FAQ

1) My ten year old daughter has a beautiful but rather weak voice. But she loves singing! Is it worth it for her to start taking voice lessons? Is it possible to develop and strengthen the voice by taking regular vocal technique lessons?

If your daughter enjoys singing, I would highly recommend taking voice lessons, because the problem of a weak voice can be reliably resolved with the proper techniques. Your daughter obviously does not use "her resonators" - like most singers with untrained voices. With proper singing our head and our chest behave as two loudspeakers that amplify the voice. The singing terminology for this phenomenon uses the terms chest resonance and head resonance. Unlike the chest and head register which relate to the way the vocal cords work, the terms chest and head resonance refer to the resonant space below the vocal cords (the chest) and above the vocal cords (the head).

Chest resonance is typical for male voices, head resonance for female and children voices. The principle is that a well-formed voice must always include both of these resonances. A male voice resounds mostly in the chest (chest resonance), but it has to include head resonance as well. When the sung melody rises, the head resonance starts to dominate and enables the transition to the mixed and head registers. Even here, however, the voice must not completely lose the chest resonance.

Women's and children's voices are mostly based around the head resonance, but they should also always include some chest resonance. (This of course depends on the genre that is being sung - in pop music, it is is preferred for women and children to predominantly use chest resonance.)

At this point we can imagine the head and the chest as two loudspeakers, which sound differently at different dynamic levels. These two loudspeakers should always sound simultaneously and there should never be a moment where only one of them sounds.

If neither of these imaginary loudspeakers sound, then the voice doesn't sound either.

With proper voice training your daughter should not have a problem to make her voice resonant and stronger-sounding.

2) Can adults also successfully train their voices and practice using the Unique Vocal Technique for Kids textbook? In the introduction, you write that, yes, it is possible, but can the exercises intended for children fully substitute exercises for adults?

Without hesitation, I can definitely recommend my textbook for adults.

The fact that it is intended for children from the age of 5 years is not a problem, because the exercises are clearly divided into exercises for the younger age group, the older age category and exercises for both of them.

An adult student should logically practice the exercises designed for the older age group. Although the exercises for both age groups may feel somewhat infantile, even I like to use them for my adult students, because they are very efficient and allow for a "non-violent" way to attain good basic singing habits. Without these exercises, it is not quite possible to proceed to the exercises designed for older children. The Unique Vocal Technique for Kids textbook assumes a vocal maturity of all students who passed these basic exercises. The exercises designed for the older age group are basically exactly the same vocal exercises as those used for teaching adult students.

If you have any doubts, listen to the children and adult students audio samples in the section "Our students" at the home page.

3) Can you tell me some rules by which one can discern good/correct from a bad/incorrect singing?

Good singing can be relatively easily discerned from bad singing, but unfortunately there are a lot less people (even in musical circles) that are able to do so than one might expect.

I'll give you hints that will help you with orienting yourself in good and bad singing.

Firstly, I will try to describe at least some basic features of bad singing:

Aspirated tone (one can hear added breath within the voice)

Uncertain tone

Pushed tone (so-called forced throat singing)

Guttural tone

Hyper nasal tone (tone in the nose)

Forcing the voice (singers who are used to forcing their voices are often unable to sing in quieter dynamics)

The voice does not carry (voice cannot be heard further away)

Difficult onset of the voice (the singer must make great efforts to ensure that the tone will even sound)

Tremolo (unfortunately, this term is often confused with vibrato)

Small range of voice

Shortness of breath (singer must take breaths even after very short sections)

Poor intonation (singing out of tune)

Register imbalance (singer gives the impression that he/she sings with 2-3 different voices, and his voice has transition breaks)

Inability to sing legato

Inability to make larger dynamic changes

Poor articulation, the sung words cannot be understood

Poorly set speaking voice (the manner of speaking is very important for the singing technique. There are well-known singers whose vocal problems are caused by a bad speaking voice).

As a counterpart I will list the characteristics of a voice guided by good vocal technique and the resulting benefits that this provides.

I will try to summarize this in a sort of "Ten Commandments" of correct vocal technique.

Quality tone (sound, timbre)

Balanced registers

Significant increase in vocal range

Significant increase of the voice strength and its capacity to resonate

Better breath endurance

Far more expressive and dynamic options

Good intonation

Endurance of the singing voice (singer does not "snap off" after one or two songs, but his/hers singing can last for several hours without vocal fatigue)

Duration of the singing voice (we mean extending the number of years during which the singer is capable of high-quality vocal performances)

The possibility of overcoming a voice indisposition (this of course only applies to a certain extent)

A more detailed description of most of these terms - including sound samples - can be found in the textbook Unique Vocal Technique for Kids.

4) I am 19 years old, I like to sing, and all my friends say that I sing well. I myself, however, am not sure since often after singing I experience burning in my throat.

 

If you have burning in the throat after singing, as you write, it means that something with your singing is definitely not okay. For the cause of your problems, one should look into how you work with your voice. Personally, I am convinced that your voice is not freely formed and that you use your throat muscles to "squeeze" out the tones (so-called throat singing). If this term is not clear, I'll try to explain it. The so-called "throat singing", in singing jargon is a term for an incorrect way of forming a tone where one tries to force the tone with the use of throat muscles. This is a problem that many untrained and poorly trained singers encounter.

Typical features are:

1) The tongue mass is concentrated at its root, which is then pushed back and narrows and blocks the throat opening

2) The soft palate arch is lifted too much and and closes the nasopharyngeal cavity (with proper singing the oral and nasal cavities should be connected.

3) Larynx (the hollow tubular organ in the neck, where the vocal cords are located) is unhealthily lifted up too much and presses towards the tongue root,resulting in narrowing its opening. These habits result in a spasm in the throat, which then spreads to the entire vocal apparatus and to the body as well. This results not only in a strangled voice but of course in the aforementioned burning throat as well. It is not strange that your friends do not notice this deficiency. A young vocal tract is relatively resilient and regenerates quickly and if you are gifted with a beautiful voice color, most students (except for voice professionals) do not even notice that you have some problems. Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time how long your voice system will be able to withstand such a treatment. A young person is able to sing only by using their naturally given vocal apparatus, but if the vocal apparatus is exposed to constant exertion without any technique, it will wear out relatively soon. From your question, I got the impression that you haven't really addressed voice technique yet. If you care about your voice, and you would like to sing well and for a long time, I would definitely recommend to start taking voice technique lessons. Not even the most beautiful voice can healthily develop and maintain its color and resonance for many years if it is not supported by a good vocal technique.

 

 

5) Do you think it is advisable to study the classical singing method when I mainly want to sing pop music?

 

I am convinced that any vocal genre that one can still call actual singing of songs, deserves at least a basic vocal technique. If the"craft" is not mastered, there is nothing to build on. The first phase of training should essentially be based on the classical method, because the basic singing habits are the same in all of the other genres. When the singers have control over their voice, they may continue to focus on the genre which they intend to address and find someone who will be able to pass on their experiences and give them interpretive guidance. By other genres of singing I mean a wide range, from early music, jazz, musicals, country music to pop music. Good vocal technique does not contain anything that could be a hindrance to these genres (in all of them, the performer needs to have a resonant voice, a convincing tone, at least an acceptable range, a long breath endurance, good intonation and dynamic skills, clarity of speech and other benefits of a well-trained voice).

Of course, in various genres, the performer has to work with the voice differently, but with good fundamentals the singer is able to develop further in any direction.

One of the things that the classical method of training can discourage and which many fear, is the vibrato. Here, however, I must point out a few things: The right and natural vibrato is something completely different than the monstrously huge vibrato or sometimes even a tremolo which is often mistaken for a vibrato nowadays. (A natural vibrato is a periodic voice vibration on one tone, while a tremolo is an unaesthetic warble in which there is a regular change of pitch.)

Natural vibrato usually appears only after a long time of training, as a sign of a mature voice. A good voice teacher always has the vibrato under control and will not allow it to exceed acceptable levels. A good singer is also able to influence the level of his vibrato, and even sing without a vibrato. Good vocal technique is like good makeup - not too much to see, but it can do wonders. Ideally, the singer sings so naturally that the audience thinks he has never studied singing. Occasionally a phenomenal talent appears with a voice as if "formed by nature" which in the beginning might seem sufficient enough. However, if he/she wants to sing professionally, it is necessary to train the voice technically otherwise their voice might soon be overused and destroyed. A young person may be able to sing using only their natural abilities without any vocal studies, because the young vocal cords quickly regenerate. However, if the vocal tract is under constant exertion without any good technique, the vocal cords can be damaged rather soon.