Vocal effects

I’ve been adding a range of skills to what my voice can do for a while now, some are really good, others need work, but having seen Bobby McFerrin perform live in concert this past weekend I realise I have quite a few more to add.

Here’s what I can do

  • Operatic quality (but my sound is more light Baroque than Wagnerian)
  • Belt quality (Chest voice combined with nasal quality)
  • Sob quality
  • Simple switches between head and chest voice (not too fast)
  • A growl (but not at will, sometimes it happens when I want it to, other times not)
  • An imperfect imitation of some singers (Ella Fitzgerald, Julie Andrews and when I have laryngitis I can do a mean Suze DeMarchi)
  • And I have a three octave range that’s comfortable (E below middle C to E above top C)

Here’s what I’d like to add to the list

  • Tuvalu throat singing
  • Effortless switches between head and chest voice
  • Effortless trills (I find this really challenging)
  • A more ‘brilliant’ operatic quality with better control over pianissimo (I’m too loud in the high notes, in fact too loud as a singer in general — don’t put me in your choir!)
  • A greater scat vocabulary (other than doo-be, swee, bap, doo ya and ba-dat-n-day)
  • Beat-boxing
  • Whistle-singing (that thing Mariah Carey does with her voice up really high)
  • And this two tone thing that Bobby McFerrin does — I think it’s a cross between a growl and throat singing with the tongue as a resonator (I’ve been trying to puzzle it out all day). Check it out below…. (Did I mention he’s my vocal hero?)

To be treated like an instrumentalist instead of ‘just a singer’ is an ultimate goal of mine, and something I want the singers in my classroom to aspire to.

When I sing I am trying to ‘think’ with the muscles in my throat and abdomen and feel what another singer has demonstrated to me. If I can’t visualise what it feels like, I have a really hard time doing it, and I guess that’s the challenge with listening to someone like Bobby- I have no concept of what it feels like to sing the way he does. (On a side note, when people are scream-singing their throats raw, it’s like I feel their pain and I have to stop listening.)

Update: Above is my very weird experiment in trying to make harmonics with my voice(read: singing two notes or more at once). I warn you it is a little bizarre.

About Alison Armstrong

Alison Armstrong BMus./BEd. (Queensland University of Technology), Dip. ABRSM (Performance- Singing) I have trained to teach Music (Elementary, Middle and High School) and Drama (Middle and High School). This is my 7th year as a teacher.
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4 Responses to Vocal effects

    • I have to learn how — it is definitely another skill I’m working on. Trying to go against the norm of singing to understanding the voice in all its forms. My cousin Emily who died tragically this year apparently used to teach the members of her church how to beat box, I wish she could’ve taught me!

  1. musicwork says:

    Mal Webb is another interesting vocalist – and he’s local! (well, Melbourne-based). He’s done all sorts of investigations into his voice. I think there are probably some YouTube clips. I remember him telling me about some scientists in Germany who put a wee camera down his throat in order to get a picture of what was going on!

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