How to sing with Vocal Placement
Learning how to place your resonance in the most efficient and powerful manner is an important part of any great singing voice. Vocal placement is the technique of limiting your excess frequencies to allow for only the best resonance and release of strain as you ascend in range. Often mistaken for the classical technique of MASK singing, vocal placement actually requires you to remove the unnecessary frequencies and allow for natural resonance to build rather than forcing your resonance to occur in a specific area of the vocal tract like you would for masque singing.
The best singing exercises for vocal placement involve a bright, pinging resonance that allow you to remove your lower end without ‘flipping’ up into your head register, in essence, focusing your vocal placement to smaller resonant space for a better quality resonance.
My favourite singing exercise to develop vocal placement is to use a simple “N” sound, with the tip of your tongue sitting high behind your top teeth, and a gentle buzz occurring behind your nose. As I often say, even the best singing exercises are only as good as the INTENTION behind them, so make sure you’re not trying to sing nasally, and that you’re simply trying to LIMIT your low end, or, the ‘weight’ from your voice so that your voice sits in a nice high, bright placement and resonates with a powerful zing and buzz.
Here’s a fantastic tutorial I’ve put together to help you develop resonance placement in your voice:
So you’ll see, even a low voice type like a baritone needs to PLACE their voice with a bright, high, buzzing resonance and efficient frequencies. This brings me to another important part of proper singing technique, the MIDDLE register.
How to sing in middle voice
When you first start singing, you’ll probably find that you have a fairly comfortable low register, aka chest voice, and a disconnected and breathy high register, known as head voice. Now, as you learn proper control over your registers and you start to build a connection between your main registers, you’ll eventually be able to coordinate the musculature responsible for chest and head voice to balance together and create what is called a MIX voice, or, your MIDDLE register.
Your middle register only happens when you can balance your musculature between the head and chest registers without flipping – and over time, you’ll be able to extend this coordination and build a monster range that sounds full and rich like your chest voice through your full range, but with the ease, release and access to high notes that head voice affords. Learning how to sing in the middle register is absolutely imperative to developing vocal placement, and they really do go hand in hand.
A great way I’ve developed for coaching my students how to sing in middle voice is the concept of projection. Now, I don’t mean projecting your voice loud and to a far away place, I’m talking about the Bohemian Vocal Studio concept of placement, where you imagine projecting your voice back TOWARDS yourself from the corner of the room or a far away space. This allows you to release your vocal chord coordination from the fully extended chest register ever so slightly into your mix, will stopping you from adding any weight or volume to your resonance – in essence, forcing you to sing in middle voice. Over time this connection and ‘release’ will become more natural and stronger, meaning that you can develop a natural bridge between your registers, or release at a different point through your voice, meaning you can sing higher chest voice notes or even sing in a lighter coordination for pop or R’nB.
Here’s a fantastic tutorial I’ve put together to show you how to release into your mix register:
Learning how to coordinate your vocal placement while bridging into your middle register is the key to powerful singing, and will allow you to sing higher than ever before without straining.
Sing high notes without strain
Singing high notes without strain is an important skill that only the best voice coach can help you develop. Learning how to sing high notes without strain involves coordination of a number of techniques, from middle voice and vocal placement right through to vowel shaping and resonance tuning. The first step you need to take to sing high notes without strain is setting up a strong foundation, which starts with your posture.
Healthy posture for singing looks something like this:
- Shoulders back
- Head up
- Chin Parallel with the floor
- Ribs wide
When you’ve learned how to set up your posture in this manner and keep it this way, you can then build control over your breathing so that you a breathing from the diaphragm and ensuring that your breath control comes from engagement of the diaphragm rather than contraction of the ribs. If you’re having trouble setting up a wide rib position, sometimes known as appoggio singing technique, you can book a session with me today and I’ll show you how it’s done!
Tune your vowels for better resonance
Did you know that each vowel sound requires a specific tongue shape, and fine tuning of the width of your vocal tract to ensure consistent and powerful resonance as you ascend in range? This is where the classical concept of vowel modification comes from, and while there is a much better way to tune your vowels, it’s certainly a great place to start. Using the vowel modification chart below, you can get a basic feel for how these subtle changes in your vowel sound affect your ability to sing with resonance, and allow you to sing higher without strain;
- AH becomes OH becomes ER becomes OO
- AA becomes AH becomes ER becomes OO
- EE becomes AY becomes EE becomes OO
- EH becomes AY becomes EE becomes OO
Now, you’ll notice that I didn’t include the “OO” vowel itself in this vowel modification chart, and that’s because there’s actually two DIFFERENT ways you can develop your OO vowel, depending on what singing style you prefer, and what you want to achieve with your voice.
The classical OO vowel requires you to move the bulk of your tongue back towards your throat while elongating your lips forward. This also requires a narrow vowel space, and will result in a very light, free and easy OO vowel that works for pop and some lighter rock singing.
Now, if you wish to belt and sing heavier styles like blues and hard rock, even heavy metal, you will need to develop an OO vowel out of the AH vowel we just discussed. A pure “AH” vowel only occurs properly when your tongue is low and concave, and your vocal tract is relatively wide, so if we start from this coordination and shape our lips into a round O shape without altering our tract width or tongue shape, you’ll get the illusion of a full and heavy OO vowel that can be modified in the same way as the AH.
It’s really up to you which of these vowel sounds you prefer, and of course you can develop them separately and have them on hand depending on the style or song you are currently singing – just remember that these vowels would then get tuned differently.
How to tune your vowels
Vowel modification is a great introduction to resonance tuning, but as your singing progresses you’ll soon discover that it’s not the most efficient way to fine tune your vowels and resonance. The best way to tune your vowels is to learn the delicate musculature that is engaged when you make these subtle vowel changes and learn individual and subtle control over each element. The largest aspects of vowel tuning are the position of your tongue root, which dictates the width of your vocal tract, and the shape/height of your soft palate, which alters and narrows the resonant space above the pharynx. If you can learn proper control over your soft palate and tongue root, you will then be able to fine tune your vowel with subtle movements of each of these muscles while also keeping your vowel sounds pure and not mangling your words, which does occur often with vowel modification.
Here’s a fantastic tutorial on vowel tuning that I’ve put together for you;
Are you ready to take your voice to the next level and learn how to sing with vocal placement, develop your middle voice and fine tune your resonance with vowel tuning? Book a Skype session with me today for the best rock singing lessons online. Why go local when you can go GLOBAL and meet with the best voice coach in the world?
Since our launch in 2010, BVS has steadily grown into the premier vocal studio for rock singing lessons online while becoming synonymous with POWERFUL singing and practical vocal technique. Bohemian Vocal Studio reaches students all around the globe with online singing lessons – Kegan is well versed in every singing style, and has extensive experience coaching those with ‘difficult’ voice types and all manner of accents. No voice or accent is too difficult to coach, and Kegan has coached touring professionals and beginners alike, along with coaching students who have appeared on talent shows such as The Voice as well as start in music theatre productions of Rock of Ages, Shrek, The Producers and Fiddler on the Roof. No matter your singing experience, booking a Skype session with Kegan at Bohemian Vocal Studio will greatly benefit your voice, and your singing technique will develop like never before.
I feel like I’m singing BETTER than ever! (Mark – Australia)
Feel free to leave any questions or feedback below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.