Starting a Tone for Singing

Onset of tone refers to starting a tone for singing. You can start a tone in two ways: with physical force or with air. You have to use some physical exertion to sing, but the exertion comes from energy moving to coordinate the muscles for breathing. Too much physical force results when the muscles in the throat press together with very little air flowing.

By starting the tone with a consistent breath flow and an open throat, you create a tone that has a better quality. Starting the tone with air applies the same idea as producing the lip trill or tongue trill.

When you start the lip trill, the air passes between your lips, suction pulls them together, and they flap in the breeze. Your vocal cords do the same when you start the tone by coordinating a consistent flow of air.

The easiest way to start the tone, humming, involves singing or making a tone with your lips closed. Think of humming as a prolonged M. Try it. If you aren’t sure whether your tone was clear, say, “Uh-huh,” with your mouth closed — the sound you make when you’re reading the newspaper and someone asks you a question.

Say “Uh-huh” again to hear and feel the clarity, and then use that same feeling to hum part of a song. The clarity of tone from your “Uh-huh” is different from the whisper you use to explore breathy tone. You can feel the difference in vibrations between a breathy tone and a clear tone. The clear tone creates stronger vibrations in your throat, mouth, and nasal passages.

You may feel vibrations in all three locations, or the vibrations may vary depending on how high or low you’re singing or speaking. Remember this feeling so that you can start the tone clearly each time you sing it.

When you start a tone, don’t rely on the sound. The sound may be different in each room, so you want to rely instead on the feeling, which should be more consistent from room to room and day to day in your singing.

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