It’s time to change our mind about how we treat our vocal equipment -says Mark Baxter
Hello there. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m your larynx and, although I’ve been with you all your life, chances are you don’t know me very well.
I work all day automatically protecting your lungs and helping you lift heavy things by clamping off air to make your body stiff.
While these things are very important, my biggest claim to fame is that I can make sounds.
Mostly I get used for speech, but with a little coordination you can turn my sounds into something musical.
What I’m Not
Although I can be as loud as a trumpet, I’m not made of metal. So it’s not a good idea to blow as hard as you can in me; I have some delicate parts.
Just because I can move around a pitch like a slide trombone doesn’t mean I’m one of those either.
As you know, I come in different sizes with names like Soprano, Alto and Tenor but that doesn’t mean I’m played like a saxophone.
Although there are no strings inside me, my vibrators can be stretched just like the strings on a guitar.
In spite of these similarities, I don’t belong to any of the three categories of musical instruments: wind, string or percussion.
What I Do
This is why there’s a completely separate category for what I do; it’s called singing.
It’s simple. You don’t blow on guitar strings to play a song or strum a drum to keep a beat.
Every instrument has a particular set of physical requirements.
Yet when it comes to the voice people tend to play it with principles that apply to other instruments.
Ironically, the list of problems caused by approaching me the wrong way is everything you don’t like about your voice.
That’s good news. It means that your sound is based on misguided beliefs and dysfunctional behaviors that can change.
Learning what an instrument requires is what lessons are all about. How you apply that information is what defines you as an artist.
There’s nothing wrong with pounding on a guitar like it’s a drum, but the instrument certainly has more to offer when played traditionally.
In the same way, I can be blown like a horn, stretched like a guitar and smacked like a bongo.
But you’ll get the most out of me if you play me like a larynx.
Read more in VoiceCouncil’s most read article on Vocal Technique.
My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids
Scott Lloyd – “Blackbird” by The Beatles (Cover)
You did it Scott! You learned to play Blackbird perfectly on guitar. Well done! But uh-oh – later you discovered that no one wants to hear you play the song without singing it too. Unfortunately you didn’t spend the same time you did with guitar – seeking out all the little vocal details. If you do I have no doubt you’ll achieve a stand up version of the song.
Hanhee Lee – “In The Jungle” (Cover)
How refreshing to see someone having fun when singing! I was surprised how soulful your voice was after hearing your intro. Great feel. Great pitch. Great range. There’s no need to squeeze your eyes so hard when singing in falsetto. It will take some practice to break the habit but it will be worth it in the long run because you’ll have more nuance up there.
Krystal Isidore McCall – “Rolling In The Deep” (Cover)
Krystal – I’m imagining you have a really cool sounding voice. Unfortunately, your video doesn’t let me hear that voice at its full potential. You’re holding back. Is it because you don’t know the words (reading) or that you don’t want to bother the neighbors? Regardless of why – it leaves you imitating the sound of someone singing powerfully instead of doing it. There’s enough posers out there – be the real thing!
Mark Baxter has worked as a coach with Aerosmith, Journey, Goo Goo Dolls — and many others. He is the author of The Rock-n-Roll Singer’s Survival, creator of The Singer’s Toolbox instructional DVD, Sing Like an Idol instructional CD. Mark operates vocal studios in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and online via Skype. Visit his website: VoiceLesson
You can read more of Mark’s work here.