One of the biggest problems that occurs in singing is the question of the appropriate amount of pressure with which to bring the vocal chords together. Put simply, often there is either too much or too little. When you are singing well, there is just the right amount. The word ‘pressure’ is not something to be frightened of in this particular instance. A certain amount of pressure is required for sound to be created. The secret is to be able to gauge or monitor how much pressure to use. When the vocal chords come together with just the right amount of pressure, the voice is in balance (i.e.: there is a good relationship between muscle and air) and the voice will work. When you have too much tension, you create your own set of problems – the sound gets very tight, the air won’t come through, it’s very difficult to sustain notes and the pitch will suffer. Conversely, when your vocal chords are not closing sufficiently, the sound will be very breathy and there won’t be much energy in the sound.
The purpose of all vocal exercises is not only to prepare the voice, but to also give you a physical feeling of what it’s like to have the appropriate amount of pressure. Whilst this varies from person to person, there is a correct amount of ‘closure’ for your voice and for the type and style of singing that you do. The way to measure this is through feedback. Therefore, you the person that will be doing these exercises will have to become a good judge.
Here are a couple of things you can monitor when you are doing your exercises:
Firstly, put your thumbs just underneath your chin and check what that feels like even when you are just talking normally and make a few little noises eg: la la la, nah nah nah, ner ner ner, and just see how that feels. You will notice that when you are making changes between these sounds, you will feel a little bit of movement there and that’s fine. Now I want you to clench your jaw. This would NOT be a good feeling to have when you are doing your exercises. So rather than having a situation where we say to people, “Just relax and everything will be fine”, it doesn’t really work that much because you’ll spend most of your time thinking “Am I relaxed? Am I relaxed?” We want you to feel what it is like when there is no tension in the jaw and the throat. This is the situation you want to maintain, or recreate if tension DOES start to appear.
The thinking is that if someone has too much closure or tension, it needs to be reduced a bit. If there is too little closure or tension, it needs to be increased a bit. The appropriate ‘degree’ for you is what we need to establish.