Another great question from our KTVA forum:
Q: “Bright” can someone please describe this for me? When Ken says it should be a bright sound or bright timbre…bright as in a full sound or big sound?!?
A: It’s the opposite of “Dark”. ;^)
Your voice will darken or brighten depending on a number of things you do with your mouth, lips, cheeks, teeth, Vocal tract, etc…
Lips closed around the teeth, covering the teeth
Lips extended (like a kiss)
Tongue in the way
Throat too lax
Bouncing the sound off of the bared teeth
Raising your cheeks and soft pallet
Singing into the mask
Tongue at the base of the jaw, not blocking back of throat
You may need to spend a little time learning to equalize your voice. Just sing a vowel, like AH, and sustain the note. Then modify these things and other things you can do with your vocal tract and mount and see what makes your voice more bright (“Treble”) or dark (“Bass”). In classical singing, vocal tone is referred to as Chiaroscuro (may not be spelled correctly) which means Light/Dark. Classical singing tends to seek a darker tone, while pop and rock is going to be a brighter tone.
Your mouth and the way you use it can vary the tone that is projected from your voice. Pay very close attention to the singing instructions Ken gives on the videos, and spend some time manipulating your own tone. Brighter is better in many cases. It seems to be prevalent that many students start out with a darker tone and their voice really starts to sparkle and stand out when they learn how to bring out the brilliance in their tone. For the most part, when you ricochet your airstream off of the hard parts of your vocal tract, you get a brighter tone. When it is mostly directed at softer tissues, it sounds darker. The teeth, hard pallet, and naso-pharanx are part of your high-frequency array.
I hope this helps. I’m sure some of the others on the forum will come up with some better examples than mine. I’m just trying to get the ball rolling for you with a few ideas.
A-2: The addition or reduction of air is one other important factor in the tone. More air released softens the tone and reducing the air released brightens the tone.
During the initial learning stages, focus on paring down your sound (or make the sound thinner – not bigger or rounder) to get towards a brighter tone and build from there. Stevie Wonder has a very bright sound. Seal does not.
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