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Thinking the Wrong Way? Part One - by Jeannie Deva
What kinds of thoughts do you have about singing? Do you think you have to reach up to sing high? Do you think you have to push or squeeze to sing loudly? Do you have any negative thoughts that pop up when you sing?

The incredible thing about your instrument (your voice) is that it is emotion and thought sensitive. This is why you can sound the emotions you're experiencing and convey them to your audience. However, if you have any uncertainty about your singing, or what to do to get certain notes, this too will be conveyed through your voice.
If you think that a sound is high, for example, it causes a mental anticipation and often anxiety about "hitting' the pitch. This interrupts your concentration and harmonious interaction with your voice and may cause you to lose control. To feel uncertain or insecure about your voice is a debilitating mental state. Any uncertainty or anticipation of negative results becomes the primary driving force. The results can be off pitch, poor tone, cracking notes, register break, an enforced falsetto and unwanted nasality, as well as physical damage such as hoarseness and nodes. (Nodes: callus like bumps which typically form in pairs on either side of the rims of your vocal folds. Nodes can be the result of throat muscle tension during singing and/or speaking.)

The Myth of High and Low
It's interesting to note that the concept of "high" or "low" in sound can only exist once you compare one sound to another. In truth, your vocal folds do not soar up into or over your head for a "high" pitch, nor do they drop down into your chest for a "low" one. Yet, many singers tend to reach up or down towards the direction of the pitch as they sing. You may have sung this way without awareness, but perhaps it sounds familiar now that we're speaking of it.

How Your Body Reacts
So what does thinking the placement of the pitch high or low have to do with breathing and breath control? To think each sound in terms of its pitch position, up or down, makes your body "think" it has to send air to a location other than to your vocal folds (located just behind your Adam's apple, they lie horizontally in the front half of your throat). When singing, if you have the idea you need to push or "reach up" for higher pitches, your body will respond in undesirable ways.

If you think "up" when singing high notes, your ribs and diaphragm will tend to push up an excessive air stream as if your vocal folds were in your mouth or above your head. This is not sensible but the concept of "up" translates to your muscles as "push harder to get there." It's as if, on a physical level, the idea of "up" gets confused with "further away." This excessive air stream causes vocal problems.

In Part Two of this article, we'll take a look at some of the problems and their solutions. Enjoy the spring and see you next month!

Jeannie Deva, international vocalist, teacher and recording session vocal specialist, is the Founder of The Deva MethodŽ and The Jeannie DevaŽ Voice Studios with a network of teachers certified in her method. Clients include singers on labels such as MCA, Sony and CBS, Grammy Awardee Amee Mann, Magic Dick and J. Geils, members from the cast of Fame and Jesus Christ Superstar, Dar Williams, Patty Griffin, MoodCrush, backup singers for Elton John, Celine Dion, and many more. Jeannie has a private voice studio in LA. For information on services or voice enhancement products by Jeannie Deva:
Jeannie Deva Voice Studios

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