Me and Helen, the student in this clip, are on our fourth or fifth lesson. She’s a natural soprano, comfortable with the high ranges and with a sweeping, effortless mezzo-soprano range.
However, there’s a problem. To her, the lower sections of her voice (sometimes termed ‘chest voice’, or ‘Mode One’) feel completely alien. She speaks of her chest voice as though it is utterly separate from the rest of her voice.
It calls to mind the mental illness called BIID, Body Integrity Identity Disorder, in which a person is convinced that a part of their body, such as their hand or leg, does not belong to them. The sufferer will go to great lengths to remove or disassociate themselves from this phantom limb, even undergoing surgery to remove it. After the amputation, they feel much happier.
Helen has successfully amputated her chest voice. Her idea of ‘singing’ is completely in head voice – in its wide-open vowels and wonderful free vibrato.
In this clip, we work on re-attaching the chest voice. You will hear that I do so not by trying to convince her that her chest voice should sound like singing, but by telling her to co-exist with the non-singing feeling. The ‘mnah, mnah, mnah’ sound we work on is designed to be anathema to beautiful singing – yet the thyroid tilt, induced by the ‘puppy’ exercise, brings in a lovely resonant quality to the voice.
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