How To Sing With Vocal Placement
Having a naturally low voice, I initially struggled with learning how to sing – until I discovered vocal placement. You might be wondering; “How can you move your voice?”, but the truth is, vocal placement is less about the ‘place’ of your voice and more about your acoustic overtones and how this makes your vocal tract resonate.
A well placed voice is simply making the most efficient use of the three main vocal resonators;
The key here is to separate the search for vocal placement into two defined steps; first achieving balanced resonance in each of the vocal resonators mentioned above. Then secondly bringing this placement forward into the harder parts of the vocal tract with a touch of twang and concepts like masque to achieve a powerful, bright and balanced vocal tone throughout your full vocal range.
How To Sing With Vocal Placement in Three Steps
One of the fundamental stages of learning to sing is achieving balanced resonance, beginning with vocal placement. The initial stage of vocal placement requires you to keep you resonance above your top teeth (figuratively) with a bright buzz. You can feel this placement on bright consonants like N, NG and M in most cases – so the key here is to practice these sounds in a relaxed but confident way throughout your full range to solidify your placement in the main vocal resonators.
When you’ve achieved a balanced and light tone in these resonators, it’s time to bring your placement forward in the second stage of achieving placement.
How to Sing With Forward Placement
The concept of Mask (or Masque) encourages singers to sing “in front” of their face as though their voice is sitting out the front of their face in front of their eyes – this aims to achieve a forward placement.
A forward placement really means to direct/create resonance that vibrates in the harder and ‘brighter’ parts of the vocal tract. When you add a touch of twang to this placement, the whole wall of the vocal tract will resonate along with the sphenoid, resulting in a powerful buzz that sits out the front of your vocal tone – and often feels like it sits in front of the face.
A great way to achieve forward placement is with bratty sounds like Nay, Wah, Wah – those childlike and bright sounds that have a slight “duck” quality to the resonance. I know – these sounds on their own suck, and they’re irritating to practice – but they really are the key to achieving a forward sound when you sing. Instead of singing muddy, covered and dark; the process of developing vocal placement led me to discovering my true voice and the unlimited range that comes with time, practice and development of your mixed voice.
Developing forward placement has been a key element of escaping my low baritone voice and learning to sing in the style of my favourite singers like Chris Cornell, Layne Staley and Paul Rodgers. Without this forward placement, my voice was weak, strained and at risk of fatigue any time I sang.
Armed with forward placement, 20 years singing experience and a decade of professional coaching expertise under my belt, I started creating a vocal method based around the issues that I faced with a lower voice – the fundamentals that many other methods skip over because they are “natural” to a Tenor or Alto, but guys like me with lower voices really tend to struggle with when we’re getting started as singers. One of the key concepts in the Foundation 101 singing course here at Bohemian vocal studio is achieving placement, first in the vocal resonators and then a brighter, more forward sound as you start to improve and progress as a singer.
A great place to start is this exclusive Mixed Voice singing lesson which will show you the exact approach I use with my own students to help them connect chest and head voice while creating a well placed mixed register that connects as one fluid voice from lowest to highest pitch in any voice.
If you want to see what all the fuss is about with forward placement, here’s just a few examples of what I’m achieving now that I’ve discovered placement and learned to sing forward while balancing my vowel sounds correctly. Just imagine what you’re going to achieve when you’re finally free of strain and tension with the Foundation vocal approach!
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.