Frequently singers think they need more power in their sound, particularly in the Rock and Musical Theatre styles of singing. Often singers who complain of a lack of power in the voice actually are not lacking in power, but in edge, or squillo. Squillo can be developed in the voice by using the “voce di strega” or witchy, bratty sounding exercises. The use of these “nasty-sounding” exercises has been used for hundreds of years and is part of Bel Canto (beautiful singing) vocal training.
Another element that allows a singer to be more powerful is known as the “Singer’s Formant”. Formants when used in singing terms refer to acoustic resonance in the vocal tract; the term “singer’s formant” refers to a peak in the amplitude or energy at about 3000 Hz in a trained singer’s voice that allows them to be heard over a loud orchestra or other accompaniment. It creates a ringing quality in the voice; it is not present in untrained singers, but is developed with good vocal training.
The ability to project the voice and sing with power can be developed over time, with the right training and vocal exercises. Just as an athlete can develop certain muscle groups to become more adept at a particular sport, so singers can develop specific muscle groups in the vocal mechanism to increase power in the voice. Power is a result of good balance between all the functioning elements of the voice rather than of pushing or forcing the voice. Balance results in efficiency in any functioning mechanism.
Efficient functioning begins with the action of the vocal cords. The vocal cords (or folds) are two very small bands that are housed in the larynx. They come together (adduct) and then open (abduct) many times per second in order to produce a pitch. Air is released between the two folds during the abducted or open part of the cycle, and is amplified and reinforced in the pharynx (throat and mouth), creating sound.
If we can increase the amount of time the cords remain in the adducted (closed) part of the phase, we thereby increase the power and volume of the sound that is emitted, as the sub-glottal pressure has thus been increased. This is known as “closed quotient” and is improved with exercises and vocal training. The onset, or beginning of a vocal sound should always be created with appropriate vocal cord adduction (not over-compressed, and not under-compressed) to create efficient functioning and a powerful sound.
The voice is all part of an interconnected system, and if all the parts are working correctly the result will be a more powerful sound that is produced with ease. If you are straining and pushing to sound louder, you are doing it incorrectly and could risk damaging your voice.
The presence of squillo, developed by using the “voce di strega” exercises, along with the ringing quality that results from the “singer’s formant” development, an appropriately adducted onset, and an increased “closed quotient” are all factors of good vocal training that will result in greater perceived power or edge in the voice, without pushing or forcing for more volume.
I wish you all the best as you reach for your dreams! Tricia Grey, MM
At Sing Like a Star Studios you can learn the vocal technique of the stars. If you don’t live near Atlanta, you can take voice lessons with Skype. Please visit our website at www.singlikeastar.com and click on the GET STARTED tab to register for a professional vocal evaluation and consultation.