to Vocal Process eZINE 24
In this edition we report on a busy month for Vocal Process,
with recent courses in London and Gateshead. The latest video ebook
on the effects of raising and lowering the larynx is now available,
and there is news of a link between Vocal Process and London's
prestigious Science Museum. Jeremy contributes a second article on
the vocal folds and the open/closed phases. News of Vocal Process
over the summer includes Jeremy's new performing contract, and the
blog this month has tales of standing ovations and musical
March has been a busy month for Vocal Process with four different
courses. The first course,
Successful Singing Auditions,
was reported in edition 23 of the Vocal Process eZINE. Here are
reports on the remaining three:
on March 17th played to a full house at the
Chenies Street building
of RADA. The participants included singing teachers, choral trainers
and school teachers and peripatetic musicians.
Jenevora Williams is a concise and experienced presenter, and the
day began with an overview of the vocal mechanism. The information
on the development of the larynx from birth to adulthood helped to
put into context vocal training for children and adolescents. It
also helped participants identify tasks that were not appropriate for children and why some instructions
were impossible for them to carry out. Breathing, range and tone
colour were all discussed, and questions were invited and answered
throughout the day.
Jenevora played a number of recordings of young singers in various
stages of change, and included a superb piece of editing where in
five sentences a single speaker moved through all five stages of
Our thanks go to the young singers (boys and girls) who agreed to be
taught live "under glass". The repertoire was varied, from Musical
Theatre pieces through folksong to a beautiful Poulenc song
delivered in French.
This popular course forms part of the
programme, and will be returning at the end of the year.
following week, Gillyanne had two appointments to keep in the
Gillyanne writes: Next time you are up Gateshead way, be sure to check out
SAGE centre. It's a state of the art building, with an
amazing amount of music-making going on. As a musician what
impressed me about the inside of the building itself was the
combination of quiet (each room appears to be sound separated
from the next AND from outside noise) and a live acoustic. Rare!
On Friday 23rd March I had been invited to present at the 'Sing for Health
Conference' organised by Sage Gateshead,
20,000 Voices and
MusicLeader North East. Our brief
was to talk about the "physical and mental health benefits of
regular singing activity". My contribution was an hour on How
the Voice Works: a power-point presentation on key aspects of
healthy singing that can be learned by anyone.
Since I don't
believe in 'non-singers' everyone was invited to take part and have a go as I took them through techniques for opening the
throat, making a comfortable sound, breath use and tips on
posture. The session was attended by an eclectic group including
music and singing teachers, project leaders and community health
development workers. Jeremy's endoscopy video ebook 'Looking at a
Voice' provided one of the session's highlights, eliciting
'Ah-ha' moments for quite a number of participants.
March 24th Top Techniques vocal workshop
The workshop on Saturday 24th was open to the public, and around 45 people attended.
It was another mixed
bag of participants, although all were involved with
singing and music-making in some way. SAGE encourages music in
the community so we were joined by community musicians, teachers
working with early stages and choral leaders working with silver
singer groups, as well as performers and teachers of singing.
Delegate expectations included:
I was there to share our
Top Techniques for healthy singing and speaking, and during
the day we were able to cover a number of topics in depth: silent laugh and
silent breathing; the elastic recoil breath and diamond of
support; siren and range work (including options for dealing
with the 'gear change'); and finding the 'voice-body connection'
for support. Each session was followed by practice in small
groups (ably led by members of SAGE) and then time for feedback.
A number of them had read the
Singing and the Actor book, and were interested in more ways
to apply the techniques in various settings.
Help my choir to sing better and improve my singing voice
Greater insight into running vocal workshops
Methods to inspire my vocal groups, ways of protecting my
Tackle problems like dropping pitch
Warm-up/cool down exercises
Safety in big singing for popular music
A shot in the arm
Very practical tools on how to approach vocal health and
techniques with all ages
The group were attentive, generous with each other and open to
the challenge of exploring new techniques together. I'm looking
forward to more at SAGE in the future.
A reminder of our forthcoming courses
and the Actor Training The next London Singing and
the Actor Training will take place on 13-15 July. The Singing and
the Actor Training course is packed with information, techniques and
training on vocal styles and sounds based on Gillyanne's
groundbreaking book. Gillyanne will be teaching this course assisted
on this occasion by
Gill has taken extensive training with us at Vocal Process and has
also facilitated on a number of courses. She teaches at the
London Studio Centre and has a particular interest in pop and
contemporary styles and sounds.
If you are
considering applying for the Integrated VoiceTM training
on Singing and the Actor Training without delay!
With One Voice
is back at RADA this Saturday 28th April. Gillyanne and guest
tutor David Carey will guide you through key aspects of training for
singing and spoken voice. The course begins with an historical
perspective on why training for the two disciplines of spoken and
sung voice has evolved differently.
Practical work on the course focuses on:
Key targets in
singing and voice training
for common restrictive problems
Personal input on
your voice during the workshops
successfully from spoken to sung voice and back again.
and teachers are all invited to this workshop, and there are special
discounts for Equity, MU and ISM members. We also have the Vocal
Process Student+Teacher scheme in place for this day workshop.
on With One Voice by clicking here.
The latest video ebook is ready!
You may remember that the latest video ebook in the highly successful
Looking at a Voice
series (number 5) had been lost late last year in a disastrous visit
to computer hospital. Jeremy has been slaving over a hot keyboard
and has rebuilt the ebook from scratch.
Raising and Lowering the Larynx is now ready to download from
the Vocal Process website.
Raising and Lowering the Larynx demonstrates some of the changes
in sound that are possible with a flexible larynx. The subject holds
a constant pitch, and raises and lowers the larynx, lengthening and
shortening the tube to create brighter or darker sounds.
This footage clarifies the often confusing difference between
pitch and tuning. A pitch counter is shown throughout the
examples, indicating that the pitch itself fluctuates only minutely
- the vocal folds continue to vibrate at the same rate. However, the
tuning and quality of the sound changes markedly as the vocal tract
is lengthened and shortened, demonstrating that vocal tract
alterations can be used to adjust tuning even if the pitch is held.
Download the latest Vocal Process Voicebox Video by clicking here.
Looking at a Voice and the Science Museum
At the end of last year, Jeremy received a phonecall from the London's
prestigious Science Museum. The Museum has an excellent interactive
the Dana Centre, that hosts "everything from
Edinburgh-Fringe-style stand-up comics debunking science myths to
updates on radical research, handling sessions of rarely seen
objects from the Science Museum's collection and challenging debates
on modern science".
Event Programmes Manager wanted an interactive evening of voice and
singing, and had a crazy idea to film someone singing from the
inside. Her searches on the web quickly turned up the
Looking at a Voice
series, the UK's first downloadable video endoscopy ebooks recently
featured on Radio 4's Leading Edge science programme. Several
conversations later, and Vocal Process has been invited to create a
new video ebook for the event, due to take place in July. The video
ebook, still being filmed, will contain information, photographs,
video and voiceover on how a singing voice works, and will include
nasendoscopy footage of Jeremy singing a popular song (the hottest
contender at the moment is My Way).
Blagger's Guide to Singing is on Tuesday 3rd July, 19.00-20.30,
at the Dana Centre, 165 Queens' Gate, South Kensington, London SW7
5HD and is part of
We'll keep you posted!
Article: The sound of two folds clapping...
Following on from the last edition's feature article "Staying
Together - movements of the vocal folds", this edition's feature
article focuses on the phases of movement of the vocal folds
themselves. This article appears at the special request of a number
of our course participants.
folds and pitching
established in the last edition that for phonation the vocal folds
are held close together and air passes between them. The combination
of positioning, elastic
muscular forces and airflow causes Bernoulli's Principle to occur,
pulling the folds closed and then opening them rapidly.
The vocal folds can close and open many hundreds of times per
second. When something vibrates evenly, the human ear hears it as a
distinct pitch. So a ruler bent over the side of a desk and released
will vibrate rapidly and evenly, producing a pitch. This pitch can
be altered by changing the length of the vibrating portion of the
ruler (shorter moving faster which raises the pitch, longer moving
slower which lowers the pitch).
It is important to note that it is not the length of the vibrating
mechanism but the speed at which it vibrates that governs the
perceived pitch. So an oboe reed, a violin string and a set of vocal
folds can all produce the A above middle C - they may sound
different but each sound is created by something vibrating regularly
at 440 cycles per second.
Some people become confused when hearing a man and a woman singing
'the same note'. A soprano singing the A in the
second space of the
treble clef will be singing in the middle of her range at 440 cycles
per second. A tenor singing the A in the middle of his range
(also usually written in the 'treble' clef as the second space) will
be producing the pitch an octave lower at 220 cycles per second. [If
you look closely at the tenor's music you will notice a small 8
underneath the 'treble' clef denoting that the music sounds an
octave lower.] For the tenor to sing the same pitch (ie vibrate his
vocal folds at the same frequency) he will have to sing his high A.
Vocal folds and the closed/open phases
Let us take a soprano singing her middle A (A=440). Her vocal folds
are vibrating at 440 times per second. Each closing and opening of
the vocal folds is called a cycle (hence 440 cycles per second).
This is where the vocal mechanism gets really interesting.
Within each cycle, the balance between opening and closing can
change, depending the texture, position and kinetic energy of the vocal folds. So
they might stay closed for 30% (closed phase) and open for 70% of each cycle
(open phase). Or
they might stay closed for 60% and open for only 40% of each cycle.
The length of the closed phase
within each cycle will not affect the pitch (the vocal folds are still
opening and closing 440 times per second), but has a major effect on the timbre
and volume of
In general (and in simple terms), the longer the folds stay closed
in each cycle, the louder the sound source will be. So lyric singing
(cry quality) will have a shorter closed phase (approximately 30%).
Belting will have a longer closed phase (anything up to 60%).
This will also have a powerful effect on breath use.
Since in Belting the vocal folds are closed for longer in the cycle
than they are open (for example,
55% closed, 45% open), there is no
opportunity for the breath to emerge. Less breath is used, and belters can often hold notes for 30-50 seconds without breathing.
This comes as somewhat of a surprise to some singers who believe
that active breath flow is paramount in singing. This is why in our
studio we will often encourage new belters to breath out before they
start, as having to hold back large amounts of air can cause
problems of constriction and pressed phonation.
Conversely, in cry quality the vocal folds are closed for less time
than they are open (up to 30% closed and 70% open). With the vocal
folds open for so much of the time in each cycle, air can escape
easily, and it is easy to overbreathe. Our instructions in the
studio for those new to cry quality is to hold the air back
deliberately using the breathing muscles, so that the flow of air is
smaller and slower.
True falsetto (as seen on the
Modal to Falsetto 1 - Making the Change video ebook) has no
closed phase at all - the gentle flapping in the breeze that is
demonstrated in the stroboscopic footage means that the folds
actually do not meet. Air passes through the folds continuously and
is used up very quickly, so more air intake is required.
Incidentally, there is a difference between true falsetto and a
breathy modal phonation (as seen on the
Modal to Falsetto 2 - Breathy Speech video ebook). With a
breathy phonation, the vocal folds do have a closed phase, but the
rear portion of the folds (between and in front of the arytenoids)
remain open, allowing air to flow through the gap or chink even
while the front portion are closed. This breathy phonation can be
attractive in singing or speaking voice as a colour, but is not
recommended as a default setting!
You can immediately understand from this that no one breathing
pattern will work for all vocal sounds.
The next edition will look at why the closed/open phase is not the
whole story of volume change.
Summertime, and the living is easy?
Those of you keeping abreast of the Vocal Process tutors will realise
that this summer is going to be a little different from previous
years. Jeremy's contract with the Scarborough Spa Orchestra will
last for four months (June to September), and while he is away,
Gillyanne will be catching up on her PhD studying at the Institute
From June to September Vocal Process will be offering INSET and
private courses for institutions and organisations, and there will
be one major public event. The flagship course Singing and the Actor
Training in July will be taught by Gillyanne, ably assisted by Vocal
Process regular Gill Main.
The next instalment of the Integrated VoiceTM Module One
begins on Jeremy's return to London In October. The pre-requisite
for admission to the programme is attendance at the Singing and the
Actor Training, so if you haven't taken the course yet, book your
For those new to the eZINE, Jeremy begins a short contract at the beginning of June
as Musical Director of the legendary Scarborough Spa Orchestra. The
last surviving summer season orchestra in the UK, the orchestra
plays 10 concerts each week for the summer months with no programme
repeats. This means that the musicians perform well over 1,000
different pieces, so sight-reading to concert standard is a
The orchestra's heyday was in the 60s and 70s when, together with its
conductor, the violinist Max Jaffa, appeared in live weekly radio
broadcasts as part of the Light Programme. The repertoire ranges
from Bach and Vivaldi through Wagner to Victoriana, light classics
and modern blockbusters. Jeremy will be conducting from the piano,
presenting, and accompanying the numerous singers who drop in for
concerts each week. Soloists for 2007 include Marilyn Hill Smith,
Ros Evans and of course, Hatstand Opera. The orchestra is delighted
that Sir Willard White is making a return visit for the Celebrity
Gala Concert before his season with the Opera Bastille.
If you are in Yorkshire this summer, make sure to visit the Grade II
listed Spa in Scarborough and enjoy a concert or two with Jeremy.
this month contains news of standing ovations, West End auditions,
breakneck touring schedules and musical lederhosen.