SOVT for You and Me

There is an acronym whizzing through the ethers of the vocology cosmos causing some people to delight and others to raise their fists in the air.  Introducing: SOVT, which stands for semi-occluded vocal tract.  Voice nerds use it to describe vocal exercises, as in “SOVT exercises.”  You see it in scientific journals and hear it on the streets, depending who you hang out with.  It is an attempt to codify the language around voice, and for this reason I’m rather elated it exists.

This post stands as a tiny, little tutorial on SOVT and SOVT exercises.  Once you get the gist, you can identify any number of vocal exercises that employ its benefits.  I’ll list a few of the most common SOVT exercises, pin links to free resources that explain it, briefly describe a few of its incredible benefits, and list videos just in case you like your coffee pixilated.  (SOVT exercises are a sort of get-up-and-go drug, afterall.)

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Why do voice teachers hate each other?

The title of this post is strongly worded because I’m interested in getting your attention.  Did it work?

Several years ago I heard someone put it this way: “you can put a group of saxophone players in a room.  They will talk about mouth pieces, reeds, horns, music, and have a great time.  Put a group of voice teachers in a room, and you’ll have a war.”

This may be a huge exaggeration, but there is a shred of truth in there somewhere.

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The Three Mechanical Parts of the Voice

Many moons ago, in an auditorium not so far away, I caught a lecture that changed my life.  Dr. Tom Cleveland (an unbelievably compelling human being and voice pioneer) of the Vanderbilt Voice Center gave a talk during one of the music school’s special lunchtime learning programs at the Blair School of Music.  My student, who’s lesson was scheduled at that hour, didn’t have a choice about going.  We were going.  Something inside my soul knew it was important.  How important, exactly, hit me about midway through the talk.  Not days or months later, but exactly during that monumental, way-too-short hour.

He talked about a lot of things, showed video clips of the vocal folds in action, imitated the sound of the vocal folds without the vocal tract, told funny stories, talked about the voice center, referenced his research, and MADE A MECHANICAL VOICE OUT OF A BELLOWS, A DUCK CALL, AND A PIECE OF TUBING.

Wait.  What??  Stop, please.  Dr. Cleveland!  Did you just create a voice out of supplies from your shed??  Did that thing just sing vowels to us??  What is happening, and how do I make my whole life about this duck call/bellows/vowel-tube trick?

In that moment everything changed.  Ba-bam.

Do you remember back in the day when the internet wasn’t fast OR filled with information?  Well, this happened during those days.  Finding out more required asking a lot of questions of a lot of people, and trying to find someone to teach me about voice science that could also handle the fact that I sing jazz.  Back in those days, it felt like the classical singing camp had some kind of lock-down on information regarding the voice, which was a strange realization.  Fortunately, there was a woman at Western Michigan University named Diana Spradling who was a huge (huge) voice nerd and jazz voice teacher.  She graciously gave me lessons and showed me a spectrogram.  (Clouds parted, sun rays from heaven entered.)  It was like finding the holy grail.  A jazz teacher who loved voice science!

But – I digress.  Back to the mechanical voice situation.

Dr. Cleveland showed us that the voice can be understood in three parts: the power source, the vibrator, and the resonator.  The lungs and respiratory system provide the airflow and pressure, or fuel for the voice, the vocal folds cut up the column of air by vibrating and thus create a sound source, and the head acts like a container that resonates the sound.  This very simple model gives us a place to start addressing interactions between the three systems, and how they work in concert.  To this day, I tell every single student this 3-system story if they allow me even 1 minute to do it because if they know about it, they can begin asking empowered questions about it.

The Voice in 3 mechanical parts:

  1. Power Source – Lungs
  2. Sound source (or vibrator) – Vocal Folds
  3. Resonator – Vocal Tract

Got it.

Next: a video to show YOU how to make a voice using a duck call and a piece of tubing.  Stay tuned.

Here is a link to the American Academy of Otolaryngology’s description of the 3 mechanical parts of the voice: Click here and enjoy!

 

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Giving It All Away

We are in a time where the way we do business and exchange information is shifting rapidly.  Author Seth Godin says we are no longer in an industrial economy, we are now in a “connection economy” because of the internet.  This means that instead of large corporations marketing to large portions of the population, small companies and even individuals are marketing to small, dedicated groups of people who trust, love and support what they are selling or stand for.  We are now able to share our talents and voice (go figure, voice) with the world without anyone’s permission.  You don’t have to wait around for Penguin Publishing to okay your blog post, you can start sharing with your fellow human beings today.

What I’ve noticed about the connection economy is how people are having to shift from the mentality of guarding their knowledge into the mentality of sharing what they know freely and very publicly.  This is a brave new world.  And if you are in my generation or older, you have probably spent a few sleepless nights wondering if this is such a good idea.  Give this information away.  Really?  “There is no good that can come from that,” says the fearful ego.  It goes on: “I have spent thousands of dollars and years of my life acquiring this information and skill set!  I can’t just give it away for free!”

Yes.  You.  Can.

And I have a list of reasons why giving it all away is good for you and those around you.

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What is Vocology, Exactly?

 The word vocology comes from pairing the latin “voco” meaning voice or speech with “ology” meaning the study of, or science of.  So, vocology is to voice what audiology is to hearing.  The person who coined the term is Dr. Ingo Titze of the National Center for Voice and Speech in Salt Lake City, UT.  I have a soon-to-be-published video interview with Dr. Titze where he says he was the one, THE guy, who coined the term.  It is no secret that Dr. Titze is one of the foremost experts in the world in voice science, as well as one of the kindest human beings you’ll ever meet, but to be the one who founded language to describe a whole field of study . . . just wow.

The reason I’m interested in the field of vocology is because I enjoy the how and why of life.

I’d like to know what happens physically when we sing, and how the brain responds to sound.  Things like that.

My nature is to dig for deeper answers in areas like psychology and voice, as well as a few other subjects.  Of course, knowing all the how and why will never get accomplished in any “ology.”

What’s amazing to me is that we are living in a time where a LOT of the answers to voice questions are bubbling to the surface and being twittered and tweeted about between voice geeks and gurus across the globe.  The voice is utterly and miraculously complex!  We will never fully comprehend it’s beauty and interconnectedness with our psyche and God, let alone the mechanics that make it function.

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