Vocal onset! One of the most important parts of vocal technique, vocal onset is the way a singer begins the sound. There are three types of onset, but only one of them is the best way – not just for beautiful tone and production, but also for the health of your vocal chords.
Type 1: The Hard Attack, or glottal onset.
This is similar to a grunt in sound (try going “uh, uh, uh” over and over – thats the feeling!), in which the vocal chords are smashing together as the sound begins. The air pressure is held below the chords, and then there is a large release of air, which often coincides with large volume. This is a hard attack to the sound, and is very unbalanced and unpleasant sounding.
Type 2: The Soft Onset.
This sound is really common in pop music – an aspirated, breathy sound that is similar to whispering (try doing some slow ‘ha, ha, ha’s – the H sound is what we are talking about). While it sounds great for that particular style, it also is unhealthy for the vocal chords and doesn’t have much tone to the sound. I find this sound quite common in young female singers.
Type 3: The Balanced Onset.
This is what vocalists aim for – a smooth transition from silence to pure sound, without a burst of volume/glottis or airiness. The muscles are balanced, neither working too hard or too little. To achieve this, try making an ‘ah, ah, ah’ sound, imagining a silent ‘h’ in front of each sound – notice how each sound starts smoothly, with a clean sound? That’s the goal! It’s almost as if the breath and the sound occur at the same time, which is called ‘singing on the gesture of inhalation’.
Hopefully this helps you in your practice!