Worship Musician Magazine October 2021 | Page 56

There are many facets ( and moving parts !) involved in the creation of your singing voice . Over the years of writing this vocal column , I have tried to help you understand some of them . This month , I ’ d like to explore the soft palate and help you to understand the role of the soft palate in singing and especially how it affects the sound of your voice .
YOUR OWN SOUND Everyone ’ s singing voice is unique because everyone ’ s physiological make up is different . But beyond that , there are ways in which we each can make our own voice even more distinctive . This distinction is what we often refer to as our personal style . Typically , a singer will develop their style based on a specific genre that they love or prefer to listen to / sing . Contemporary worship music has become its own genre in the last generation even though , under the umbrella of worship music , there are many varied styles . This leaves a singer lots of space to develop personal style .
Certain vocal techniques can help or hinder a singer ’ s ability to get the sound they are looking for . Singers join vocal teams with all kinds of varied backgrounds , training , and experience . Often , they struggle with style , blend , vibrato , tone quality , etc , as they try to make their voice work in the environment of contemporary worship music . Without an extensive understanding of how the voice works , lesser experienced singers and leaders are often at a loss as to how to help someone better fit in , vocally , with the team . One frequently overlooked “ tool ” in the singer ’ s toolbox , is the roles of the soft palate in singing .
WHAT IS THE SOFT PALATE ? The soft palate is the soft tissue in the back and roof of the mouth . The uvula hangs from the end of the soft palate . The soft palate does not contain bone and is moveable . It plays a big role during swallowing , sneezing , yawning , speech and , of course , singing . If you have classical training in your vocal background , the soft palate is likely very familiar to you . Learning to control the soft palate and use it to help create the sound you want , as a singer , is vital to getting the type of tone that is appropriate for contemporary singing .
Singers often move the soft palate into various positions during singing without realizing it . This can create problems . Although there is no “ typical ” speech pattern I can point to in todays society , I can pretty safely say that most people , when speaking , keep their soft palate in a lowered relaxed position . A raised soft palate during speech creates a type of voicing that we find in , for example , the late Julia Child ( The French Chef ).
TO RAISE OR NOT TO RAISE ? This is the question ! During classical training , singers are often taught to raise their soft palate . Sometimes teachers will say things like “ imagine there ’ s an apple in the back of your throat ”. This can result in the dilation of the pharynx ( back of the throat ), the raising of the soft palate and often the lowering of the larynx , which will create a very specific sound . This can also be helpful for a singer to learn how to relax the throat and surrounding tissues . However , the sound that this produces is appropriate for singing classical music , opera and some forms of Broadway style singing - not contemporary worship music ( or any contemporary music for that matter ). So , although this can be a healthy way to sing , it often does not allow a singer to blend in well in a vocal team or other modern musical setting .
HOW DO I LOWER MY SOFT PALATE ? Often , I ’ ve found that the easiest way to teach a student to lower their soft palate , is to get them in touch with their speaking voice . I will have a student speaking a few lines ( or even a word or two ) of a song they are trying to learn . As long as they are speaking “ correctly ” ( with a lowered soft palate ) then I can move them toward a type of “ speech level ” singing by having them connect the words in the phrase . To use one word as an example , I would have you say “ Hosanna ”. I would then have you repeat this word and make a note of what is happening in your mouth . Then I would have you elongate the word “ Ho ….. saaaaa ….. naaaa ” keeping the tone flowing and connected . Then I would add some pitch to it . All this time , I would make sure you are “ singing ” this word the way you would say it .
Discovering speech level singing can be very helpful for those singers who have the habit of raising their soft palate when they sing . Ideally , a singer would learn how to sing “ like an opera singer - but not sound like one ” because most opera / classical singers have great technique that can help keep their voice healthy . The trick is in the soft palate - keep it low !
Sheri Gould Sheri is an internationally acclaimed vocal coach . She ’ s been helping artists and worshipers find their voice for over 40 years . For help and resources visit her site . www . SheriGould . com
56 October 2021 Subscribe for Free ...