March 2012 – More Is Not (Always) Better | Vocal Bliss

March 2012 – More Is Not (Always) Better

by Ramesha Nani

Have you ever had the experience of singing in a choir, or any vocal ensemble, and it feels like everyone around you is singing much louder than you are? Like, no matter how hard you “push” you can hardly hear your own voice? Indeed, that is the common response—to push your voice out, trying to get louder. But let’s stop and ask ourselves: does that really work??

One of the surprising things you learn with serious vocal training is that the more you push your voice, the less it will be heard from a distance. To truly project your voice so that it really carries, you must place it correctly and be able to give it enough resonance by keeping your throat expanded—in a relaxed way.

Ironically, when you hear your own voice very loudly it usually means that you’re not projecting it at all. You’re forcing it out by squeezing your throat, and that blocks the sound from projecting and quickly moving away from you. That’s why it sounds so loud to your ears!

The opposite is also true: when you place your voice correctly (with a relaxed and expanded throat), and therefore project your sound out, it doesn’t seem as loud to you because the sound is rapidly traveling away from you.

This technique was developed in times when microphones didn’t exist and singers had to come up with “tricks” to be able to be heard over large orchestras, without any amplification. Think of operas by Giacomo Puccini, where the orchestra gets incredibly loud at times and yet you can still hear the soloist’s voice soaring over the top of it.

I remember being at a karaoke place when the karaoke guy invited a trained alto to sing a song. At first she tried to sing in the microphone and that was impossibly loud: the speakers were distorting the sound big time. Then she tried without the mic. The place was relatively small, so even without a microphone her voice was still overwhelmingly loud! She was trained in the art of projecting her voice and making it resonant.

Of course, this is an extreme case; very few of us need to worry about being “too loud”. Quite the opposite! Almost all of us would benefit from learning to stay relaxed—keeping our throats round and expanded, remaining completely free of stress and strain, and powerfully projecting our voices out to the world.

Here’s a video that will show you a simple exercise to help you relax your throat and improve your vocal placement.

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