Chrys Page, voice coach and author has kindly provided permission for us to place excerpts from volume 1 of the e-book A Voice For a Lifetime in 30 Days online! This provides YOU with a unique opportunity – read the articles or buy the ebook which comes complete with audio samples!
CREATING THE SOUND (or) “THE GRUNT”
Congratulations! You now know how to breathe for the optimum sound production. Now, we are ready to actually make a sound.
What I have labelled “The Grunt”, obviously because of its sound, is often called “The Attack”, by your more classically trained teachers. I do not care for that label myself. It sounds all too violent to me, as if the singer and the sound were enemies.
We’re about to produce a sound that our body produces naturally when we laugh or cry. Try this. Put your hand on the place right in the center of your torso directly below your rib cage. Now laugh… feel that? Feel the pushing down and out of the diaphragm? Try coughing. Feel it now? That’s the diaphragm! That’s the muscle that’s going to make your beautiful sounds for you.
Let’s begin! Lie on the floor as before with a small pillow under your head and some heavy object on your abdomen. Take a deep breath into your belly, watch it expand, and as you exhale, make a grunting noise using the syllable “uh” with a hard “u”. As you make this sound, you push down so as to force your stomach to extend outward. The weights should pop up, not down, when you make the grunting sound. The bearing down starts the sound from your abdominal region, and lets it float through the larynx and over the vocal chords. Here’s a novel notion. The sound is NOT produced in the voice box. It is created in the abdominal area. Imagine the diaphragm looks somewhat like a concertina, or small accordion, sitting vertically in your abdomen. When your push, or bear down, you are squeezing the sides of this muscle (accordion) together so that in the vertical position, the bottom of the muscle would come up, and the top of it would go down. Your tummy should expand as this happens. As you make the “uh” sound, you should feel vibration in your face; under the eyes, in the nose and lips. Putting the sound into the front of your face is the correct way to sing. It keeps pressure off the throat and larynx and creates a resonant warm tone. Keeping the sound in the front or mask of your face also acts as a megaphone for the sound and helps you to project the sound, even without a microphone.
Practice for several minutes of “uh”, “uh”, “uh” in short bursts, stop for a few seconds and then do it again…and again…and again. If you find that you are sucking in your tummy, or raising your chest as you make the sound, this is incorrect. You want to push it out at the moment you make the sound. What you’re actually doing here is “letting go” in the larynx, and creating the opening for the sound to travel through.
It’s important for you to understand here the position of your body when you do this exercise. You don’t want to be doing the familiar “pelvic tilt” in which your buttocks tightens and actually leaves the floor. That’s fine for strengthening the back muscles, but this exercise is different. Your diaphragm is the only muscle being worked and no other. What you are doing is resisting the weights on your stomach area, and you are using only the stomach to do the resisting. You must practice, practice, practice, over and over again so that your body will ultimately create sound naturally using this method. This exercise will get pretty boring after a while, but know this! This single step is the KEY to your naturally beautiful and powerful voice. Without the mastery of the diaphragm, even if you have a magnificent tone quality already, the years will play havoc with your throat and as you get older your beautiful sound will deteriorate. But learn to always, always use the diaphragm, and the sound you have today will get better with time.
So, practice this over and over in the prone position first, then several times standing in a relaxed position, with your feet dug into the floor. Feel the force of gravity as you stay down on your body and keep chest, shoulders, and back loose. This body position allows the sound to float through the body and emerge with a flowing, smooth quality, unrestricted, with substance, projection, and warmth. The abdominal muscles are doing the work and the throat is free and open, so you can do this in a sitting, standing, or lying position.
You must practice this “grunt” as often as possible, in your car, sitting at your desk, taking your walk, watching TV, etc. The strengthening of these abdominal muscles is the secret to long term quality in your voice. Your body will eventually automatically produce sound in this manner, without you having to think about it at all.
1. When lying down, do the weights on your tummy pop up as you make the grunting sound?
2. Is your bottom still touching the floor when you make the “uh” sound?
3. When standing, are your shoulders and chest loose and not raised as you make the sound?
4. Are you pushing out with your stomach, (not sucking in) when you make the sound?
5. Do you have the sensation of “letting go” in the throat at the moment you make the sound?
6. When you make the sound, are you aware that only the stomach muscles are working and nothing else?
7. Are you remembering to keep everything loose except the abdominal region?
8. Have you practiced this step over and over while sitting, standing, walking, lying down? Please do not go ahead unless you have answered “YES” to each of the above questions, and are certain that you have practiced this step sufficiently.