People have told me that I am a skilled singer, incredibly musical and that they enjoy my performances. Yet, my closest friends agree with me that there is something missing: I would call it a lack of power – I can be soft, but I can’t seem to be loud. I can be ‘intricate’ but I can’t pull off any show-stopping moments. I’ve sung professionally now for about a decade and I feel that I really need to get past this barrier. Can you help?
It sounds like you need to go and see a good vocal coach.
From what you are telling me, it sounds as if you are not fully in command of the various voice qualities available to you.
It is very hard to analyze this correctly when I cannot hear you; if it is possible for you to upload something for me on a private You Tube account, then I could listen and give a specific analysis.
Without this I am forced to guess. My educated guess then, is as follows: if you are singing in your head-voice only, you may not be adducting the vocal folds properly.
Poor vocal fold closure can happen due to a lack of support.
It can also happen if you are singing in falsetto.
‘Falsetto’ is a quality which sounds thin and breathy, rather like the way in which many amateur choristers sing.
The vocal folds are stiff, rather than meeting and vibrating, and lots of air is passing through them.
This kind of sound is very limited as the vocal folds are not actually working properly; making a ‘crescendo’ or stronger sound is impossible.
It is also quite tiring for the voice, and a little like sitting under the folds with a hairdryer. The voice is dehydrated and thin, with a lack of power and expressive quality.
It is also possible that although you are singing in true head-voice, the sound is thin and not muscular.
Perhaps your soft palate is lazy, which gives the tone a slightly flat and nasal sound.
A lazy soft palate does not allow for ‘spin’ and good overtones in the voice.
Practicing exercises which strengthen the soft palate would be a good idea.
Try lots of ‘Ging,Ging,Gings’ on scales all the way to the top of your range.
Make sure you keep a crisp, muscular ‘G’ at the start of the ‘Ging’. The soft palate is the soft section at the back of the roof of your mouth.
In trained professional singers the soft palate raises like the dome of St. Paul’s.
There are two muscles in the soft palate, the ‘tensor palatini’, which tenses it, and the ‘levator palatini’, which lifts it.
A lifted, tense palate makes a much better sounding board for your voice, as the sound waves have a nice hard surface to bounce against.
Unfortunately the soft palate has hardly any sensory nerve endings in it, so teaching a singer how to lift it is no easy task.
Any tension in the jaw and tongue root will certainly make it harder to lift the palate, as they are attached.
Try to leave your jaw and tongue soft and relaxed when you sing.
A ‘sneer’ and idea of ‘singing into your ears’ tends to encourage a lifted palate; you can also try holding your nose closed.
If the vowel sounds change and sound nasal when you pinch your nose, it is a good indication that you have a lazy palate.
Try singing whilst pinching your nose and not allowing the tone to become nasal as a result.
It takes a little while to master this, perhaps a few weeks to change muscle memory, but it is well worth it.
Best of all, go and see an experienced vocal coach; that is what we are there to fix! Good luck!
Director, The Advanced Performers Studio
Questions for Leontine Hass can be sent to the VoiceCouncil editor: email@example.com