Explaining Bridges from Chelsey Wall Stallings

What is another way of explaining “Narrowing through the bridges and breaks in your voice?” I did the classic, narrowing from one room, through a doorway talk and the moving a couch through a doorway talk, but my student was still a little confused. I did a voice demonstration as well. Any suggestions
This came in on the facebook page but I thought there would be more responses here.

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  1. The quickest way to get the student to feel “narrowing” is to have them push lightly on their cheeks between their teeth as they sing. This keeps the vowel vertical and they feel the lift behind the soft plate. You can also use “push your lips out” at first, then when they have that they will just drop their jaw to get the right placement. We are REALLY looking for “internal narrowness”, but we use “external” narrowness at first to get the sensation, then we drop the jaw so that it is relaxed externally.

  2. Although some explanation may be necessary, it is always best to get the student to “feel” the sensation, then acknowledge or explain what they just felt.

  3. Overall, it seems that we teachers seem to talk too much and “overexplain”. The most effective process is to get them a basic understanding of what is happening or wnat is going to happen, then give them an exercise or “funny sound” that helps them feel the sensation we want them to feel, then acknowledge what they just felt and encourage them to continue doing that. So, in the case of “narrowing the vowels” and understanding the bridges you could tell the student, “You will feel the sound go up and down your body as the pitches go up and down. This is supposed to happen. If you keep your lips round it is easier for the sound to move up and down.” Then have them do an exercise on an “oo” with their lips pushed out. Then say, “Can you feel how that’s moving up and down your body, but it’s not changing? Great! Keep doing that.” Then you continue to move to other exercises that may not be as conducive to narrow vowels, but have them continue feeling the narrow vowel feeling. When they slip out, encourage them to “keep their lips round”, or “don’t lose your round vowel”, etc.

  4. Of couse I ditto everything Dean said but thought I would add my two cents. First of all I have always preferred the Italian word passagio (passage) to the English word bridge because the Italian word implies that you will be going through something rather than over it as the English word bridge implies. I often take my students back to the 5 tone ah to test how well they are negotiating the first passagio(bridge). I always ask what they are feeling when they hit their first bridge. I explain that even though we want the voice to sound the same to our audiences and be smooth we might be feeling and hearing lots of changes inside. I sometimes use the analogy( if they are drivers and drive stick or at least familiar with it) of learning to shift gears and how when you are first learning to drive we “pop” the clutch a lot. When you get good at it the passenger in the car will not even notice the transitions. The same thing happens when we sing. At first we might not be that good at negotiating through the passagio and we might “pop the clutch” occasionally but soon no one else and maybe even you will not notice all the little muscular adjustments your voice will be making as you sing. Narrowing the vowel is just one of the tools we use to make the adjustments easier.

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