Five Easy Ways to Polish Your Singing: #2 Tone


in Music Technique, Performance

As was mentioned briefly in the previous article, the tone of your voice can determine your success or failure in not only an audition but in your entire singing career. Tone is the quality of your vocal production, and, in general, can be explained on a spectrum from bright to dark. When you think bright, think of a child – tinny and occasionally shrill. If you have seen any musicals, the ‘character voices’ like Galinda from Wicked, would be considered an overly (albeit, on purpose) bright tone. Dark tones can be related to the old, male, bass voices like Bing Crosby in White Christmas. However just because these examples are soprano versus bass vocal parts, It is not a difference in whether you are singing a low or high note, but rather the quality with which you sing the note.

Importance of Tone in Playing Roles

There are many times when changing your tone is critical to a performance. In musical productions it can be essential to producing a believable character. For instance, Golde from Fiddler on the Roof must be sung with a dark tone, to illustrate her old age and tired character. The ghost Fruma-Sarah who ‘haunts’ Tevye’s dream in the same musical, however, needs a brassy, tinny, bright toned voice to create her ethereal, revolting, and somewhat psychotic nature.

Choir Singing

As a general rule, when singing in a choir you want to blend with the other singers, and allowing your voice to be overly bright or overly dark will not allow this to happen. A director can, of course, play with the positioning of various singers, putting darker vocal qualities next to those with brighter natural voices, to balance out and achieve overall choir blend, but if a singer wants to be an asset, rather than a positioning plague, they must learn how to adjust their tone.

Achieving Various Tonal Qualities

To adjust your tone, simply change your mouth and voice positioning.

For brighter tones, focus your voice through your forehead and cheekbones. It helps to raise your eyebrows and cheekbones (smiling tends to help, but can ruin your diction, so try to raise your cheekbones in a smile without changing your mouth positioning too much). Bright tones are best directed out of the top of your head. Doing this also helps to keep a singer on pitch, if they struggle with going flat.

For dark tones, the focus is deeper, and lower. Dropping your jaw and focusing the note through your chest cavity promotes this dark tonal quality. Keeping your mouth very rounded on the inside (as if giving an ‘o’ sound to the words sung) also helps to darken pitch. Darker tones tend to blend better in choirs, but also tend to pitches going flat.

Your Voice: A Changing Musical Instrument

Think of your mouth as a musical instrument. If it is very open on the inside and closed on the outside, it has more area to darken, like a booming drum. If you keep it more tight, with less room for reverberation, it will become brighter, like a flute. It is best, usually, to have a good middle voice, not too dark or too bright. This can change, however, per your directors desires, your specific song selection, and (of course) characterization for a played role. But, in the end, correct tonal quality can make or break a song.

Author Bio

Heidi is an online writer for Living Dailies. She enjoys writing about her passions in life and music is one of them. Heidi’s writing is sponsored by various websites. A new sponsor of Heidi's work is OPI Gelcolor.

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