What does your voice look like?

Pay attention to the video below to see if you can locate the following parts of the voice (answers to help you locate them are given at the bottom of the page):
Vocal Cords (or Vocal Folds)
Epiglottis
Soft Palate


Preventative Measures for Vocal Health

-If you smoke, quit

-Avoid agents that dehydrate the body such as: alcohol and caffeine

-Avoid secondhand smoke

-Drink plenty of water

-Humidify your home

-Watch your diet to avoid spicy foods before bed (your stomach acid can spill onto your vocal folds

while you sleep)

-Try not to use your voice too long or too loudly

-Seek professional voice training

-Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is injured or hoarse

For more information, visit this website.

Become an Informed Popular Music Consumer

Facts you should know while listening and singing to music on the radio:

1. Popular Artists are sometimes trained vocalists, but in most cases, they are not.
2. Because it is how they make money, pop vocal artists will do whatever it takes to get recognized by the public. This regularly includes vocal misuse and abuse.
3. Popular vocal technique for singing should not change much from the model used in classical singing, or the model we practice in choir. Healthy alterations can include scooping, changes in diction (or the way words are pronounced), and straight tone (no opera-like vibrato.)
4. Computer software (some featured below) is almost always used to alter performances, and if you try to sing along with recordings by copying the style, you may be injuring your voice.
5. In general, if it hurts when you try and sing along with a recording, you should stop.
An Analysis of Copycat Vocalism and Vocal Health (Powerpoint)

Autotune Software

What is Autotune?Once Autotune came on the market, artists from almost all genres of music used it to correct minor blemishes in otherwise perfect performances. In 1998, Autotune became more than pitch correction software and started to reshape our expectations of the popular music world. It was used to not only correct pitch, but to alter existing pitches up and down to create a sound like a synthetic yodel. The first such instance can be heard here in Cher's "Believe." This affect has been used in numerous recordings and was appropriately named "The Believe Effect." Take a listen below.


Ten Examples of Autotune Misuse and Abuse


Beyonce Controversy

In the fall of 2008, Beyonce performed live on The Today Show. One of her pieces she sang was "If I Were a Boy," and it has been rumored that the real vocals of that live feed from her microphone have been leaked onto the Internet. Below, you will find the video the world saw, a sound file of what her microphone allegedly picked up, and some thought provoking questions concerning the validity of this career killing allegation.

Today Show Video



"Leaked" Microphone Feed




The first question to consider while listening to any live performance is "How much of the song are you hearing is pre-recorded (from the studio or CD of the artist) and how much is the live singer? Believe it or not, many performers depend heavily on the backup sounds and pre-recorded version of themselves on CD while singing in concert. I have a colleague in the music field who performs with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. She and the M.S.O. were commissioned to play for a live concert with a very big name vocalist. She was slightly saddened by the fact that when concert time approached, no one in the orchestra received microphones. Instead, a pre-recorded orchestra the vocalist was familiar with got pumped through the speakers toward the audience, and the orchestra members realized they were little more than props. While listening to live performances, try to gauge how closely the artist is to the actual recording. In general, the closer to the CD a performer sounds in tempo and emotion, the more likely a large percentage has been pre-recorded. Now, apply this to Beyonce's case. How closely does she resemble the sounds you hear of this song on the radio or CD?

The second question to consider while listening to any live performance is "How 'pitch perfect' is the singer?"
Usually in live performances with talented artists, it is still possible for you to hear a couple of pitches that are just a little off. Software can even correct this while performers are in the middle of singing, but many true performers choose not to do this. A generalization which can be made is that "if everything sounds a little too good, it may be too good to be true." Apply this to Beyonce. Is every pitch perfectly performed in the video, or are a couple of pitches which are just a hair under?

The third question to consider while listening to any Internet recordings is "How possible is it to manipulate a voice using software?
If you've listened to the Autotune explanation above, you already know the answer is "very possible." With Autotune, it is possible to make artists on recordings sing entirely new pitches by drawing a line in wherever you want the voice to go. Is it possible this was done to Beyonce?


The fourth and final question to ask yourself is "Can I see that again...from another source?"
Yes you may! Here is a live shot of the same performance from backstage. Compare to see how closely the sound matches up with the first Today Show video. I think you'll be surprised at how similar they are. Slight pitch issues, like I mentioned in the second question, are present in the same spots like in the first phrase "....only just for a day." The word "day" is slightly under the pitch.

Moral of the Beyonce story...use your best thought process to decide the validity of other people's statements...but what about this microphone feed from Britney Spears?




Answers to "What does your voice look like?"

Vocal Cords, or Folds, can be found toward the middle and end of the video and are seen coming together as the woman creates sound on different vowels (like eeeee). You can see the folds moving in slow motion after a strobe light (similar to the one used for dancing...but much smaller) is turned on. Pay close attention to the sound when she begins in the low range. It sounds pretty clear, but as she goes higher, the sound becomes airy. If you look at her vocal folds, you'll see they don't come together all the way. Vocal folds not coming together is the cause of airy, or under-supported tone, similar to when you whisper to someone. In general, the better you support (the same feeling we practice in vocal warm-ups), the better, more focused, and clearer your tone will be.

The Epiglottis is a large valve that closes by flapping over your vocal folds when you swallow and keeps food from going down into your lungs. It can be seen at the bottom of the screen when the vocal folds are present and slightly resembles a tongue.

The Soft Palate is in the back portion of your mouth and is the part that moves when you yawn. Test it for yourself by looking in a mirror and yawning. You can also feel it by putting your finger directly behind your teeth and gradually moving it backward. You'll first be touching your hard palate (appropriately named because of its hardness) and you'll eventually move to the more flexible, squishy portion called the "soft palate" or its technical name, "velum." This video gives you a unique look at the soft palate because you're looking at it from inside your nose instead of inside your mouth. In other words, when you see your soft palate go up in the mirror by yawning, it will look like a bulge to your nose. This should become most apparent during "baby bottle."