Using ‘Training Wheels’

Weekly Teaching Tip – Aug. 1, 2011

(From Leigh McRae’s teaching program ‘Vocal Mastery”)

For many of you, you will need to put on some ‘training wheels’.

When you got your first pushbike, chances are the bike had training wheels on the outside to give you a sense of balance. When we speak of balance in the voice, it refers to the relationship between the amount of muscle we use (that is, how our vocal chords come together), and the amount of breath pressure required to activate them.

By using the ‘training wheels’ you will also get a physical feeling of where your voice sits when it is more balanced. The way to discover this physicality is by simply pushing your fingers on the outside of your mouth, making your mouth more oval shaped. You’ll notice when you do this, you will immediately get a different physical sensation than you normally would and it will alter the sound that you make. Don’t be too concerned at first about the changes to your sound, just take note of the physical feeling.

For many years, there has been terminology used such as, ‘singing in the mask’, ‘placing forward’, or ‘feeling vibrations’ in certain areas. The problem with these is not that they aren’t accurate descriptions, but for most people they are hard concepts to grasp. You end up questioning how much vibration you should have, how much forward feeling you should have, or if it is enough in the mask. This is a very difficult thing to explain and even more difficult to understand. However, with the ‘training wheels’, you will understand where your feeling is because you will be making better sound, your sense of pitch will be better and you will feel more comfortable. These are measurable things that can really happen for you.

As you develop your sound, the ‘training wheels’ can come off in the same way that when you got older, more experienced and skilled, you no longer needed the ‘training wheels’ on your pushbike.

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