Oxana Senina from California has recently emailed me: “I just read your article “A Handbook for the Development of an Expressive Voice”, and this is exactly what I am trying to learn. I do have a few questions that have come up as I practice, and I would love any insight or advice you might be able to give me.” I think it would be interesting to my readers to answer her questions here in my website.
1. “…My teacher…mentioned that the voice should be placed in the middle of the forehead. When I place the voice there, I feel a lot of vibration and even sometimes a ringing in my ear when I sing at louder volumes. I just want to make sure this is the right spot for the placement of the voice (the middle of the forehead)?”
Oxana, I warn against PLACING the tone ANYWHERE. You will begin to “manipulate” the voice. This will bring tension in the voice and take away its freedom. There are all kinds of repercussions that will hamper the quality and quantity of tone. The voice needs “many places” of resonance to function freely. By attempting to limit the voice to one place, the production of tone will beome controlled and not allowed to take on its FULL resonance and beauty of tone. Even resonance ocurs in the body as well as the head, and it should be allowed to use ALL of the resonance areas.
If you have learned the feeling of “inhalation” – that the tones are coming to you and not being sung outwardly (exhalation), you will find that the voice will take on resonance in the head and upper palate (raising the soft palate automatically) and also the body. This is what we want. Don’t limit the resonance area. Let the voice be free without tension. Freedom without manipulation, but with full body support from the epigastrium and back using you “counterpressure”, will give you the optimal tone.
2. “When I sing quietly in my middle register, I feel like I am sending the air to the front of my mouth just behind my front teeth. From there, I feel the air bounce up and into my head just behind my forehead. When I sing at louder volumes, though, I feel like the air is taking a different pathway. Instead of moving forward to my teeth and then bouncing up, I feel like it travels up the back of my mouth, then up and forward into my forehead. I’m confused about which is the correct pathway.”
Oxana, it seems to me that you are thinking too much about non-essential things and probably not concentrating on the right things. There should be NO feeling of air moving anywhere. Very probably you are exhaling your breath and not inhaling. Concentrate on your breathing and body strength (never let up with your “counterpressure”), concentrate on the feeling of inhalation, concentrate of your freedom and RELAXATION in the throat, concentrate on the position of the tongue (forward and away from the throat) and an optimal articulation. When you are out on stage, these things must come automatically so that you can express your thoughts and feelings.
“Lastly, I was just wondering if you had any exercises you could recommend to practice the inhalation technique. Up to now I have been praticing the technque just by focusing on placement, but I would love to learn some exercises that would give me more specific direction.”
(Forget placement!) Yes, pratice a lot on “oo’s” and “oh’s” with the feeling that these vowels are coming to you in the upper palate area. Not placement, but a sense of direction. Practice a lot with “th’s” (voiced). “Th” is the best consonant(s) to use because the tongue in in the most forward position possible. In this position you can be certain that you are not swallowing the tongue and blocking the back of the throat, nor depressing the larynx. (The base of the tongue is connected to the larynx.) Oxana, I will be scanning and putting some exercises online soon. With the above, however, you can make a very good start. With “counterpressure” (not collapsing with the muscles of support which are the muscles of inhalation – don’t forget the back expansion) and the feeling that the tones are coming to YOU and not being projected outwardly, you will find that you will progress rapidly. Flagstad, who had this Bratt technique, said she had doubled her voice in a month – almost instantaneously. Doubling our voices is a good sign that we are singing with our bodies correctly and not putting pressure on our throats that will minimalize the quantity as well as quality.
I am open to more questions. I will try to guide you through this process, even though I am not with you in person. Tell me how you get along and if you understand. Thank you for your interest and contacting me, Oxana. Please keep in touch. I’ll be thinking of you!