Learning to sing efficiently, and learning to ride on vocal resonance and enhanced breathing will allow you to sound “loud” without fatigue – says Jeannette LoVetri
Up until the industrial revolution, most people lived in relatively quiet places. The loudest sounds they heard were probably thunder from an occasional storm.
When machines were invented, human ears were suddenly subjected to continuously loud sounds, something our ears were not designed for.
People began to go deaf because of the exposure to loud sounds over time. Today, because we are used to loud sounds and putting earphones directly into our ears, this is a significant problem.
Sounds that Stand Out
To human beings certain sounds are more audible than others. The frequency range of about 2800 to 3200 Hz is the easiest one for us to hear.
These frequencies are high (about two octaves above middle C) and seem to “stick out”. For this reason, they are used in sirens of police, fire, ambulance and civil service vehicles.
These are also the frequencies of babies’ cries (you can always hear a baby crying!) and screams are typically there, too. If someone is screaming, there is usually a reason, and you probably want to hear them if there is.
Even though most contemporary commercial music (rock, pop, jazz, R&B, blues, gospel, rap, country, etc.) is electronically amplified, it is possible for a person’s voice to carry over a great distance without a microphone.
For someone to do that, the voice has to be able to generate energy in the same frequency range (2800-3200 Hz) mentioned above.
Maximizing Your Volume without Costing Your Voice
Singers and actors learn to create these frequencies on purpose through study, but great professional speakers, like politicians and ministers, have had to learn to do this as well.
In order to maximize your volume with the least physical cost to your voice, it is useful to learn to generate the same high frequencies when you sing.
This involves experimenting with the shapes you can make on various vowels, using your lips, face, jaw and mouth as “sound enhancers” or resonators.
Also, if you can create a good deal of breath pressure in your lungs and your vocal cords can resist that pressure efficiently, you can deliver a lot of volume by hooking the sound and the body together while you sing.
This generally takes time to learn but is valuable not only for vocal health but for stamina in gigs.
This means that the microphone becomes a tool of expression not just a substitute for your own vocal power.
When you can create these high frequencies, your voice will seem very loud, without ever feeling like you are screaming.
Vocal Loudness: Not an End In Itself
Loudness for its own sake is very dangerous.
No one was meant to sing (or speak) at a loud volume all the time. No one was meant to stay in a high pitch range at a loud volume, even off and on.
Loudness as an end in itself is hard on both your vocal cords and your hearing.
Learning to sing efficiently, and learning to ride on vocal resonance and enhanced breathing will allow you to sound “loud” without fatigue.
This will also give the sound engineer more harmonics (overtones) to enhance with his soundboard. The two things, coupled together as the same time, make “seeming to be” loud much easier.
There are apps available to measure the Sound Pressure Level in decibels. 80 dB is a typical loudness level for conversational speech.
Some singing can go as high as 100 dB, but the scale is not linear, its log rhythmic, so 100 decibels is not just a little louder than 80 decibels, it’s a lot louder.
Here is a simple reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness
Remind the Band: You Are Not an Electronic Instrument!
A guitar doesn’t care how much it is played, nor a drum set. A human voice, alone, was never meant to compete with electronically amplified instruments.
Learn how to rehearse. Sing at full volume only when necessary. Tell the band to work out its arrangements on their own.
Be sure to have your voice turned up enough so you can hear yourself, above the instruments, without effort. The monitor must allow you to hear your own voice more than anything else.
Do not rehearse loudly for more than a total of one hour. Rest in between songs and make sure you are not trying to compete with the other instruments.
My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry
Mark Maysey - Bring Your Won Crosses And Guns
Nice job. Straight forward and direct. It will help your sound if you sit up very straight when you play and sing so you can take deeper breaths. Play around a bit more with your sound for its own sake and see if you can get it to dwell on some of the words a bit more.
Jeannette LoVetri is the creator of Somatic Voicework, her method for teaching Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM), a term she herself created which has since become widely used. She has been teaching singing since 1971, arriving in New York City in 1975 and currently lectures and teaches across the world.