Bone shakin' vocals
July 20, 2007 7:12 PM   Subscribe

SingingFilter: When I sing in certain keys / registers, my head seems to vibrate, and more.

Well, this is odd. I've noticed what when I sing at a certain pitch - for instance, singing "Lua" by Bright Eyes, which is played with a capo on the 7th, my entire head seems to vibrate. And more than one would be used to when singing. I even get a little sick - it seems like my head is a little cold, and tight, and generally sort of quivery. I'm wondering whether I'm singing wrong (very, very possible - I haven't sung fo' real since 4th grade) or maybe it's some sort of resonance, although the resonant pitch for a human skull must be much lower than what I'm singing.

All in all, it's weird, and doesn't help my singing at all. Any general tips about how to sing 'correctly' would be most welcome, too, since I'm just growing into doing (in a new situation, now, in a band).

Thanks all.
posted by tmcw to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes, it's resonance. I don't know if you're doing it correctly or not, because I can't hold a tune to save my life.

I took an awesome speech/interpersonal communication class and we spent tons of time playing around with high-low sounds, tweaking the volume and the pitch to feel how they resonated in our forehead, lower skull, chest, belly, etc.

Hooray for classes you get stoned to attend and shout "Woooow wo wo weeeee wa wa la la laaaaaa lo lo loooooo". /college
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:32 PM on July 20, 2007

Every person has differential resonance; great singers learn to exploit it in favorite keys and ranges.

The nausea is an odd symptom, though. Have you ever asked your doctor? Do you have balance problems or migraines?
posted by spitbull at 7:33 PM on July 20, 2007

Response by poster: No balance problems or migraines. It's not serious nausea like a deep sick feeling, but more like flushing?
posted by tmcw at 8:46 PM on July 20, 2007

You must have very powerful nasal and head resonators. This is a good thing. However, feeling nauseous or lightheaded is not a good thing. I wonder if it might have something to do with your breath support.

A few things to consider:

- You may be cutting off your supply of air by tightening your vocal folds. This prevents air from flowing naturally from your diaphragm through your vocal folds and out of your mouth. If you are effectively holding your breath while you sing, your resonators will do alot of work for you to create volume; however, you will strain your vocal folds and create alot of pressure in your head. Imagine pursing your lips and blowing as hard against them as you can. This is effectively what's happening if your throat is closing off while you sing.

- Do you have a naturally nasal voice? Your soft palate may be a little lazy and hang down in the back of your throat obscuring the flow of breath from your diaphragm through your vocal folds and out of your mouth.

- What's your posture like? Do you slouch, hunch your shoulders, jut your chin forward? If so, again, you may not be creating a free and easy opening for air flow.

- What is your chest resonance like? Do you feel a complete sense of resonance from your chest resonators (in your low register) all the way through your nasal and head resonators (your upper register)? Developing your facility with your resonators will help you to place sound more effectively.

- How do you use your diaphragm for support? Do you feel like you tighten it up toward your ribcage, or do you feel that you expand it downward toward your pelvis? Are you aware of how you support?

- Something else to consider is that you're taking in a great deal of air - this sometimes leads to a feeling of lightheadedness. I've experienced this when working in large houses with poor acoustics and I have to get in more air to get the sound all the way to the back of the theater.

- Relaxation, relaxation, relaxation. This is key for any performance, be it singing, acting, what have you. The more relaxed you are, the better your full organism will work together to create effortless sound.

FWIW, I was a singer throughout grade and high school and am currently an actor. My mother is a piano/vocal instructor. Hope some of this helps.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 8:52 PM on July 20, 2007

Let's try that first link again.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 8:53 PM on July 20, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, thanks TryTheTilapia.

- My voice isn't usually nasally.
- My posture varies. I'm going to keep track of that from now on, because it is obviously a lot different whether I'm sitting or standing.
- I don't think I've gotten 'chest resonance' to work very well, at least by what I think it is. The lowest my voice ever 'feels' it's coming from the middle of my throat. If it matters, my voice is moderately high.
- Totally unaware of how I use my diaphragm for support. That'll be another thing to improve.
- Definitely, definitely need to take in more air.
- And, yeah, definitely need to relax more.

I've gotta figure where I'm supposed to be singing "from" and how to do it.
posted by tmcw at 8:24 AM on July 21, 2007

Hey, no problem. When I started my conservatory training, the vocal work was an eye-opener. I knew some about how to use my voice, but only what I'd learned in grammer and high school. The real mechanics of using my voice effectively opened up my range as a performer more than any other skill set I learned during my training.

Yeah, as you say, placement - where you're singing from - is key. If you feel any tension in your throat at all, that's a good indicator that you're tense. Also, if when you take in a breath you feel like it stops at your mid-chest, then you're not breathing from your diaphragm. That's going to make it hard for you to take in ample breath to sustain a note, and that will make you push - that means straining and pressure, two things that are anathema to singing and singing well over time.

Diaphragmatic support is essential to keeping your vocal folds, lips, tongue, facial muscles and chest loose when performing. Learning to engage that muscle properly will help you maximize the breath you are taking in and conserve it to get through a phrase, a long note, and an entire song without fatiguing your throat. Oh, consider if you're locking your knees when you sing. I've seen an actor almost keel over on stage because they locked their knees and literally forgot to breathe. They laugh about it now. Not so much when on-stage in front of 400 people.

Depending on where you are, there may be a conservatory or a performing arts school nearby where you may find a vocal coach. Some instructors supplement their income by doing private coaching. Depending on what you want to do with your singing, getting a vocal coach might be a good idea. Some might take into account your financial situation (if that's an issue for you) and offer you a slight discount, particularly if you're a student. And, really, aside from the mechanics you'll learn, the poise as a performer you will gain will help you immeasurably. Your body will learn how to sing without engaging your mind all the while with what you're physically doing or not doing. That will free you up mentally to express what you're trying to express through your singing, which is really the point, I think.

Best of luck with your singing.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 10:42 AM on July 21, 2007

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