Monday, March 03, 2008

Covering - Closed

As with many terms used in describing vocal techniques, 'cover' or 'covering' or 'closing' a vowel is a technique that is not often well defined. Consequently, it often implies that the singer is somehow muting the voice or partial hiding it. Such is not the case.The vocal tract, that portion above the, larynx and vocal folds, including the epilarynx, pharynx, mouth, tongue and lips, are not only the primary resonance spaces for the voice but also the location of all adjustments that are made to tone quality and, of course, vowel production.The singer usually feels or senses the tone not only in these spaces but also in the facial bones, sinuses, nose and even the clavicle or collarbone and chest. But these are sensing locations only and are not projections points or areas that resonate or add to the quality of the tone. When you tune an FM station on your tuner or radio, you do not obtain the sound from the location of the tuning dial but, rather, from the loudspeakers of your sound system. So it is for the singer; the sensing locations mentioned above help the singer "tune" the voice for the desired quality but the tone, in 98% of its entirety, comes from the vocal tract and its outlet, the mouth.The tone as it resonants in the vocal tract also has a direct effect on the efficiency and actual function of the vocal folds. It is as if there is a kind of 'back wave' that balances against the vocal folds during their oscillation.. It is called 'intertance' and makes possible the singer's experience of producing a full, rich tone with a surprisingly little effort considering size and intensity of sound that is produced. This plays an especially important role for the singer as he/she transcends from the lower or 'chest' voice into the 'head' or 'high' voice.The chest to head/high voice transition requires that the vocal folds gradually assume a comparable change in conformation. In chest voice the folds are short and thick and pitch changes are the result of alterations in tension within the muscles that comprise the vocal folds with the addition of a lengthening or stretching of the vocal folds as the higher pitches of the chest voice are reached. In order to rise above this upper limit of the chest voice, the vocal folds must achieve a greater lengthening and the vocal folds muscles must relax to allow this increase in length to occur. Once in head/high voice the vocal folds muscles are almost completely relaxed and the tension longitudinally along the folds is sustained by the vocal ligament. Pitch is now controlled by the lengthening and subsequent increase in tension along the vocal ligament.The most difficult portion of transcending from chest voice to head/high voice is that 3 to 4 half step area between the top of the chest voice and the full entrance into head/high voice. It is here that the well trained singer makes adjustments in the way the tone is resonated in the vocal tract and this is done by altering the vowel being sung or singing a different vowel. So called 'closed' vowels such as 'ee' and'ay' or 'oo' and 'oh' work better in this 3 to 4 note 'passaggio' than does an 'open' vowel such as 'ah'. If 'ah' is required by the text the singer must then darken the quality of that 'ah' vowel to, in effect, give it a more closed quality. This closing of a vowel or selecting a more closed vowel provides a stronger 'inertance' efect in the vocal tract which, in turn, provides a kind of acoustic 'pillow' into which the vocal folds can push, allowing them to more easily make the adjustment from a thick vocal fold configuration to a thinner and longer configuration which is required for head/high voice. A reversal of this process is used when the voice descends from head/high voice down into chest voice.In short 'covering' is actually an alteration in vowel pronunciation. It is a vowel modification that is necessary to give the voice an even and seamless transition from chest voice to head/voice. It is often taught by means of suggesting to the singer what adjustments should made with the mouth, lips and jaw but that is a mechanical means of altering the vowel quality and it is much more easily taught by simply modifying the vowel as we all do when we imitate another vowel quality. It is interesting that the 'covered' tone is seldom recognized as a vowel modification because the listener is satisfied by the evenness of tonal continuity that is achieved by this process.

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