to avoid a glottal push, like a full stop in the throat (IH / UH).

Jane said a few sentences with the words ‘give’ or ‘sit’, ‘should’ or ‘put’ in them, and slowly realised that her palate was lifting or ballooning up on these shapes.

We fixed a piece of paper to the wall with a big felt tipped ‘IH’ on it!

Jane sang through some scales in different phonetic shapes but focused and thought

on the IH shape, so she still felt the palate balloon up – no matter what she sang.

She went off to practice this with a good regular routine and returned 10 days later, already more confident in being very focused on the exercise (it can be difficult to split focus like this!)

After a few more sessions of applying the exercise to actual lyric, Jane was producing and hearing a new level of rich and expressive resonance.

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