How many variables are there to a sung sound?

Some bold claims are made about various “secrets to singing”. Recently I read in a forum that the tongue root, stabilizing the larynx, achieved through “Kermit” voice exercises, is responsible for ring in the voice. Wow. I thought of all the variables that might have something to do with producing “ring”.  Regarding the claim above, if the larynx is lowered by any means, and the soft palate is also low, you will have a veil over the sound no matter what. Therefore, telling people that the “Kermit exercise creates ring” seems very incomplete.

Sometimes, changing just one thing suddenly creates a long list to attend to. Sometimes this “re-examining everything” is exactly what should happen, and other times the new directive must be withdrawn because it creates too many new problems. In those cases, you could say that you have ruled out something – for the moment.

My general modus operandi is to concentrate on just one or two things, and then bring it back to the whole, i.e., letting the intention to sing be more dominant than the intention to do a particular action on the list, and see what happens. Yes, it’s trial and error, but educated trial and error, after you have been searching and singing and teaching for a long time.

The list could be long:

  • Position of different parts of the tongue.
  • Height of the larynx.
  • Amount of subglottal pressure.
  • Intended vowel, pitch, volume, sound quality.
  • Height of soft palate.
  • Width of oral pharynx.
  • Length of vocal tract.
  • Shape of vocal tract.
  • Degree of nasality.
  • Which consonants are placed next to a vowel.
  • The amount of air in the lungs.
  • The general posture of the spine.
  • The position of the head.
  • The degree of mouth opening.
  • The shape of the mouth opening.
  • The engagement of the aryepiglottic sphincter.
  • The degree of vocal fold adduction.
  • The thickness of the vocal folds.
  • The tautness of the vocal folds.
  • The mood of the text.
  • The placement of this sound in a song, and the song in a set / recital.
  • How the singer is feeling psychosomatically.
  • The acoustic feedback in a performance / practice space.
  • Degree of general tonus / relaxation in the body.

You might need to look at a whole bunch of details in order to solve (what you believe to be) one problem, since you can’t know for sure which details affect which other details until you start changing things. People who “just sing” are mystified that this should be so – until their voice fails them in some way.

If you enjoy this blog, consider grabbing a copy of Sane Singing: A Guide to Vocal Progress, available in print and ebook!

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