Valerie Nicolosi Niemerg
Lecture 10 - Get a Good Buzz
Updated: Oct 2, 2022
Today I'm going to help you get a good buzz.
No, not that kind of buzz.
Before we can meet God the Son, through Whom all tones must go, we have to take a moment to understand resonance.
Every musical instrument has a vibrator and a resonator. The vibrator is where the action begins, but the resonator turns action into vibrations and multiplies them, changing and forming their quality, volume and beauty.
Put your hands flat on the wood of a piano when someone plays a chord. You’ll feel the vibrations pass through the wooden shell of the instrument beneath your palms. Inside the piano, a tiny hammer hit a tiny wire. That’s the vibrator. But the magic, the quality of sound we’ve come to know as a piano, that happens when the vibrations spread through the sound board and all the wooden beams and crevices. Those vibrations pick their color, their beauty from that shell, and carry it out into the space.
On the violin, the hair of the bow hits the string. Vibrator. But the lovely little wooden case sets ablaze with unseen tremors that can both fill a three-thousand-seater, and seduce the coolest soul.
The human vocal chords set the voice vibrating. But if the vibrations stop there, you will have a canned sound, an artificially produced sound, a tense sound. You will also require a microphone. And it might even hurt a bit. To make your most beautiful sound, the vibrations must be fruitful and multiply. They must spread across the larynx, into the upper pharyngeal cavity and down through the bones of the chest, setting a-twitter ligaments, cartilages and limpid muscles in a whirlwind of vibration, resonance and sound.
Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.
I call this component of singing “God the Son” because it is so manifested in the body. When done well it can extend to the furthest reaches of fingertips. It is the body of singing.
Make it buzz.
The buzz is like Jesus Christ. Buzz always good. I don’t care if you feel buzz in your left toenail. It’s still good.
Tension, squeeze, pressure and any other form of restraint of discomfort? Bad.
There is only One who is good. And He does not want to be limited to just one part of your life that you reserve for pious moments and an hour on Sundays. He wants to be a part of all of you, to your very core. This is why, as a young singer gains mastery of their craft, they must learn to allow the buzz to spread across the landscape of their created body.
So how do you feel this buzz all over? The same way you began your intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. You have faith and take aim. The buzz, like Christ, has always been there, you just don’t know how to be aware of it. Take a breath and hum a bit. I don’t care what you hum. Hum “Row Row Row Your Boat” if you want to, but hum something. Make sure to let go of any tension anywhere in your body except that isolated pull in your abs. Expand the breathing cavity to inhale and hum again. If your face is truly relaxed, you will begin to notice a buzz on you lips (If not, try humming in a lower key).
Check for tension of any kind. It’s so stinking sneaky! Are you pressing your lips together, clenching your jaw? Is your tongue a balled knot inside your mouth? Tension, like sin, can come from any unintended corner. Our only hope at achieving beauty is to be vigilantly on guard against it, and most importantly, to recognize it.
Now hopefully, you can feel some vibration in the front of your face. It generally begins on the lips. That is the buzz. As you grow as a singer, you’ll learn to allow that baby to grow and spread.
Now try this exercise. When you reach the end of this paragraph, click the link. This guy does the same beginning warm up that I do with all my students and MYSELF! I don’t launch right into singing. I always hum first. I call it a stupid breathing exercise. It’s not a great intellectual activity, or an athletic feat of mastery. It’s just an attempt to simplify, to “stupidify” things, so you don’t let tension creep in, making things “sound” better. STUPID – BREATHING – EXERCISE. Think expand the gut on every inhale and feel the belly moving back in as you hum. Once you’ve gotten that, pay attention to the buzz. Pay close attention. If you’re truly relaxed when doing this, you should notice the buzz moves slightly within your mouth and face as the range ascends.
The only thing I don’t like about that Youtube recording is how the range stops too low. You should keep humming up into your head voice as high as you can, and when it gets too difficult, switch the hum to an “ng” sound as in the word ‘hungry.’ So, when the recording stops going up and begins coming back down, you hit pause and keep going up.
Generally speaking, this is what you should notice:
Lower notes: the buzz stays on your lips and on the very front of your mouth.
As the pitch gets higher the buzz moves to the front roof of your mouth and then the middle roof, right under (and inside!) your nose. If you’re very good at this, you might even feel it spreading already to your cheekbones and the front of your skull. When you get higher, the buzz stays up on the roof of your mouth but feels like it goes back towards the uvula and the nasal passage opening.
As you ‘ng’ the top notes in your voice the feeling of the buzz thins out and intensifies, to what young singers describe as “squeaky.” Actually, it’s just a stretch, not a squeak. As long as it’s not tense, or painful (caused by tension) squeaky here is okay. In fact, it’s good. We’ll cover more of that later.
You might feel like you can really feel the buzz when it’s low and on your lips, but it seems to dissipate as you go higher. Do it again, and again, and again until you can feel these very subtle vibrations in your head always being vigilant for any “helpful” tension. The vibrations are there. They’ve always been there. You’re just not used to noticing them. And at first, they are subtler the higher you go.
I can talk about buzz the way a theologian can talk about Jesus. We could be here all day. But alas, the laundry is calling me back again. We will talk buzz, buzz, buzz on this blog until you are blue in the face with it. A singing teacher can only hope. Because, just like you can never have too much Jesus, you can never have too much buzz.
Now go out there and get a good buzz today!