Lack of shine or ring in the tone
Creating a false space in the back of the throat
Retraction of the tongue
Misunderstanding of how the soft palate works
Understanding the movement of the soft palate
Nasopharynx and oral pharynx placement of the tone
"Pinching behind the nose"
The Soft Palate: The palate includes the hard palate, which is the roof of the mouth, and the soft palate (see color picture above) which lies directly behind the hard palate. The main purpose of the soft palate is to close the nasal passages when you swallow so that no food particles can be inhaled. It also acts as a vocal resonator. The soft palate can move up, down, forward, and back, very much like the tongue; however, they move in opposite directions: The tongue moves with the lower jaw, arching out of the throat and the soft palate lifts and widens above the arch of the tongue. (This is an extremely important coordination to understand). When inactive, the soft palate hangs in a nearly vertical position, which allows for an opening into the nasal passages. When it lifts and widens, the nasal pharynx is closed off, creating more space at the top of the oral pharynx.
Pinching Behind the Nose:
In addition to creating more length in the throat, the lifted soft palate forms a wall at the entrance to the nasal passage that will prevent the sound wave from traveling out the nose. If the soft palate is low, or inactive, the sympathetic vibrations go directly into the nasal pharynx, which is what causes the sound to be pinched and "twangy". It will also cause the larynx to lift (See black and while picture above). When the soft palate is high, the vibrating air will come into contact with the wall of the raised soft palate. What the singer often feels is a pinch of the nasal membrane behind the nose. This is how many of my students correctly manipulate the movement of the soft palate.
Misunderstanding of the Soft Palate:
Many students confuse where exactly to lift and widen the soft palate. The back wall of the throat, on either side of the uvula is NOT where to place the sound. This placement is what I call "false space" and often results in a retracted tongue. It can be very dangerous for singing.
Place the thumb directly behind the teeth on the hard palate. Now, move the thumb to where the hard palate meets the soft palate. If you were to push up through the tissue of the soft palate, the thumb would be behind the nasal ridges and into the top of the oral pharynx. This is the correct placement for the sound wave and will protect the vocal cords. This placement is also called the "cupo" space.
Oral Pharynx , Bettina Sheppard, M.A.
The oral pharynx is the middle section of the throat and extends from the soft palate to the epiglottis. This is the largest and most mobile segment, able to change its shape and size by the movement of the soft palate, the larynx, and the tongue. Because of its mobility, it's the most important part of the throat for the singer to understand. Most of the shaping of tone quality occurs in the oral pharynx and, with practice, the singer is able to control the positions responsible for different coloring and timbre.
Orolaryngeal Pharynx It's important to gain an awareness of the orolaryngeal pharynx since it's of prime importance in creating overtones in the voice. The presence of overtones gives the ringing quality that's most pleasing to hear. Without this ring, the voice sounds flat and dull. The only way to bring overtones into the voice is to keep a long, cylindrical shape to the throat. Have you heard people say you need to keep an open throat? This is the most common correction for singers, but what does it really mean?
An open throat has the shape of a long tube or cylinder. The walls of the cylinder are flexible because they're composed of cartilage, which is elastic in quality. But these walls are also capable of maintaining a rigid texture to reflect the vibrations of the air column. The firm pharyngeal wall is crucial to sustain high notes. This open-throat position also helps the singer feel a sense of anchoring sound in the sternum and a strong body connection throughout the full range of the voice.
Every change of shape in the cylinder changes the sound and tone quality. It's important to keep this area open for the air column to vibrate. After the primary vibration is initiated by the vocal folds, sympathetic vibrations occur if the proper environment is set. The most significant changes in the shape of the orolaryngeal pharynx are created by the tongue position and the raising and lowering of the larynx and the soft palate.
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