Working through the Bridges: The Key to Balancing the Voice

Weekly Teaching Tip – Jan. 23, 2012

Many of us heard John Henny’s presentation this month on Registration, Formants and Harmonics. I very much enjoyed his presentation and found it to be very accurate and informative. Understanding the science of the voice is very interesting and can help us gain greater insights and detail into our teaching. It is also helpful as it lets us know that what we are doing is scientifically correct.

As I listened however, it once again occurred to me that the key to teaching good singing is not in understanding the science, but in helping singers work through the bridges or passagios in the voice. In order for a singer to get through their bridges the body must be in balance. As John mentioned in his explanation, as a singer moves through the first bridge, he/she is transitioning from the first formant (F1) to the second formant (F2) along with the appropriate harmonics. For a man this is normally E4-F#4. For a woman this is usually Bb4-B4. When singers move through additional bridges, similar changes in the formants and harmonics occurs. So, if the singer is moving smoothly through their bridges the science is working properly.

As a teacher it is interesting to learn about the science as it helps bring credibility and understanding to what you are doing and why things are working. However, if you or your student is able to sing smoothly through the bridges you know that the science is working correctly, even if you don’t totally understand it. The key is to understand how vowels and consonants help singers get through the bridges while keeping appropriate resistance on the vocal folds (vocal cord closure) and to be able to hear what changes in the vowels and consonants are necessary to get these desired results.

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