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The Case: Forced R&B Riffs

Rachel Bennett probes a case of unnatural, forced singing

The Singer:
Tanika, 19 years old performing at open mics and wanting to go solo and get gigs as an R&B singer

Case Summary:
Tanika was concerned that her voice was ‘tired’ a lot of the time with a slightly ‘raspy’ sound on production. She had been told this was ‘sexy’ and encouraged to use it!

An Overworked Jaw

When we got started I observed that Tanika was consciously adding a shaking of her jaw to each note alteration in her riffs.

I asked her why she was doing this and she explained that she had seen celebrity artists doing it.

The Difference Between Push and Let

I began by working with Tanika to relax her jaw with gentle massage and pinching around the muscles.

On her subsequent visits I showed her film footage of two artists whose jaw vibrated on production and we observed that this was, in both cases, an involuntary action.

Tanika was attempting to ‘add’ a sound by altering her body’s natural approach to song.

These exceptional artists were simply so relaxed that their voice vibration was seen in the jaw area.

I explained to Tanika the connection between her jaw tension and her tired voice.

I asked Tanika to imagine a tiny bowl sat in her larynx area and that her voice was a syrupy fluid that passed over the bowl.

We played with note sequences, beginning with simple two notes up and down and progressing on to a five-note riff up and down.

The task was to keep the fluid passing over the bowl. Tanika found after some practice and increased knowledge that she could actually sing riffs without vibrating her jaw and that she had a natural facility for the very sound she loved!

Flow of Breath is the Answer

Tanika discovered the balanced adduction required to affect control over note change at speed. Once she began to locate this, I was able to further inform her about the anatomy of voice and so firmly establish her confidence in her own ability.

Take Away

Sometimes a singer will arrive with a specific issue they wish to address. I discover that their perception of their voice can mask the underlying problem. This often occurs when a young singer wants to sound like someone else!