Getting Started with Vocal Weight
Vocal weight refers to the "heaviness" or "lightness" of your voice. It's one of the core building blocks of vocal technique that's important to develop awareness and control.
In this article, we will discuss getting started with local weight.
Exploring Vocal Weight
To start getting a feel for vocal weight, try making two contrasting vocalizations. Make one sound higher and lighter, and the other lower and heavier. Focus on describing the differences in sound quality, not where you think the sounds are coming from physically.
Many people describe the higher, lighter vocalization as being smoother, less buzzy, more flute-like, or even calmer and more soothing. The lower, heavier vocalization is often described as buzzier, rougher, more aggressive, or more brassy.
When thinking about these differences, you can start to associate words like "light" and "heavy" with the two ends of the vocal weight spectrum.
The higher, smoother sound feels "lighter," while the lower, buzzier one seems "heavier." This is why we use the term "vocal weight" to refer to this quality.
Developing Awareness of Vocal Weight
A good exercise to start developing awareness of vocal weight is to alternate between light, soothing coos, and heavier, more aggressive grumbling sounds.
Imagine you're cooing gently to a baby, then get annoyed when the baby makes a mess of your nice clothes. Go back and forth between the two extremes. Pay close attention to the buzziness and heaviness of each sound.
Make sure you're not getting too breathy on the light end. And avoid too much vocal fry or creakiness on the heavy end. Staying higher or lower in pitch can help exaggerate the weight differences.
You can also explore smoothly gliding through pitches while trying to maintain a particular vocal weight. This helps develop coordination between pitch and weight.
Notice how it's quite difficult to keep the same heavy weight while gliding higher in pitch. And the voice tends to cut out when trying to stay light at very low pitches. So you may want to stay within a certain pitch range for a given vocal weight, depending on your goals.
Implementing Vocal Weight Control
Once you've explored vocal weight in simple exercises, it's time to practice controlling it in actual speech and singing.
A simple 3-step process can help implement a target vocal weight:
- Tune your voice to the desired pitch and weight. Use whatever warm-ups or explorations help get you there.
- Meditate on the sound and physical sensations you feel when producing it. Really ingrain the experience.
- Take that tuned vocal weight into speaking or singing.
Don't rush through the tuning and meditation steps. Really get familiar with the precise sound before trying to implement it.
When first starting out, mistakes can happen from relying too much on muscle memory and habits. Be mindful and take the time to prepare your voice and body for the new vocal weight.
Developing the Skill
To develop real skill with vocal weight, focus practice time on actually speaking and singing with different degrees of weight. Don't just do pitch and weight exercises.
It's also helpful to closely listen to other speakers and singers manipulating their vocal weight. Pay attention to voices you like and dislike. See if you can pinpoint specific weight characteristics that appeal or don't appeal to you.
This builds your awareness and personal preferences when it comes to vocal weight. It will also help you evaluate and guide your own progress.
Vocal Health Considerations
When practicing higher pitches and heavier vocal weights, be mindful of vocal health. These techniques tend to tax the vocal cords and surrounding muscle tissues more.
Listen to your body and rest your voice as needed. Stay hydrated. If you notice vocal fatigue, hoarseness, or loss of range, back off and allow your voice to recover.
Simple warm-down exercises and "semi-occluded" vocal tract drills can also help reduce strain after practice.
With consistent awareness and practice, you can gain excellent control over vocal weight for diverse creative applications. Just be sure to balance your goals with vocal health in mind.
- Vocal weight refers to the "heaviness" or "lightness" of your voice. Developing awareness and control is key.
- Explore contrasting vocalizations to hear the weight differences. Avoid too much breathiness or creakiness.
- Practice gliding through pitches with a set vocal weight to build coordination.
- Implement weight control through pitch/weight tuning, meditation, and then speech/singing.
- Listen to other singers to build awareness. Evaluate your own progress.
- Higher/heavier weight practices can strain your voice. Listen to your body.
- Consistent smart practice will develop excellent vocal weight skills for creative use.
Developing your sense of and ability to manipulate vocal weight takes time, but it can really expand your vocal capabilities. Follow these tips to get started in a healthy, effective way.