Resolving Pitch or Range Difficulties

Move past straining and constriction by understanding your tone -says Jeannie Deva

Sometimes, even when singing in the correct key for your voice, you may experience difficulty with certain pitches in the melody.

Confusion or lack of training for the consonant-to-vowel relationship within a word can cause muscular contraction that will adversely affect your voice, causing strain, and tone and/or pitch problems.

How you deal with vowels is significant to singing with ease and sounding professional.

It’s important to maintain the consistency of the stylistically appropriate pronunciation of each vowel, while not choking off your voice with over-emphasized consonants.

Understand Your Tone

Your vocal tone when singing the melody is the result of vowel sounds.

Vowel sounds emanate from the vibration of your vocal folds; your notes are part of the sound of each vowel you sing.

When you over-emphasize consonants, you can constrict your vocal muscles and make singing more difficult in a number of ways.

Move Past Constriction

More specifically, since the lips and tongue are used to form consonants, over-pronunciation can cause muscular tension in the tongue and jaw, which will alter the position of your larynx.

Your vocal folds reside within your larynx, lying horizontally just behind your Adam’s apple.

When your tongue and/or jaw tense, they pull up or push down on your larynx and inhibit the free motion of your vocal folds.

This makes them struggle to produce the sounds you intend to sing, resulting in straining for notes, singing off pitch, register break and other commonly experienced vocal problems.

Try This:

Choose a phrase from a song that’s troublesome.

Speak aloud the words in that phrase and notice the sound of each vowel — not its letter name, but the actual sound of each vowel when you speak the word or phrase.

Since each vowel provides us with an opportunity to sing and each consonant frames our singing voice, determining the vowels in this phrase will enable you to purposefully steer your voice through the problematic phrase vowel-to-vowel.

Once you’ve explored the words from the phrase, add back the melody as you continue to let the vowels be what they are: the sounds of your voice.

My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids

JohnPaul – Take Your Mama (cover)

Cheers! This is really cool. You did a great job with the looping, created a great groove; you kept my interest and it was fun to listen. Plus, I liked the fact that you let us watch as you laid down the layers – I love that voice jam app! Thanks for the smile at the end of the song – nice touch. To help with the occasional strain and pitchiness, recognize the vowel sound you’re using – even when it’s an “Ooh” – your voice is in fact the result of vowel sounds. The better you work with the vowel sound (not letter name, but sound), strain will often resolve and your voice will have better tone and pitch accuracy. For more on that, take a look at my spotlighted advice article for this week entitled: Resolving Pitch or Range Difficulties. Thanks for sharing your creativity with me and the Voice Council community.

Barry Quinn – Rolling in the Deep (cover)

Barry – I hear the potential. You’ve begun to imbue this song with a different sound and style and I actually think you’re on your way to giving it your own signature. As you have potential and I am interested in helping you, I’m going to be a bit blunt. I don’t understand why you, per your own video notes, submitted a video that you consider not to be your best version. This is a point of professional pride. Submit your best work – no apologies. Singing is about communicating. By singing while looking away and to the side the entire song, it appeared as if you were avoiding your listener. A quick fix to help with straining (mostly occurring on the choruses): on every word you sustain, consciously “drop“, or lower, your jaw. This will help you to not clench the muscles of your jaw and neck. As you get more accustomed to singing without the muscle tension, you won’t have to consciously open your jaw on these sustained words. Example: “We could have had it A…LL” (jaw down as you sustain the note on the “a” vowel). I look forward to hearing more from you in the future!

-Jeannie Deva

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© 2011 All Rights Reserved. This week’s advice is from Jeannie’s soon-to-be-released “Singer’s Guide to Powerful Performances” which includes hundreds of video examples, 23 chapters, 42 exercises and numerous practice and application tips. Follow @JeannieDeva

Jeannie Deva is a celebrity voice and performance coach and recording studio vocal specialist with a list of impressive clients and endorsements. Jeannie teaches privately in Los Angeles and in the very near future to students worldwide via her Online Vocal Academy. Visit her new singer’s performance development channel: and her voice enhancement for vocalists: The Contemporary Vocalist Book and CD series and The Deva Method® Vocal Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs CD.

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