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On Saturday I went to my usual London Open Choir. Unfortunately there were only the three of us that day, and it can be difficult to do improvised songs with only three people. Our facilitator and friend Marta decided to give the two of us a vocal technique lesson. I’m wary of any vocal technique stuff from anyone because there is a tremendous amount of bullshit and misinformation, and it’s more akin to shamanism and alchemy than any sort of rigorously tested field. What also doesn’t help is that the bullshit stuff can work because the voice responds well to imagery, metaphor and sensation. You can say my cup was full.

We worked on the ribcage. The expansion of it and maintaining its buoyancy when vocalising. I must say I was humbled. Apart from the Feldenkrais-esque loosening of my shoulders every morning, I haven’t done much work on my breathing, mainly just allowing the vibration and the quality of the vibration to regulate the breath pressure. I expanded little in my regular breathing and made little conscious effort to maintain the ribcage expansion. The demonstrations by Marta, who had a long breath and non-collapsing ribcage, showed her level of training in this area and what I lacked in this area. In hindsight, after reading this David Jones article, I did inhale too much, but it was necessary and helpful in order to feel the ribcage expansion.

The reason why I wasn’t closed-minded to this was that it corresponded with what David Jones said (there’s an exercise in that article about panting without the ribcage moving) and what my old voice teacher Michael Mayer said at some point, either in his articles or in my lessons. Also it matches up well with the Feldenkrais method in that we don’t only want one way of breathing, but a choice between several ways. When a piece of vocal technique connects with these fonts of knowledge, my brain goes, “Okay, this isn’t bullshit. Relax.”

As I write this today my intercostal muscles feel the burn. There’s two sets of them, one set elevates and expands the ribcage (external), the other does the opposite (internal). Thus when maintaining buoyancy, the external set is going to feel that buuurrrrn.

Other vocal technique stuff:

I’ve kind of stopped working on the witch cackle unintentionally because I’m like that dog in Up and I found a squirrel. I’m now exploring maintaining the opening of the nasal passages, pre-yawn feeling and vacuuming air through the eyes, and discovered this new, pingy resonance that I’m trying on notes low and high. However, this pingy resonance does sound like the witch cackle sometimes so it feels like I’m on the right track. The good thing about this resonance, when I do it a particular way, I feel I can lean in on the head voice and add more intensity for a louder tone. It’s easier to add intensity on a higher head voice tone e.g. F4 but harder on a lower one e.g D4. But with this resonance exploration, I’ve been able to get a more intense tone on the lower notes where I previously I could only do it in a more breathy way on an “eee” vowel.

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