- What the Vocal Gym is and how it works
- How the 7 Dimensions of Singing apply to your voice
- Three exercises using the Vocal Gym ball
- How to continue developing your voice
Vocal Gym Ball Exercises
WHAT IS THE VOCAL GYM?
The “vocal gym” does not have a physical address. It is a mindset that a singer uses to train their voice with specialized vocal exercises. Though rehearsing and singing often are essential in developing your vocal style, delivery, and ability to tell stories through music, focusing on the coordination and development of the muscles used for singing in the Vocal Gym will have a universal effect on your ability to self-express. Just like any other physical skill, such as dancing, painting, and running, quality time spent on technique allows the individual to perform better on stage, canvas, and the track.
Though doing vocal exercises require our singing muscles to move and get a “workout,” the real training takes place in the brain. To help make this connection between the mind and body, the Vocal Gym uses a Throga technique known as the 7 Dimensions of Singing.
7 DIMENSIONS OF SINGING
The 7 Dimensions of Singing divide different aspects of the voice based on their physical location and muscle function in relation to singing. Understanding the dimensions will allow you to better identify the skills you excel at, which ones need to be improved upon, and what exercises are needed to target them. Just as a professional athlete will focus on particular groups of muscles when working out, you too can focus on specific areas of your vocal instrument when doing vocal exercises. For example, the Vocal Gym Ball exercises below are designed to help you to develop the dimensions of flexibility, breathing, range, tone, and strength.
1: Flexibility – Pliability (responsiveness) of the vocal folds
2: Breathing – Breath management
3: Intonation – Pitch control
4: Range – Vocal balance (muscle coordination) from lowest to highest pitch
5: Tone – Quality of sound
6: Articulation – Diction
7: Strength – Stability and stamina of the voice
VOCAL GYM STRESS BALL EXERCISES
When practicing, be sure to:
- Find a private space where others won’t distract you
- Be in a quiet environment where you can hear yourself well in
- Be well-hydrated in advance and have water with you
PALM ROLLS WITH GLISSANDOS
Formant: Oo | Feature: N/A | Pattern: G5-1-8-5 | Volume: Medium | Tempo: Mid | Variable: Palm Roll with Ball
This exercise targets the dimensions of Flexibility & Range
Place the stress ball between the palms of your hands in a prayer-like position. While doing an “Oo” glissando with the pattern demonstrated in the video above, gently roll the ball in a vertical motion by moving your hands in opposite directions. The movement of the ball should reflect the same speed of motion as your voice within the exercise.
- Maintain a gentle pressure against the ball, just enough to keep it from falling
- Don’t allow the volume to change as you go up and down in pitch
- Make sure to slide to each note rather than jump to them
HOW TO CUSTOMIZE
To get the most out of an exercise, it’s important to make appropriate modifications based on your current skills and the condition of your voice. If you find this exercise too challenging, it’s best to modify it to avoid frustration. If, on the other hand, you were able to work through the exercise quickly and easily, it’s time to take it up a notch!
- Make it easier: Change the “Oo” formant to an “Mm” sound. This will provide a higher degree of back pressure (making it easy for the folds to stretch), keeping the focus of the exercise on track for flexibility.
- Make it harder: Change the “Oo” formant to an open “Ah”. This will reduce the amount of backpressure and focus on the dimension of range more. In addition, you can increase the volume, making it more difficult to transition between vocal registers.
BALL RELEASE ON VOLUME SWELLS
Formant: Multi | Feature: Multi | Pattern: S1 | Volume: Swell | Tempo: Mid | Variable: Ball Squeeze
This exercise targets the dimensions of Breathing & Strength
Start by squeezing the stress ball on your inhale. Next, count from one to five and back down again on the selected pitch while intentionally modifying the volume (whereas 1=quiet and 5=loud). As you count, slowly release your grip on the ball so that it returns to its original shape at the exact same time the exercise ends and you are out of breath. The goal is to sync your physical release of the ball with the release of your breath, providing you with visual and tactile feedback throughout the experience.
- Listen to make sure every number is at a distinguishably different volume
- Maintain a clear tonal quality and avoid breathy or distorted sounds
- Watch the ball return to its original shape as you sync the timing of your breath
HOW TO CUSTOMIZE
If you found it difficult to intentionally modify the volume while maintaining a steady pitch, try the modification below and return the original intention when ready. If the exercise seemed relatively easy (moving through multiple vocal registers), then try the more challenging version of the exercise described below.
- Make it easier: Instead of doing a volume swell, maintain a steady volume (right around your regular speaking volume) for the duration of the exercise so that you can focus primarily on the timing of your breath in relation to relaxing your grip on the ball.
- Make it harder: Replace the numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) with a smooth “Ee” crescendo and decrescendo (gradually increasing and decreasing in volume), rather than jumping from one volume to another. The transition between vocal registers will be particularly difficult at louder volumes helping target breathing, strength, and range.
BALL CATCH & SING
Formant: Ah | Feature: M | Pattern: I1358531 | Volume: Medium | Tempo: Mid | Variable: Ball Catch
This exercise targets the dimensions of Range & Tone
Toss the ball into the air, throw it against the wall, or play catch with a partner while vocalizing “Ma” on the octave scale demonstrated in the video or while singing a song. The action of throwing and catching a stress ball encourages responsiveness and relaxed reflex actions throughout the body, particularly the muscles attached to the spine. Good posture and alignment can improve breath function and help to reduce vocal strain, producing better vocal projection and tonal quality.
- Don’t let the “Ah” vowel (or lyric) change as you approach the higher notes
- Change up the direction or type of movement often to keep your body responsive
- Don’t stop vocalizing if you drop the ball – keep on singing!
HOW TO CUSTOMIZE
After exploring this exercise with both the exercise and a song, consider modifying the challenge based on whether or not you are running out of breath quickly or losing concentration of the scale or melody often.
- Make it easier: If you are trying the exercise with a song, consider first choosing an easier song to sing while you work out the coordination with the ball. Otherwise, you can modify your body’s movement by staying comfortably still (sitting or standing) and simply passing the ball casually from one hand to the other.
- Make it harder: Try the exercise at a much louder volume or select a more changing song that you struggle with in terms of vocal range or expressing your intended tone. Additionally, you can make the ball catching a more extreme action by tossing it further or moving around the room more where possible.
HOW LONG SHOULD I PRACTICE?
Improving your voice is a simple formula: the more time you devote to training, the more your skills will develop and become consistent. To see significant growth within a relatively short period, it is recommended to vocalize for at least an hour every day. You can practice all three Vocal Gym Ball exercises daily or rotate them one by one, along with other vocal exercises you may already know or find online. If an hour a day seems overwhelming, even 20 minutes of practice will have a long-lasting positive impact on your voice.
Always start with flexibility-based exercises, stay well-hydrated, and don’t worry about making mistakes. During the learning process, it’s okay for your voice to wobble, crack, and be off-key. Just make sure you’re comfortable and not creating any tension in your instrument. Lastly, don’t forget to have fun! Sing songs you enjoy and explore different styles and singers to discover and enhance your musical tastes and abilities.
What Did You Learn?
- The difference between vocal training and performance
- How the 7 Dimensions of Singing works
- Three exercises to develop flexibility, breathing, range, & strength
- How often to practice vocalizing
THE VOCAL GYM FOR HOMESCHOOL
The Vocal Gym for Homeschool is a Fine Arts credit-qualifying course that offers self-paced, interactive learning for homeschooled high school students interested in singing. The course utilizes the highest U.S. State standards for classroom Artistic Processes and Blooms Taxonomies integrated throughout the curriculum.
Based on the only vocal technique awarded with a U.S Patent, The Vocal Gym revolves around the 7 Dimensions of Singing (Flexibility, Breathing, Intonation, Range, Tone, Articulation, and Strength) which starts with creating a personalized vocal profile for each student. This profile is then used to tailor the exercise, lesson, activity, and quiz experiences within the course to the individual student’s strengths and weaknesses.