Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.--Victor Hugo
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Me and my favorite singer...
Have you ever tried to imitate that favorite singer or speaker? Many times we are able to come very close when we try hard enough. Just by watching some one's mouth, often times you can clearly decipher which muscles they are using to produce the given sound and thus you can easily mimic their sound. Every human being has his/her own vocal quality and God-given trademark sound. At a very young age we begin learning to mimic sounds and accents simply by hearing those around us. We mimic the muscular speech patterns of people closest. Regional speech patterns are dialects or "accents". Your personal accent is "a result of the infinite variety of shapes formed in the throat or the pharynx and the movement patterns of the tongue and jaw" (Bunch 269). I remember as a child in church listening to those around me sing, "I've got joy like a river, and it flows continuously." In my little ears, I heard, "I've got joy like a river, and it flows stin stinuously." Don't ask me what "stin stinuously" is, but I'll tell you I was mimicking the sounds around me. Those around me would have flunked Chorus II class. LOL.
Co-authors of The Singing Book, Bunch and Vaughn note: "While the sound is initiated in the larynx, the quality of sound depends on the shape of the pharynx." The pharynx or throat is flexible and able to form many shapes. Each shape causes your voice to produce different vocal qualities. Try to imitate these singers: Louis Armstrong, Pavarotti, and Mahalia Jackson. What did you notice happened in your pharynx? Now try to sing these styles: country, jazz, gospel, and pop. Notice how these style genres shape their throats differently for vowel pronunciation (Vowels are what produce the tones). See if you can discover what shapes makes them different.
Tidbit: the pharynx has a dual purpose. First, it aids as an air and food passageway. When you breath, it must be large and spacious. When you swallow, it closes around food and pushes it down into the esophagus. Bunch states, "When you swallow, the whole pharynx is pulled up and narrowed to squeeze the food down." She adds, "This brings the food up with it." Thus the whole throat area is very small. When the pharynx muscles relax, the space is large... and perfect for obtaining the most resonance and a "freely produced sound." People sing using many throat shapes and sizes. Yawn! When you yawn, the pharynx is large and spacious enough to produce a beautiful blending tone quality. I tell singers to think dome shape and vertically vs. horizontally when they sing... and that's a whole different post. Stay tuned! =)