Master Your Onsets and Offsets

Master Your Onsets and Offsets

It’s time to focus on what we do most of the time as singers: starting and stopping notes –says Daniel Zangger Borch

This is an area of singing that requires our focusMuch of your singing time is taken up with starting notes (onsets) and finishing notes (offsets) – this includes every note we sing after a breath.

So, you can see that this is an area of singing that requires our focus.

Today I want to explain what our body is doing during this “on/off” process and give you an exercise to use as you master this area.

The 5 Ways To Start and Stop a Note

The way we start and end a phrase or note can be done in many different ways.

It’s really about in which order air and vocal fold vibration is synchronised; this can be done in a variety of patterns (you’ll be able to hear these in the audio example below):

A direct onset occurs when the vocal folds close before the air stream starts, and an glottal stop offset (ending) occurs when your vocal folds come together with an extra push and then immediately release air (like a voiced sigh).

A simultaneous on/off occurs when the air and vocal folds start at the same time.

A breathy offset can be achieved by gradually deactivating the vocal folds but still having an ongoing airflow.

Yodeling onset/offsets are very common in soul and pop. The note is begun in the falsetto register but quickly transfers to chest register and vice versa on the offset.

The creak/fry onset is often used in pop and rock and is often combined with the glottal stop offset, mentioned above. The last two patterns in this list are not technically real onsets/offsets but I would say that we perceive them as real.

Your Exercise

 Focus on the pattern that is most familiar to your genre I want to encourage you to try all five of these ways in the following exercise.

Then, you can focus on the pattern that is most familiar to your genre.

Before you try it yourself, listen closely to the singers in the audio track below. They are moving through all five styles:

1) Breathy
2) Simultaneous
3) Yodeling
4) Creaky
5) Hard

Be sure not to have to push or strain on any of the onsets/offsets. As with all vocal technique, balance is the key.

Now, give it a try.

Onsets Offsets Sheet Music PDF


My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids

themradam18 Adam – “More Than This” by One Direction (Cover)

A beautiful pop voice. I really like your vibrato; it gives the sound energy. You could try to be a little less breathy sometimes (but not all the time). This will create more energy and vary the overall impression.

Nic Nelson Nic Nelson – “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” by The Script (Cover)

Lovely voice, I really liked it. Sometimes you are not spot-on-pitch, especially on the high notes. I believe that your kind of voice timbre and this kind of song needs very tight-pitched vocals, so work on that and it will be great.


Daniel Zangger BorchDaniel Zangger Borch is one of Sweden’s most recognized vocal coaches, regularly appearing popular TV shows such as Idol, True Talent and X-Factor. Not only is he a professional singer and songwriter, he holds a PhD in Music performance. www.voicecentre.se