Mask Singing - The Best Method of Vocal Practice

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The connection between mask singing and the vocal registers. An explanation of how to sing through the mask.

Vocal exercise can be a very confusing issue because even the best teachers do not agree on the appropriate way to practice singing. This article will not argue that there is only one correct way to approach vocal lessons, but it will clarify the differences between various types of singing as they relate to the mask. 

Singing Through The Mask

The most current theory on vocal practice is mask singing. Teachers of this method describe the mask as the area where all elements of voice come together. This is where you can sing the strongest without putting too much strain on your vocal chords. If you sing through your chest most of the time, you will know that singing high notes in the chest voice can easily exhaust your vocal chords. When you train through the mask, you are providing more support and reducing the risk of injury. 

If you have ever been told to try lip rolls, you were being trained to focus on the mask. You can feel the mask vibrating sometimes when you sing. It is the area under the eyes and around the nose. Most of us do not know that this area is very effective in producing sound, but it is actually a crucial aspect of our voices. There are many exercises that can help train you to sing through the mask.

Lip-rolls are a well known warm up that can be used daily before singing. This can be done by loosely keeping the lips together and humming a scale in a way that air goes out through the mouth, forcing the lips to vibrate against each other. Make sure this is done gently, as you never want to strain your vocal chords. If this is done properly, the lips will roll with ease and a slight vibration will be felt behind the nose. 

Another exercise that is useful for the mask is the "sing" exercise. Try saying the word "sing," then hold on the "n" sound. It should feel as if the sound is being held in the nasal area. With your chin down and your mouth open, let the "n" sound resonate from the pitch "Do" to "So" very smoothly without stopping at any pitches in between. The idea is to swing from one pitch to another like a pendulum as opposed to piano keys. It should not be two discreet sounds. This transition need not be long. Next move from pitch "Do" to "La," then "Do" to "Ti," and so forth until it feels too high. You can play with the pitches involved, but make sure to maintain the "n" position, where the sound resonates from the mask.

If the mask is so important, why use other ranges?

Teachers have disagreed on the way to describe the vocal ranges. The most common ranges discussed by vocal instructors are the chest voice or diaphragmatic voice (some say these are different, while others say they are the same), and the head voice. The chest voice and/or diaphragm are required for loud singing and belting. Broadway singers need to use this all the time. Where does the mask come in? Many would argue that mask singing is indisposable for chest singing, and any register of singing. This is because when you sing using any specific "register," the other registers are still involved. This is why current theory claims that we shouldn't really differentiate between the registers the way more traditional methods have taught. Teachers today find it more useful to use the combined approach, which is the mask.