Voice Mechanics #2

  • ​The resting positions for the first points of the Vocal Core - ​"Home" position
  • The MOST important movement to free and strengthen your voice.


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The Vocal Core

We call the upper third of your body,  from your chest to the top of your head, the "Vocal Core". 

In this lesson, you will identify the most important parts of your vocal core and their optimum, ​rested and released  positions.

Parts of the Vocal Core 

  • Mind
  • Eyes
  • Head
  • Mouth
  • Jaw
  • Tongue
  • Larynx
  • Chest

"Home" position

There is a neutral, tension-free position for each major point of your vocal core. When your larynx and the other critical parts of your vocal core relax, your voice naturally produces strong, healthy sounds.   

Unfortunately, most of us have a good deal of tension in these very same places.  We have countless little personal movements and language habits that invisibly move our voice-making parts out of alignment. 

We will begin at the top of your vocal core and release each point in a descending order until your entire vocal core is without tension. 

Your "Home" position, is your starting position.

Before you speak or sing, you warm-up your vocal instrument by placing each point of your vocal core in its relaxed position.  

Wiggles and Twitches will appear and disappear. 

At first, you will notice lots of wiggles and twitches as you find your way to these resting positions. But, when you slowly perform each little movement, you will find a fluid path where each degree of movement gently flows into another.

These small, fluid movements are the EXACT same movements and speed you use to produce and shape vocal tone. 

​Mirror

Please use a either a hand mirror or wall mounted mirror for ​these exercises. 

Your mirror is one of your greatest teachers, as it will help you see how your personality habits interfere with your new vocal core positions.

For instance, when you smile, you may also tip your head to the side or squint your eyes. This is fine for​ daily expressions, but it distorts the alignment ​of your vocal mechanism. Much of voice study includes unwinding these little habits because they impede air flow in your vocal core. 

​Parts of the Vocal Core

​#1: Mind - Focus on Inner Sensations in the Vocal Core

Focus upon sensations of breath and vibration inside of the vocal core, from chest to head.

With consistent practice this inward focus will become automatic. And, as you become more aware of the subtle sensations of tone and breath you will observe consistent patterns.

What was once a tangle of breath, sound waves and sensations will begin to organize itself into a simple order small, easy techniques.

#2: Eyes - “Soft Eyes”

Eyes are open in a "Soft"  gaze.

Do not open eyes wide or squint. 

Eyebrows are relaxed and down. 

Watch for tension between the eyebrows

#3: Head


​Your head​ ​ is horizontal. Neither tipped to the right or left, nor tipped up or down. There should be a horizontal line,  parallel to the ground that runs between your ears.  

Your ​ head remains passive when you draw in or expel breath.

#4: Mouth - Lips

Lips are closed, without tension. Be sure that you don't press your lips together or grimace.

Look into the mirror and notice:

Are you using your facial muscles to close your lips? Take the time you need to release and untie those connections using the release movements of the home position.

#5: Tongue

​Your tongue rests flat on the floor of your mouth.

The front is rounded, not pointed.

You can feel the gum-line behind your lower front teeth.

#6: Jaw

Your jaw is a magical point in your vocal core. When it is open and properly relaxed, your entire vocal body begins to relax. Tension in the jaw translates to tension in the larynx and all other parts of the vocal body.  

Simply allow your lower jaw to FALL downwards from your face without opening your mouth.

 Don’t try to open your jaw. Instead, feel as though your jaw hangs from your upper teeth.

IMPORTANT!!!!   Your jaw is a major release or lock point. Many​ vocal problems are related to stress​ in the jaw. When you are able to ​release the jaw and let it ​fall from your face, many vocal problems may simply disappear.  

Teeth

​Your jaw falls downward and creates ​space between your teeth.

Lips remain closed and relaxed.

#7: Larynx


Your vocal folds (cords) are​ completely relaxed during the breathing process.

Your breath ​should be silent.

​​ A sounded breath indicates tension and reisitance in the larynx. ​ A silent breath indicates relaxation.

Your Larynx does NOT control voice volume or breath pressure.  Your vocal folds vibrate air into sound. That is ALL!  IF you are using tension in your throat to determine the high or low pitch of a note, Stop. It's a waste of your precious energy and HARMS your voice.

​The source of ​most vocal problems is the inward motion of tension in the larynx and throat. Most of us press inward on the larynx without even knowing it. It is such an ingrained habit that we don’t even feel it. ​

​Tension ​in or around the larynx​ transfers to tension throughout the rest of your body.  

Incorrect use of larynx

​It is important ​ to recognize the sensation of​ improper larynx tension because it is such a common habit. Th​is habit, although unhealthy, is so in-grained that you may not even feel it. Therefore, it is critical for you to practice the sensation so that you can recognize when you are doing so. 

- Breathe in and out loudly.

​- Clamp the air off by closing your throat.

- Make a grunting sound and feel the sensations in your larynx and head.

- Repeat softer then louder. (Without too much gusto or it will make you cough. Just loud enough to clearly identify the sensations.)

- Repeat softer then louder. (Without too much gusto or it will make you cough. Just loud enough to clearly identify the sensations.)

- Take all the time you need to notice the various sensations of tension related to closing your larynx.

​If your throat or larynx feel anything like THIS when you breathe or make vocal sound, it’s ​wrong.

That is how you DON’T want to feel.    

When you find yourself clamping your throat inward, simply let it go and give your larynx, throat and head time to return to their release positions.

Correct position of Larynx: At rest.

​​There is no reason to engage the larynx if you're not making vocal sound. Therefore, the easiest way to learn to relax your larynx and throat muscles is to practice a silent breath.

​Silent Breath

Simply inhale and exhale without making a sound. ​

Your breath will easily enter and leave your lungs without a sound or feeling of resistance in the larynx. ​There is no need to press on your throat to control the rate of air flow because air flow is moderated within the rest of the vocal core. NEVER in the larynx.

When you find yourself clamping your throat inward, simply let it go and give your larynx, throat and ​neck adequate time to return to their ​home positions.

#​8: Chest

Natural Inflation and Deflation of the Chest*

Observe the easy movement of your air, in and out of your chest; how the chest naturally expands and contracts with the flow of the breath.

There is no effort. The air simply comes into the chest and then moves out. The chest expands and contracts much like inflating and deflating a balloon.

Do not lift the chest to inhale nor push the air out on the deflation/exhale.

Instead, observe how air naturally ​moves your chest from within. ​ Notice the easy circle inwards and outwards of your breath. This slow, natural flow of the breath in the chest area supplies ​your entire breathing and vocal body.

​When the chest is free, the head, neck, larynx, shoulders and arms unwind​ to reveal your healthy voice.  (And you thought it was all about the diaphragm.*)


​*About moving the chest​ and why we're not working with the diaphragm​. 

​*An often asked question about ​chest breathing for vocal production:

 “I’ve always been told that the chest does not rise and fall when speaking and singing. Why are you suggesting this?”

Answer:


After the vocal core, stance and posture are strong and properly aligned, the chest ​sustains a hig​h, suspended position.

“The first air in and the last air out.”  

In​ Vocal Fundamentals 101, we introduce the natural capacity of the chest and lungs. We will slowly expand the breath and air pressure in the chest and the rest of the body over time.

​All breathing and voicing depends upon the more subtle and delicate support movements from the vocal core: Mid head to mid chest. 


​Shoulders

​It is quite common to draw the shoulders up with the inhale, as well as to push the shoulders downward on the exhale.

This ​movement impedes​ your breathing and voice process. ​

Observe your shoulders during all exercises to be sure they are ​released. ​Notice how they gently move ​when your breath inflates and deflates ​your chest.

​If you move your ​ shoulders too much, slow your breathing cycle and focus on the movement of your chest. With each degree of movement, remind yourself to rest your shoulders. You will probably notice some twitches  and entanglements in your upper body as you unwind your shoulders, but they will even out over time. 


Summary: 

- Your voice is produced in your Vocal Core, the upper third of your body, from the larynx to the head and chest.

- The lower two-thirds of your body supports the Vocal Core. 

- Each point of the Vocal Core has a resting position​ that is free from tension. 

- ​​​Slow, subtle movements​ guide you to the resting positions. 

- The Larynx does NOT control or restrict air flow. The vocal folds only stretch and contract to change the pitch of a sound. 

- Your breath moves easily in and out of the vocal core with out any extra effort.

​Assignment

​Find your "Home" position where each point of your vocal core is rested and without tension.

Each ​point, when rested, ​helps to release the next release point down.
You ​should notice more moisture in your throat and a general ease throughout your upper body​ as well as​ easier and greater breath flow. 

​"Home" Position. All of the points of the vocal core are at rest.

  • ​Mind - Focus only upon the upper third of the body.
  • ​Eyes - Open and in ‘soft’ gaze. Eyebrows down and relaxed.
  • ​Head - Horizontal line between the ears to begin to re-position head.
  • Mouth - Closed and relaxed in a slight up-turned smile.
  • Jaw - Falls or ‘hangs’ downward from the face and creates a slight space between the teeth.
  • Tongue -  Rests flat on the floor of your mouth.
  • Larynx - Dis-engaged and makes no sound during the breathing process.
  • Chest - Naturally rises and falls, inflates and deflates in smooth circles.
  • ​Shoulders​ - Hand at your sides. Shoulders release down and don't rise or fall with the breath.

​Vocabulary

​- Home Position
​The resting, or neutral, tension-free positions of the ​points ​of the vocal core. 

- Parts of the Vocal Core (​primary)
The primary critical points that compose the vocal ​mechanism. Mind, Eyes, Head, Mouth, Jaw, Larynx, Tongue and Chest.

- Vocal Core
​The upper third of your body, from the larynx to the top of the head and middle of the chest where your voice is first produced.  All other parts of ​your body support and amplify the sounds produced here.

​Vocal Core Exercise

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