Some singers have amazing sounding voices this is because they have great vocal tone. So what is vocal tone and how can you use it to make your voice sound richer and more natural?
So let’s take a look at what makes your unique vocal tone. Everyone has a unique vocal tone, just as everyone has a unique finger print. Everyone’s has the potential to sound amazing but due to stress, articulation tension, bad posture, incorrect breath support, weak resonance, incorrect vocal squeeze and lack of effort, the voice can end up sounding weak and hollow.
Another reason for bad sounding vocal tone is due to a learnt habitual sound. This often comes from from parents or peers. In the past, I have taught students come along with their mum or dad only to notice that they have the same sounding voice, with the same tensions in them. The child has copied the parent’s bad vocal habits. Nuts right!
The Two Parts of Vocal Tone
Vocal tone can be broken down into two parts. The first part is resonance and the second part is vocal squeeze (also known as vocal focus or glottal compression). You will never have complete control over your tone until you can control these two parts. So let’s take a closer look.
The Effect of Vocal Focus on Vocal Tone
The vocal folds can make a bright sound or a light, airy sound. There are also many variations in between.
Practice this bright sound by pretending to be a laughing witch. Here is an example of a bright vocal focused sound where the vocals come together firmly.
In the audio clip below I Start by saying AH (as in the word car) as a reference. I then pretend to be a cackling witch. Then finally I add a little cackling witch into the AH. Listen closely, and you should be able to hear that the final AH is brighter now, although I kept the resonance in the same place.
When I made the witch sound the resonance does shift but I then put it back for the last AH sound:
The Light, Airy Vocal Focus
Practice a light, airy sound by imagining that you are talking softly into someone’s ear or thinking falsetto. Here is an example of this light, airy sound where the vocal folds come together lightly.
I start by saying AH as in the first example above then I think of talking softly into someone’s ear. I focus my mind on the focusing of the vocal folds (how tightly they are squeezing together). Then finally I say AH again with a bit of this tone in it.
Practice the above two sounds until you can do them at will. It will take practice to tap into your imagination for this, but it’s worth it so keep practising. If you hold back at all the exercise will not work, imagine, imitate that sound! Recording your voice down can be helpful here for zoning in on the sound.
Remember that there are many settings in between so work on mixing in different amounts. The end goal of course like all skills that you learn in singing is to give it up to emotion. In other words, allow the emotion to control the vocal folds when you sing.
The Effect of Resonance on Vocal Tone
Resonance will add darkness, lightness to a sound.
The higher the soft palate, the lower the larynx and the darker the tone. You can get this by thinking of the beginning of the yawn (I call this the pre-yawn as air is sucking in silently before the tension section).
The lighter the tone, the higher the larynx and lower the soft palate. You can get this by thinking light happy face. For this to work, look in a mirror and allow the face to change to a happy face, not a great big fake smile! Lol, just a light happy expression.
Have a listen to my dark and light resonance:
Play around with your dark and light resonance. Once you can do them both in isolation work on moving from one to the other as all the shades in between are also used in natural singing and speaking for that matter.
Vocal Tone Play
Now that you can isolate your vocal focus and your resonance it’s time to bring them together. Play at imitating every and any sound you can. This will help you to learn to mix resonances and vocal focuses.
You now know the two parts that go into making a great vocal tone!
Remember that any emotion that you can embrace and sing will automatically adjust the resonance and vocal focus for you. But it’s a great skill to know for when you are warming up the voice and need to focus on one specific coordination.
The ultimate goal as always is to learn this stuff then step away from it and let it happen. This takes time and patience.
If you found this article helpful, then please share it or like it 🙂
If you would like to make sure that you’ve isolated your resonance and vocal focus correctly then taking a lesson with me might be a good idea.
Before you work on your vocal tone you should make sure that you have good breath support first. You will find lots of information about that on by breathing for singing article.