Getting through my 4th bridge

Weekly Teaching Tip – May 2, 2016
by Teri Stock

At the age of 61, I was able to make it through my 4th bridge which had been lost to me for many years. I was asked what was that did it or me or what did I change and I honestly could not point to just one thing. As with everything it was a process and a result of several factors.

I thought I would break down the process as I remember it and may i point out that although the process was very personal and individually tailored to my vocal tendencies , I feel it may be helpful to others.

First, I had to find it. It was suggested for high head and whistle tones this was easiest in the morning upon rising. I found this to be true. I started by making small hooty sounds. For me it seemed to be easier to expel some air before making the sound. I also found more success when I consciously relaxed my jaw and tongue before beginning.

After finding the sound, I then tried to connect the highest sound on a five tone ascending scale. I probably practiced these first 2 steps for a couple of years with more and more consistent success from the top down, but no success from an ascending approach. I had come to accept that maybe this was all I was going to be able to do.

When studying formants, they say it takes 9 exposures to begin to truly understand their significance. At last conference something in my brain shifted. Although academically I knew where the formant shifts were in a women’s voice I had not processed those implications in my my own voice. To quote Rocio Guitard on a recent Facebook thread: “of course sopranos must open the jaw for higher notes, since they only track the first formant starting around E5, or the second bridge. Which is why that second bridge can be oh so tricky. We women must revert to F1/H1 to keep ascending.” A woman’s High C production is totally different than a man’s High C production. A man who mixes is using a F2/H3 production. A woman cannot track that formant to sing higher.” Epiphany moment!

Academia met application and a small miracle happened in a 61 year old’s voice.

3. Initially, because keeping “the flow” or as one of first teacher’s called it “singing on the breath” is so important I found using the bubble to ascend and the ah vowel to descend the easiest. As that became easier I tried a sustain on the top of the scale .

4. I have now tried it in application to some songs and although its not perfect everyday, I am getting more and more consistency.

I would also like to acknowledge that during this time I had some wonderful lessons with Dean Kaelin, Mark Baxter, Daniela Stieff-Tostes and Hubert Noe which also helped lead me to this place.

*On a side note. Just recently I found some “release” success using the ng on the triplet octave and 1/2 scale (with legato) on the ascent and opening to the ah on the descent with no triplet. If you or a student has trouble with the ng, make sure their jaw is relaxed and start with hung. Then make sure the front of the tongue stays relaxed while the back of the tongue lifts in the back. I have pretty much replaced the “squeaky” hum with the ng with great success with myself and students.

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