How to Place Your Voice With Voice Placement

Using Resonance Sensations to Project Voice

Jazz singer on stage, portrait
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Your vocal cords are long ligaments that vibrate in your Adam’s apple. Sure you can adjust their height, as in swallowing, but voice placement has nothing to do with the actual location of your voice. Yes, a low larynx makes for a better sound, but placement in the world of vocal music is a term that deals with resonance. It is not a scientific term, nor a very accurate term. All the same, I find it extremely helpful for myself and beginning students and all singers at one time or another will hear the term and need to know what it means.

What is Placement?

Placing your voice means focusing your sound into a specific area where you feel resonance sensations and deals with the bones and flesh between the neck and face that vibrate sympathetically and reflect resonance like a sounding board. Though you have very little control on where you can actually “place” your sympathetic vibrations, they are easier to feel in the human body. So, by focusing on placing the voice correctly people tend to have an easier time opening up the vocal cavities that will actually amplify the voice more efficiently.

Correct Placement

Since placement is a sensation, correctly placing your voice may feel different to you than someone else. Most people sing efficiently when they feel vibrations in the “mask” of their face, where a superhero mask touches below the eyes, on the nose, and cheek areas. One common mistake is to drive or force the sound there. Instead, sense vibrations in the mask while relaxing the throat, jaw, and tongue during singing. Regardless of variations as to where vibrations are felt, all singers tend to feel them high, lying somewhere at the roof of the mouth or higher.

Many singers feel high notes are easier to sing by placing their sound up and out through the top of their heads. Others describe well-produced high notes as feeling somewhere outside of their body. Whatever sensations and visualizations work may be different for any given singer. The key is to know you sound different to yourself than others. Either record yourself singing to obtain a more accurate view of your own voice or allow your voice teacher or trusted friend to clue you in when you are singing at your best. Since you can’t trust your ears, learn to rely on how your body feels when singing well.

Exploring Placement

Using a scale of one through five, let’s explore five possible placements of the voice. We start with a narrow focus at the front of the face concentrating on the nose and moving backwards towards the throat. In order to successfully visualize the various placements, place your thumbs on your chin and move your index fingers based on the scale. You should focus placement where your index finger lies. 1 – index finger is placed directly behind the nose, sound should be excessively brilliant and bright, 2 – place index finger on the cheek bone, feel sensations in the front of the cheeks and in the front of the mouth, 3 – place index finger in front of the ear at the jaw joint, feeling sensations farther back in your cheeks and mouth, 4 – place index finger behind the ears feeling sensations even farther back in your mouth, 5 – place index finger on your neck, just below the jaw parallel with your ear, sensations should be felt in the back of your mouth and sound dark and fuzzy.

This vocal exercise allows you to explore various areas you can place your voice. Somewhere in the middle of the scale between two and three will produce the most pleasant sound for most singers. Broadway singers tend to place their voices more forward into the two area and opera singers slightly farther back between two and three.