"The Goal in SVW is NOT to Make Resonance"

I wrote this in a post on this blog in 2006. I was asked to explain further but I did not. It’s a little late, but here it is.

You cannot “resonate” the voice, the sound, the tone, or anything else. You cannot resonate a piano or a horn. You cannot “resonate” anything. Resonance is a result of something, not a cause. We have all been lead to believe that we can resonate and change resonances and that that is what singing training does. No.

This is not correct.

What you can DO is sing a pitch at a certain volume or SPL or intensity (decibel level) on a given vowel sound (a/e/i/o/u, etc.) for a certain length of time. PERIOD. If you do that in various specific ways you will get enhanced kinds of acoustic response in the vocal tract (resonance) but it takes a lot of practice to balance pitch, volume and vowel sound (because there are infinite ways to shape vowels). Every sound you make out loud has resonance or it would be inaudible. Enhanced resonance implies that you are picking up some kind of combination of vocal tract response (formants) and boosting the harmonics by matching them up. It isn’t THAT hard to do. Many “untrained” singers learn to do it. What is hard is to put in all the other parameters that singing entails such as pitch change, consonants, volume change and vocal quality control (breathy, nasal, clear, noisy, chest, head, mix).

It is like saying that you can hit a home run as a result of holding the bat a certain way, swinging a certain way, having enough power in that swing, making sure you have good eye/hand coordination and that you will hit every time. No. Doesn’t happen. Even really good professional batters miss more than they hit. Above 40% of the time is almost impossible, no? They do not try to hit home runs, they try to bat effectively and if they get really good, the likelihood that they will hit more home runs increases.

I suppose, if you try over and over to hit home runs, without caring about anything else at all, and you have years and years of unlimited time, you could, eventually, get pretty good. People have done that. BUT these days, they have super high speed film to show the batters (or golfers, or tennis players or divers ) exactly how they swing, hit or dive, down to tiny micro movements that could make the difference between winning the game or the medal. In sports, they pay attention to the HOW, and assume, rightly, that if the how is consistently excellent and accurate, then the what will be there more often than not.

If your goal is to make a clear tone, undistorted vowels, solid volume, and accurate pitches, sustained over a length of time, you will create resonance, and it could be a lot of resonance, depending on where you are in pitch range and what register quality you are singing with.

And, if you are taught to sing by “feel” or “memory of sensation” you have to hit the right target (by trial and error or accident) in order to generate this magic “resonance” and hope that somehow or other remembering the feelings and sensations of the sound (after it is over) will linger in your mind so that you can replicate it over and over and make it happen in wherever it is that you feel it (sinuses, eyebrows, forehead, cheekbones, hard palate, etc.). If you are singing softly, however, like a jazz vocalist or someone singing a pop ballad, there isn’t much to feel, in terms of bone vibration or sensation, and not much way to remember the sensation, other than it was comfortable. Then what? Do you have to learn to feel resonance first and then get it “turned down” in order to sing correctly, consistently or healthfully. You can spend a lifetime looking for all this and get nowhere in a hurry.

OR, you can sing with an understanding of register quality (chest, mix, head) and work to get good, clear, undistorted vowels, and work on coordination between ribs and abs, and guess what, you can teach your throat and body to get better and better at these things and the “resonance” will show up all by itself, without you having to worry about it at all. What you will get in the meantime is control over the sound you WANT and in the way that you want it. There will be nothing to remember, just replicate. (Which is why you have to know which exercises do what and how to apply them). None of my students “remember” sensation, they don’t need to. They do not try to create resonance (it just shows up) and they do not have to vibrate or feel anything, although sometimes they do and then I ask them to describe to me what that experience is like.

Actually, unless you are singing opera, in an opera house, over an orchestra, you do not need a “singer’s formant cluster” because you will be electronically amplified. You can make a warm sound or an edgy sound, a belted sound or one that is soft and breathy. It’s up to you. All of them work. They will all have some kind of resonance (acoustic efficiency) but only as a side effect, not as a cause.

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