Academic journal article Journal of Singing

The Effect of the Position of the Zygomatic Musculature of the Experienced Baritone Singer on the Voice Spectra

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

The Effect of the Position of the Zygomatic Musculature of the Experienced Baritone Singer on the Voice Spectra

Article excerpt


VOICE PEDAGOGY LITERATURE IS REPLETE WITH information pertaining to the importance of body posture in singing. Methods that promote the development of kinesthetic sensitivity, such as the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method, have been incorporated into the art of singing as a means to improve vocal efficiency. Voice teacher Dr. Elizabeth Blades-Zeller, for example, worked jointly with Feldenkrais expert Dr. Samuel Nelson using Functional Integration, a specific hands-on approach, to release one singer's neck and shoulder tension. Over time, the singer was able to produce a clearer, freer, and more full-bodied tone.1 But, what of facial postures? Little research has been conducted that explores the positions of the muscles of the face in singing. The face, a singer's most obvious means of expressing his/her natural instrument, is deserving of more focused consideration.

The study of the muscles of the face in singing is a critical issue in voice pedagogy, since anything that impacts the shape of the vocal tract contributes to the resultant vocal timbre. Significant changes in vocal timbre occur when a singer overextends the jaw, keeps the mouth open in a fixed position, or exhibits various other such physical maneuvers while singing. Similarly, it is possible that the position of the zygomatic musculature may contribute to the quality of a singer's sound. Richard Miller suggests that the position of the zygomatic musculature in singing alters the shape of the vocal tract, thereby affecting vocal timbre. In Solutions for Singers, Miller discusses the importance of the zygomatic muscles not only related to their role in facial expression but as they relate to resonance balancing.

Raising of the zygomatic area for singing need not provoke widening of the eyes, furrowing of the brow, dilating of the nostrils, wrinkling of the nose, or laughter, actions caused by other muscles, including the risorius, the smiling muscles. When a pleasant expression (not a smile) accompanies complete inspiration, prior to velopharyngeal closure, the velum rises slightly, changing the shape of the resonator tract in the velopharyngeal area. This slight elevation of the zygomatic musculature is commonly observed among major singing artists who adhere to the international school of resonance balancing."2

Furthermore, Miller adheres to the old adage "inhale as though smelling the fragrance of a rose."3 As such, he suggests, "Having the zygomatic muscles follow patterns associated with pleasant facial expression achieves an uncontrived adjustment of the entire buccopharyngeal cavity."4 Depending on the uniqueness in the physiology of the vocal tract of any given singer, slight movements of these muscles may produce different resonance balances from one singer to the next.


Facial Postures and Singing

As far back as 1723, singers were becoming aware of the importance of facial postures. In his treatise, Observations on the Florid Song, Pier Francesco Tosi makes a few insightful observations on facial postures.

When he [the student] studies his lesson at home, let him sometimes sing before a looking-glass to avoid those convulsive motions of the body, or of the face which, when once they have took footing never leave him.5

Lacking scientific instrumentation for viewing the vocal folds and analyzing the singer's sound, Tosi used a simple mirror as a primary tool for analyzing a singer's physical movements.

Approximately a half century later, Giambattista Mancini offers his views of singing in his book, explaining in detail the importance of the position of the mouth in singing, since "it is the source for the clarity of the voice and the neatness of the expression."6 He advocates the "smiling position" and says, "Every singer should position his mouth as he positions it when he smiles naturally, that is, in such a way that the upper teeth be perpendicularly and moderately separated from those below. …

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