How To Develop Your Tone

July 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Singing Articles


How To Deveop Your Tone“I want to sound better!” How many times have you heard someone say this about their singing?  How many times have you said this to yourself?  During this Interactive Article you will learn the different “areas” of your voice, how they affect your tone, and how to adjust your sound so that it sounds better and is easier to sing.  Think of your voice as an engine in a car.  In order for a car to go faster the engine needs to change gears.  Your voice acts in a very similar way.  Your voice has 3 distinct “gears”:

  1. Chest Voice
  2. Mixed Voice
  3. Head Voice

These “gears” are commonly referred to as vocal registers.

Chest Voice

This part of your voice is the most easily developed and recognized because it is used in everyday speech.  It is termed chest voice because of the sound resonating and vibrating in the chest cavity.  Take a moment to put your hand on your chest and speak as if you are in a conversation.

Being the most natural and common register there is a tendency for novice singers (and some not so novice!) to take their chest voice too high.  This will result in a yelling sound and will cause vocal fatigue.  A “changing of gears” is required to allow the voice to freely ascend into higher singing.

Here is a simple exercise to develop the chest register:

  1. Ascending and Descending 5 note scale on “AH”

Head Voice

In order for the voice ascend into higher singing a “gear change” needs to occur.  Your chest voice will eventually “redline” as you take the chest voice up.  There will be a point where you cannot sing any higher.  This point is where you need to switch to your “head voice”.  It is termed head voice because the vibrating sensation moves from your chest cavity to the cavities in the face and nose.  It is a much thinner sound and feels lighter.

Here is a simple exercise to develop the head register:

  1. Arpeggio using a lip roll


When doing these exercises, make sure you are not pushing the voice.  Let the sound “transfer” into your head naturally.  It is helpful to practice in front of a mirror.  Focus on the muscles in the middle of your neck and make sure they do not tense up.  The lip roll is used to keep your larynx low.

Before we continue I want you to make a sliding sound on “AH” starting in chest voice.  Ascend into head voice, then back down to chest.  Did you notice a change or a break from chest to head?  This is called a bridge in your voice.  It occurs for 2 or 3 notes and can be a troublesome area for singers.  This area can be improved and “ironed out” by developing….

The Mixed Voice.

To smooth the transition between chest and head voice, the resonance needs to be split between the two.

Here is a simple exercise to develop the mixed register:

  1. Ascending and Descending 5 note scale on “MUH”.  Make sure you keep a low larynx position and maintain a “dopey” sound.

Bonus Exercise.

There is another vocal technique that can be used to help smooth out the registers and shed weight from the voice, Vocal Fry.  I know the name of it sounds quite strange but it is a sound you should be familiar with from the lesson on the onset of sound, the balanced onset.  It is also a sound you may make every day when waking.  You may have seen the movie “The Grudge” or remember the cartoon character “Elmer Fudd”.  These are great examples of vocal fry.

Here is a simple exercise to develop vocal fry:

  1. Ascending and Descending 5 note scale.

When doing these exercises there should be no tension in the throat.  Monitor yourself by using a mirror.

The second area of Tone Development is vowel placement and modification.

The way you shape different vowels, the position of the three “articulators”, can drastically change the sound of your voice.

The three articulators of your voice are:

  1. The Jaw
  2. The Tongue
  3. The Lips

Often singers will tense these articulators in speaking and singing.  The result will be “muddy” diction and tone.  Are you sensing a common theme here?  Tension and singing cannot co-exist.

We will now look at the five major vowels, the neutral position and the positioning of your articulators.

The Neutral Position

When at rest the tongue is relaxed, sitting on the lower teeth.  The jaw is slightly dropped and the lips relaxed and slightly parted.  I am going to refer to this position as Neutral.

Exercise 1.

I want you to say “I  E  A  O  U”

Notice the different jaw, tongue and lip positions for each vowel.

Say it again, but this time with tense and tight articulators.  Do you notice the difference?

The Five Vowels.

The combination of vowels flows from the most open to most closed vowels.

Neutral to “I”

Slightly wider lip position and slightly lower jaw position. The tongue rises at the back of the throat.

The next vowel is “E”.  The tongue should have increased contact with the lower teeth.  The jaw should drop slightly.  The lips should remain in a similar position to the “I” vowel.

Try it…

Neutral                     “I”                   “E”

Notice the slight tongue and jaw movement.

The next vowel is “A”.  The tongue should remain in the same position as the “E’ vowel.  The jaw should drop slightly.  The lips should also remain in a similar position.

Try it….

Neutral                     “I”                   “E”                  “A”

Notice how the jaw drops as you move between the vowels.

The next vowel in the sequence is “O” as in “hot”.  The jaw should remain dropped as in the previous vowel.  The lips become more rounded and the tongue will be slightly elevated to create space in the back of the throat.

Try it….

Neutral                     “I”                   “E”                  “A”                 “O”

The last vowel in the sequence is “U” as in “book”.  The jaw remains in the dropped position.  The lips are rounded, almost to a pouting position.  The tip of the tongue is elevated to create maximum space in the back of the throat.

Try it….

Neutral                     “I”                   “E”                  “A”                 “O”                 “U”

Here is a simple exercise for vowel shaping and placement:

  1. IEAOU in an Ascending and Descending 5 note scale.



  2. I hope you enjoyed this Interactive Article on Tone Development.  I will be adding more exercises so please revisit this article soon.  Feel free to share this article with your friends and family.


    To download the exercises as an MP3 simply go to the MP3 Downloads page.

    To access even more information and videos about Improving your Tone enrol in my Free Course.

    Thanks for reading,

    Ian Castle

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Comments

4 Responses to “How To Develop Your Tone”
  1. kevin says:

    Since you say “Speak Your Mind”… I have read each of the lessons above from Chest Voice to the Bonus… For me at least there seems to be a stage before this which is missing. Though I was once a good violinist with an excellent sense of pitch, I cannot make a decent singling sound how ever hard I try. Whatever exercises I try like this the result is absolutely dire – even worse I cannot accurately pitch with my voice though I can if I whistle. Does someone like me just give up altogether or is there some amazing formula that a voice coach like you can use to make things work?
    Kevin
    P.S My speaking voice is really good just cannot sing at all.

  2. Aussie Vocal Coach says:

    Hi Kevin,

    I find that people who struggle with pitch really need one on one lessons with a voice coach. I have worked with people who don’t have a natural ear for pitch and it is usually a case of having to direct them higher or lower until they “target” where the pitch should sit in their voice. This can be a slow process but not impossible.

    My advice is to find a local coach and ask them to help you with your pitching problem. Then once you have made some progress you can apply the techniques and exercises I teach online.

    I hope that helps,
    Ian

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  1. [...] The balanced onset is vital to the development of your tone.  It is important that you take the time to get comfortable with vocal fry.  You can download an exercise to develop vocal fry in my article How To Develop Your Tone. [...]

  2. [...] The balanced onset is vital to the development of your tone.  It is important that you take the time to get comfortable with vocal fry.  You can download an exercise to develop vocal fry in my article How To Develop Your Tone. [...]



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