Mudcat Café message #654150 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #44448   Message #654150
Posted By: Don Firth
20-Feb-02 - 03:50 PM
Thread Name: Sound Of Pear-Shaped Tones
Subject: RE: Sound Of Pear-Shaped Tones
The singing voice is a weird instrument. You can not sing a particular pitch by directly adjusting the tension on your vocal cords. You have to "hear" the pitch in your head, then your own body automatically makes the adjustment. In fact, you can't control any aspect of your voice with your muscles (other than your diaphragm, and that's controlling your airflow, which does have a lot to do with the kind of tones you produce). If you do try to take over and control your voice directly, it all goes wrong.

The result of this is that voice teachers are often hard-pressed to explain how to go about getting a good quality of tone. Beyond "open your mouth and relax your throat," voice teachers usually have to get you to try to imagine or visualize the tone a particular way. "Feel the tone in your mask," is one, meaning feel the vibration, not in your throat, but in the front of your face above the mouth (striving to make use of the resonating chambers there). "Imagine the tone as if it were hovering just in front of your face," is another way of trying to get the same effect. "Visualize the tone as if it were a ball, balancing on top of a stream of air," shoots for the same effect and emphasizes good breath control. The voice teacher is trying find an image that the pupil can relate to. If the pupil looks puzzled, or the results are less than the desired ones, the teacher tries another image. And another. Until finally, he/she finds an image the pupil can "resonate" with (pun intended). At the same time, the voice teacher is listening carefully to the tones you produce. When a certain image clicks in and the teacher hears the voice "place" itself—produce a good, pleasant sounding, ringing tone on the correct pitches—then he/she knows that the current image works, and you have a basis for talking about refining the tone even more.

A good voice teacher doesn't try to make you sound "operatic" or any other way. They try first to get your voice relaxed and open so you won't wreck it, then they to get the best out of whatever kind of voice you were born with.

It's easy to imagine a voice teacher telling a pupil to "think of the tone as if it were pear-shaped." That's probably how it got started.

Don Firth