Developing the singing voice
Singing is a skill that requires highly developed muscle reflexes. Singing does not require much muscle strength but it does require a high degree of muscle coordination. Individuals can develop their voices further through the careful and systematic practice of both songs and vocal exercises. Vocal pedagogists instruct their students to exercise their voices in an intelligent manner. Singers should be thinking constantly about the kind of sound they are making and the kind of sensations they are feeling while they are singing. Vocal exercises have several purposes, including warming up the voice; extending the vocal range; "lining up" the voice horizontally and vertically; and acquiring vocal techniques such as legato, staccato, control of dynamics, rapid figurations, learning to sing wide intervals comfortably, singing trills, singing melismas and correcting vocal faults. Extending vocal range An important goal of vocal development is to learn to sing to the natural limits of one's vocal range without any obvious or distracting changes of quality or technique. Vocal pedagogists teach that a singer can only achieve this goal when all of the physical processes involved in singing (such as laryngeal action, breath support, resonance adjustment, and articulatory movement) are effectively working together. Most vocal pedagogists believe in coordinating these processes by (1) establishing good vocal habits in the most comfortable tessitura of the voice, and then (2) slowly expanding the range. There are three factors that significantly affect the ability to sing higher or lower: The energy factor Ц "energy" has several connotations. It refers to the total response of the body to the making of sound; to a dynamic relationship between the breathing-in muscles and the breathing-out muscles known as the breath support mechanism; to the amount of breath pressure delivered to the vocal folds and their resistance to that pressure; and to the dynamic level of the sound. he space factor Ц "space" refers to the size of the inside of the mouth and the position of the palate and larynx. Generally speaking, a singer's mouth should be opened wider the higher he or she sings. The internal space or position of the soft palate and larynx can be widened by relaxing the throat. Vocal pedagogists describe this as feeling like the "beginning of a yawn". The depth factor Ц "depth" has two connotations. It refers to the actual physical sensations of depth in the body and vocal mechanism, and to mental concepts of depth that are related to tone quality. McKinney says, "These three factors can be expressed in three basic rules: (1) As you sing higher, you must use more energy; as you sing lower, you must use less. (2) As you sing higher, you must use more space; as you sing lower, you must use less. (3) As you sing higher, you must use more depth; as you sing lower, you must use less." Posture The singing process functions best when certain physical conditions of the body exist. The ability to move air in and out of the body freely and to obtain the needed quantity of air can be seriously affected by the posture of the various parts of the breathing mechanism. A sunken chest position will limit the capacity of the lungs, and a tense abdominal wall will inhibit the downward travel of the diaphragm. Good posture allows the breathing mechanism to fulfill its basic function efficiently without any undue expenditure of energy. Good posture also makes it easier to initiate phonation and to tune the resonators as proper alignment prevents unnecessary tension in the body. Vocal pedagogists have also noted that when singers assume good posture it often provides them with a greater sense of self-assurance and poise while performing. Audiences also tend to respond better to singers with good posture. Habitual good posture also ultimately improves the overall health of the body by enabling better blood circulation and preventing fatigue and stress on the body.