Sing with Power AND Sustainability

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Never let your larynx do all the work – says Dane Chalfin.

Most singers who seek coaching do so because there is some deficit with range, power or choice of voice quality.

In other words, when they go to make the sound they want to make, something doesn’t work and it is strained.

This month, as your Vocal Coach in Residence, we’re going to zero in with you on vocal safety and sustainability.

The main theme I want singers to grasp today is that reducing the sensation of tension around the larynx is a good thing.

Your Larynx’s Effort Level

In “The Ultimate Guide to Singing”, I’ve shared that the larynx is probably best viewed as a valve; it regulates how much air can pass from the lungs and out of the body.

Along this path, air is turned into vibrations that are amplified into sound and shaped into words and phrases.

How much effort should the larynx be making? Not much.

On a scale of 0 to 10 with 0 representing no effort and 10 representing all the strength you could possibly muster, you should not be feeling more than a 2 or 3 in the larynx.

So, if you are only using a 2-3 effort level in the larynx, where else is your effort coming from?

Your added effort should be coming from a combination of the muscles of core stability and in the muscles of respiration.

In other words, body support and breath support.

Enlist Your Emotions

That’s why the role of our body in singing is going to be our focus in the next few weeks.

But, today, I want to leave you with this thought:

I have found that the body, breath and larynx respond with far greater efficiency to emotionally motivated instructions.

If a singer does not believe what is being sung neither does the larynx (or the audience for that matter!).

Next week we’ll be looking at the critical issue of where you are putting your singing energy.

My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids

Jeff Ban Jeff Ban – “Wildfire” by John Mayer (Cover)

Good musicality and nice arrangement. From a vocal standpoint you’ve got some tongue root tension throughout, which gives you a little bit of the “Kermit” sound. Tongue tension usually comes from a lack of natural breath support, which makes sense in your case as you’re pretty slumped over your guitar. Try finding some Active Posture while you’re sitting by preparing to stand up off of the edge of your seat. You should feel your back get more engaged and this will keep your ribs from collapsing on your abs and compromising your natural support.

Marlena Phillips Marlena Phillips – “What Would I Do” (Original)

There’s a nice sense of emotional connection in your singing. Be careful about what I call “Approximate Pitch Syndrome,” which is where we are very close to pitch, especially on short or fast notes, but not quite giving them the attention to accuracy that they need. You’re much more accurate on your big high notes, but some of your pick up notes are a little under. Just being aware of this issue is usually enough to fix it.

Miki Tarantino Miki Tarantino – “Will I See You In Heaven” by Jayhawks (Cover)

Beautiful tone. It may be the quality of the recording, but sometimes your diction could be working harder. Letting the pressure build up behind the closed consonants before you let them open into a vowel could help here. Consonant Pressure can also help with supporting the more high-intensity notes.


Dane Chalfin Portrait Picture

Dane Chalfin is a leading industry vocal coach and voice rehabilitation specialist. His clients include well-known artists and actors and his teacher training courses attract professional vocal coaches and singing teachers from around the world. He is also Principal Lecturer in Performance and Artistry at Leeds College of Music. www.21stcenturysinger.co.uk


  • Roojam

    Great advice! “Enlist your emotions” – this is something that I must focus on since I am naturally wired to focus on music first and lyrical content second. To read, and I am paraphrasing here, that the two cannot or should not be dealt with as separate aspects with respect to the sound quality is something I can use as I develop my singing voice.

    Looking forward to your next article!