Common Singing Misconceptions about Resonance - dummies

Common Singing Misconceptions about Resonance

By Pamelia S. Phillips

Myths and misconceptions about resonance abound which will impact your singing, and most have to do with what is — and is not — a resonator. If you buy into these myths, the tone of your singing voice may not be as good as it can be.

Tone resonates in your sinuses

Sound may resonate in the nasal passages but not in the sinuses. You’re feeling sympathetic vibrations, also known as sympathetic resonance. Trying to explore the vibrations of sound in your face — or in the mask, as some teachers like to call it.

Your mask is the front of your face. Think of the bones and skin on your face as a mask sitting on top of another face. You may feel the sound vibrating like crazy as if you have some metal substance on the front of your face.

Place every tone in the same location

The word place is misleading. You can visualize and feel, but you can’t literally place a tone anywhere. Place is a common word voice teachers use, and it’s not all bad. What they really want is for you to explore the sensations and get the most resonant tone as possible from your singing voice.

They may say to focus the sound to get the most resonance. Think about how you focus a flashlight to get a strong, clear beam of light. Keep focusing your sound, and know that focusing is often called placing or placement. These images can help you achieve the sound you’re trying to produce.

Keep your tongue completely flat

The tongue has to move to shape vowel sounds and consonant sounds, so it can’t stay down all the time. Releasing tongue tension is different from keeping the tongue down. After releasing the tension, you can move the tongue to shape vowel sounds and consonant sounds without pressing up or down. Your tongue arches to make certain vowels.

Sometimes the arch is in the front of the tongue, and sometimes it’s in the back of the tongue. If you’re trying to keep your tongue down at all times, you may end up muffling your vowels. Allowing your tongue to do its job when the time comes is easier.

Open your mouth as wide as possible

Opening the mouth for singing is good. Opening the space in the back of your mouth is excellent. Opening your mouth too far isn’t good, however, because the sound spreads. Dropping the chin too far actually closes off the back space. To find the right space, put your second and third fingers together with one finger on top of the other.

With your fingers parallel to the floor, place your two fingers in your mouth between your teeth, and see how that space changes the sound when you sing ah. Create the space and then remove your fingers. You really can have too much of a good thing if you open your mouth too wide. Open your mouth to let the sound come out, but don’t show your tonsils, no matter how beautiful they are.

Move sound forward

It’s true that if you swallow your vowels, you create a backward sound, which isn’t so great. However, by thinking only of projecting your voice forward as much as possible, you create a piercing sound. You may want to use that sound for a character voice (imagine Fran Drescher singing), but don’t recommend do it for every song.

Variety in resonance is important in a song. As an actor you want to create a variety of sounds to represent the story you are telling — every song has a story to tell.

Smiling keeps you on pitch

The other counterpart of the smile-to-stay-on-pitch myth is raising your eyebrows to stay on pitch. Raising your eyebrows creates a lift that many people believe helps you stay on pitch. The problem is that this lift can cause unnecessary tension — plus, it makes you look surprised all the time. The same is true about smiling.

A smile is a beautiful thing, but it can cause unnecessary tension in your face while singing. Smiling usually pulls the corners of the mouth toward the ears and tightens the muscles inside the mouth. You can still use this idea if you think of a smile gently lifting up the cheeks and opening behind your eyes.