Ask the Expert – Weak and thready voices

Ask the Expert – Weak and thready voices

A subscriber from the UK emails:

“I hope you can help with a problem we have. In our music group we have some female singers who need some help on a number of fronts:

1    Voices are fairly in tune but very “weak and thready”

2    They run out of puff quickly especially with up-tempo songs

3    Their range is quite limited (one can only do middle C to about D, the other is much higher, about G above middle C to the G an octave above.

Of the plethora of training stuff available, which do you think would help their specific problems?”

Musicademy vocals coach Cat White has given a really in-depth answer to each of the above which we’ll tackle in three blog posts. First here is her advice for weak and thready voices:

This problem is probably a lot to do with confidence and technique. Microphones have a horrible habit of either making people lazy as they think they don’t need to sing properly because they can be heard anyway, or freaking people out so they sing so quietly they can’t be heard. Trying to sing quietly without proper support leads to an airy and ‘thready’ sound which doesn’t blend.

The only way to improve weak voices is to work them out! Proper use of breathing transforms voices almost instantly, but in order to achieve good strong voices frequent work outs are required (like those on our vocal warm ups cd).  Teaching on microphone technique and how to project the voice would also be of help (there’s a video clip on mic technique on our blog and its covered comprehensively on the DVDs as well). The most important thing though is to be breathing properly as this provides the foundations for everything. The voice is a wind instrument- it can’t work without knowing how to use the air properly to make the sound. Step one may be for them to discover their voices. It sounds simple, but many people do not have a clue what their voice is capable of because they never try! Once you are more aware of your own voice, what you can do, what happens when you open your mouth like this or put your lips in this position, confidence begins to come naturally, as the level of uncertanty drops!

Breathing is covered extensively in our worship vocals DVD course.

One other thing work on which will help make their voices possibly appear stronger is with enunciation. With the words of the songs make sure that if the first letter of the word is a consonant it is struck strongly. J-esus sounds much clearer than yeesus and can create clarity even within weaker voies. Obviously this is a cheat as it’s not actually strengthening the voices themselves, but the consonants rule does apply to even the more experienced singers. Clear words are key! Again we cover diction comprehensively on our vocals DVDs.

Other posts you may find helpful:

Vocal warm-up exercises explained

Video clip from training seminar on supporting the voice

Video clip on breathing for singers

Changes to the voice as we age