“Where Do I Place the Tone?”

A common myth that has achieved notoriety and acclaim is the idea of voice placement. Maybe you have heard that there is a place to put the voice? Often, that place is described as somewhere forward, between the eyes or in the teeth.

To be sure, there is an element of truth contained within this idea of placement. However, it is very important to understand that you cannot literally put or place the “voice” anywhere, nor should you try.

Placement of the voice should not be the focus of vocal training. Rather, the focus of vocal training should be to be led through exercises that will reflexively stimulate healthy subconscious muscle response. Then, as the muscles work according to their innate logic, our conscious minds will have “aha!” moments as we feel what it feels like for our bodies to work in a healthy and free manner.

Really, “voice” is nothing more than air molecules shaped and moving. The primary determining factor in the shape and movement is how the vocal cords are positioned for pitch by the complex and beautiful interplay of the arytenoid and crico-thyroid muscle systems. You breathe in, the cords close for a split second, and if all is well with their activity then the cords shape themselves according to a given mental command (concerning what you wish to sing), and finally carbon dioxide is moved through the cords and shaped as it passes through. All of this mind, muscle, and breath activity happens in a split second and is subconscious (or at least it should be so one is not trying to manipulate and control what one mostly cannot do directly anyways).

What You Learn In Vocal Training

Voice as complex activity should be thought of as more of a free reflex action in response to a musical stimulus. Then, one will have certain feelings or sensations like “down & in front” or “up & back” given where the notes are, whether lower or upper in the scale. Yet, these sensations happen as a result of mind + muscle + air all working correctly. So, there might be some sort of feeling of place, whether high or low or front or back, BUT where we feel it is not something we do, it is something that happens because of free muscular response to the exercise or phrase of music.

The feel of “place” is an effect or symptom of free function. This feel is not something we consciously make happen by directly trying to control a whole bunch of muscular contractions. It is something we pay attention to and say, “Aha! I know what healthy feels like now!” As the muscles work better then the feel changes to reflect that better work. As your conscious mind (including information from feel as well as hearing) understands then it can begin to give commands, and the muscles healthily adjust (with lots of sub-conscious activities occuring for this to be accomplished). Then you have correct “placement” without you trying to “place” the voice anywhere!

Allen Rascoe

about the author

Allen Rascoe Allen has been enjoying singing since he was a little kid. He officially studied voice at ECU and USC. However, he ran... Read More