Associate Professor of Voice, Shenandoah Conservatory Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute
I follow several voice teacher forums on Facebook and regularly see posts from teachers seeking new vocal exercises. While complicated exercises may be useful for more advanced students, there are many occasions when simple exercises will provide the best results. The simplest of all is the sustained pitch. While sustaining a single note may seem too simplistic to achieve significant growth, if used strategically it can be quite beneficial. Leda Scearce, CCC-SLP details the benefits of sustained pitches in her book “Manual of Singing Voice Rehabilitation” (p. 172-173).
Sustaining a single pitch helps coordinate the action of the vocal folds and the respiratory system. At the vocal fold level, a sustained pitch will require coordination of the thyroarytenoid, cricothyroid, interarytenoid, and lateral cricoarytenoid muscles building the fine motor skills necessary for more advanced work. While singing a single pitch, the singer can focus on maintaining phonation in the register of their choice, while making respiratory adjustments to maintain a consistent dynamic level throughout the duration of the pitch. By removing the challenges of changing pitch, you can focus on releasing tongue and jaw tension while fine-tuning vowel quality. Here are some exercises to try:
While it may be difficult if not impossible to keep the student’s attention on sustained pitches for more than five to ten minutes, there are advantages to sustained pitch work that should be considered. If you are not already following the blog, please enter your email address on the bottom right of this page. If you have other ideas for how to utilize sustained pitches in the voice studio, please leave them in the comment section below. Thank you for reading and have a wonderful Thanksgiving! ~Matt