Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Grunts and Moans

I'm doing less teaching over the summer but I do see a few private students.

So often, freshman students arrive with bad habits so deeply ingrained that it takes months or years to turn things around. That's why I like to work with younger students and try to instill good habits earlier in the process.

Here's the big one I'm noticing this summer (not that I haven't seen it before!):


Especially when students go to attack notes, I so often hear a little grunting sound as the throat tenses (often for the attack). In more severe cases, you can actually hear a soft humming or moaning sound along with the playing.

I've even held up a recorder microphone close to a student's throat to help them hear these sounds. Sometimes the effect is kind of spooky, like the ghost of someone's grandfather is humming along with the music.

Remember, the vocal chords help to keep food out of the lungs. But, as they close, this also prevents air from coming out of the lungs.

Some things to think about it:
  1. Higher notes seem to cause more trouble.
  2. Tricky music makes things worse.
  3. You need to notice it in order to fix it. Have a friend stand nearby and listen for those throat sounds.
  4. As your throat relaxes, you might notice your sound getting bigger and notes speaking more easily.
  5. When notes don't speak, I often hear a very significant grunt (makes sense, really..less air going to the lips makes "air balls" much easier)
You can't hold your throat open.

A relaxed throat is an open throat.