Open, Closed, Up, Down, East, West, but never twisted!
Singers! Open, Closed and Linear (“Classical”), or Open, Closed and Lateral (“Musical Theatre”) depending on style VERSUS (the never in style; not even in rock - except for occasional effect or color) Choked, Spread and Yelled. What is the shape of your resonance and where is it? Is the soft palate more up and lifted (“classical singing”) or slightly lifted but with more east to west height (“musical theatre singing”)? Million dollar tip is that the shape of your tone/timbre will get you in and through many styles - the technique is similar but the coloring/shapes and variances are slightly different. First a couple musts, these musts will vary slightly depending on the style of the music you are singing but most are musts, just with slight alternate shadings. You must have a connected and controlled breath. You must have cord closure (not aggressive - but gentle-working closure) to maintain optimal singing. (yes, the cords will bubble open and fry for different styles, including pop - but the closure is the optimal aim and technique). You must exploit the resonance and find the optimal buzz for your voice, your technique, your release. Some vocabulary (to get us on the same page) is also good to have. Closed refers to: cords that are adducted and maintaining phonation and connection. Open refers to: the larynx that is not gripped (choked). The laryngeal collar is not diminished or squeezed. Resonance is the buzzing vibration that assists your sonic quality to ring and oscillate (yes, amplification is often used but a singer must recognize resonance as a part of vocal quality, technique, practice, and longevity). Placement, conversely, is most often the focal point by-product of the resonance, i.e. if the singer is in the low voice the cords are thicker and shorter, larynx is low, little to no tilt, and there is more hoot in the sound. The sympathetic resonance will be felt in the chest, but if the chest resonator is vibrating than the placement, at the upper teeth to keep the sound flowing up and out with some point and bite, is the focus or placement (this will also assist to create a “mix of sound” between the chest and mouth). Or, if the singer is in the high voice the cords are thinner, longer, the larynx is low but tilted (aided with cry or sob) and there is more pharyngeal honk in the sound. The sympathetic resonance will be felt in the head - but if the head resonator, i.e. the upper pharynx, is vibrating than the placement of the masque and the area in the eyes, (“the googles” - thanks, Giachino!) is the focal point or placement. The instrument connects the breath with the sound at the cords, and emanates from the voice box - the larynx, and this is the primary resonator. The singer might feel vibrations in various parts of the body and this is a good way to think of placement. A good reference is a church organ in a large cathedral. The connection happens from the pressing of the key assigned to a certain pipe which then pressurizes air from the bellows to produce sound. That connection is then resonated in the various sized organ pipe(s). However, where those pipes are placed in the church - the nave, the narthex, the ceiling, etc. is a good way to think of how a singer experiences placement. And like the varying sizes of the resonating organ pipes, when singing in various styles the “placement” is a helpful practice, but not a pure-science, to change the shape of the tone and timbre (what makes this difficult is that singers only have "one pipe"!) Generally, Classical singing style requires more open throat, closed cords, relatively low larynx, (meaning not high) tilted larynx when in the upper register, and round linear (up and down) sounds. But musical theatre singing generally requires more open throat, low but not as low in classical (again predominately not high or gripped (which is often confused in Musical Theatre singers), closed cords, and slightly more lateral, as opposed to linear - up and down, but not overly spread or yelly either. (Yes, there is some lateral east to west ideal in classical singing - i.e. Bjorling’s singing from ear to ear, and the inner sorriso but generally there will still be more depth and height of sound (linear) in classical singing, when generally compared to more width of sound (lateral) in musical theatre singing, and when MT belting in the upper range, a mix and less bucchal quality must shift from chest dragging to a more pharyngeal, hard palate quality. A good singer recognizes the need of chiaroscuro in the tone: a blend of light and dark. Depending on the style the ratio of light and dark will alter. How much hoot? How much honk? How much bright? How much veiled? But never confuse nasal brightness with nasality - just don’t do it! Enjoy!