Thick folds are the hardest to bridge….

If you have thick vocal cords, you are both blessed and cursed. Let me explain.

Thick folds create big sounds. Sounds like Adele, Rhianna, Serena Ryder, Whitney. It’s a bit of a different story for the male voice, but for ladies, the thick sound is all over the radio. (Compare thick to the sound of thin cords of Brittany Spears).

The downside is thick folds can be more difficult to bridge, especially in the untrained singer. If you have been singing throughout your entire range for years, then hallelujah, you are probably working it well.

Thick folds are a result of many different factors. It can be generic: You know, the girls in grade school with the “man-voice”. It can be caused from years of allergies, or coughing, speech habits, or years of over-singing in bands. It isn’t good or bad, it just is.

Questions, comments? Leave them here. Thanks.

Great ladies of voice

Why do we love Adele’s voice so much? Or Whitney Houston, Celine Dion or Christine Aguilera? Sure, it’s because they exude so much drama and passion when they sing, but how do they do that?

The ability to portray what you are feeling in a technically correct way is really what we are talking about here.  Once your voice is mixing and you are accessing your head voice with ease every time you open your mouth, then is the time to challenge yourself vocally with dynamics and different vocal textures.

These singers all display a wide variety of vocal textures and color, and a lot is due to their ability to change from thick cords to thin cords throughout their entire register. (Well, let’s just hope Adele is training to do more of this, so she doesn’t cause damage again to her cords on her next tour).

These singers can easily “back up” their voice to the “fry” level,  as well as, safely belt hard and strong. Their vocal cords are resilient and can withstand a huge amount of breath pressure.

IMHO, it’s only Christine who at times belts purposely without mixing. This is that dull yelling/groaning sound she makes in the back of her throat when she’s not allowing the resonance to go into the “mask” (in other words her head voice). But get this, Christine is no amateur. This lady chooses to do this coordination (pull chest). She knows her voice well. Christine can do cartwheels through her first passagio when she wants. In one phrase she’ll sing with thick cords and pull her sound as high as she can in the back of her throat. Then, in the next phrase, she’ll thin out her cords and soar easily through her first bridge and even up through her second!  Christine has her vocal ability mastered. Just listen to her speech. I detect no rasp or fry damage….just clean, crisp cords that haven’t thickened too much over the years from extreme use. She knows her voice is big business, and she takes care of it well.

Adele has very thick cords (a naturally big and loud voice) and I don’t think she had ever really learned the importance of thinning them out regularly to allow for flexibility and endurance while singing so hard on the road. Everyone knows about the vocal problems she has had.  Hopefully she will still be able to amaze her audiences with her huge voice, and stay away from vocal damage on her next tour.

Whitney’s voice was superb in her day. The problem was, of course, her lifestyle choices and simple lack of attention to details to maintain a  healthy voice over the years. Her ability to thin out the cords deteriorated. What was once an easy soar through her entire range, became a huge challenge because the cords were no longer able to master this co-ordination. This is not unlike maintaining good physical technique and stamina to achieve a long list of physical abilities. For example, playing the piano, ballet dancing, perfecting your golf swing. The list goes on.

I admire Celine Dion. This woman is in total control of her vocal destiny. She is known for not talking before shows, mastering warm-ups, cancelling shows when she knows she is not healthy. Here is a singer who pays close attention to her technique and abilities on any given day.

I hope this post has inspired you to continue your journey to sing better every day. Keep learning and keep addressing your vocal issues, so you become the best singer you can be!


Adele’s new voice – Skyfall

If you are working on your chest voice so you can sing more Adele songs, you may be able to access your mix more easily in her latest song Skyfall.

Most of this song is under the first bridge (as are the others). But most importantly, there is no chorus repeatedly using thick folds through the first bridge, like she did in Rolling In the Deep, and others.

Instead, Adele is playing it safe (and so she should so soon after surgery).

The word “tall” in the chorus of Skyfall is a very light mix….she’s definitely holding back here. This part of the chorus could have been bigger. Instead she is using thinner cords with no pushing whatsoever. A beautiful blend.

The first time we hear any belting whatsoever is at the word “heart” at 2:29.

Listen to the “cry” in her voice at 3:43 on the word “stand”. Note her head register in the mix at 4:13 on “let the sky fall”.

The build does start to happen at 4:24 to 4:30. She has saved her chest voice for 4:24 to 4:30. This is the only part in the song where she carries her chest voice up through the bridge with very thick folds and a lot of air pressure. At 4:436 she releases into her head voice for a beautiful exit to her phrase.

Singers, lots to learn here from Adele’s singing……….listen to it again…….and notice.

Comments? Questions? Please leave them here.

The voices of Carrie Underwood, Adele, Kelly Clarkson, Steven Tyler, John Mayer

Chest voice and head voice are terms for describing where the sound resonates in your body when you sing. In other words, the sound timbre or “color” of a voice quality at a certain pitch.  Singing teachers have argued for centuries over these concepts, and continue to do so.

Most singers have experienced these sensations, and know what true chest voice and head voice feel like. Singers usually recognize they feel very different. To some singing teachers, this is how the voice is taught. They teach you to sing in one register or the other.

With Speech Level Singing, and here at Bee Music Studios, students learn how to sing throughout their entire range while negotiating the transition from their chest voice to their head voice. This is called mixing. Singing in a mixed voice means the singer has the ability to maximize their chest resonance on low notes and head voice on high notes.

At Bee Music Studios we take mixing a step further. Once a singer can ascend and descend throughout their entire range with ease, a singer can learn how to maximize the “illusion” of chest voice on high notes. This is a voice quality frequently heard in rock, pop, country, R&B and opera! (Just listen to Pavarotti).  This illusion is created when the thyroid cartilage in the larynx tilts forward. Tilting of the thyroid cartilage causes the vocal cords to thin and stretch.  This is a very healthy way to sing high notes.

Some singers can actually tilt their cartilage and sing with thick folds. This is not recommended for amateurs, and in fact, takes a great deal of self awareness to achieve this balance without vocal trauma.

Here is a link to Carrie Underwood who does a fabulous job of singing with thick folds and a tilted cartilage. She can manage this because she has great breath control and self awareness. Notice the chin rising for the belt notes. There are other coordinations going on as well here, but that’s for another post!  The action really happens at the one minute mark. (FYI Kelly Clarkson is a master of this as well).

So what’s the difference between Adele’s voice and Carrie Underwood’s voice?

The issue with Adele’s voice is too much air passing through the vocal cords on high notes. This can be damaging to the vocal cords.

Adele’s voice is “chestier” and that’s why we love it!  She has a lot of breath escaping and that adds character to her sultry, smoky voice.  The problem is, all this breath passing through the cords can cause havoc to a singer’s vocal cords when trying to reach high notes. The more air coming through the vocal cords, the harder it is to control. Maybe with more tilting of the cartilage, Adele can still achieve the sound we love to hear, without all the breath.

This is a prime reason why John Mayer has already had trouble with his voice, and yet Steven Tyler continues to scream regularly with no issues whatsoever after 40 years!

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The “Carrie Underwood” / “Kelly Clarkson” type of voice

I wanted to talk about this type of voice, because the configuration to get it isn’t what most people think.

When I have a student trying to sing in this style, I quite often hear a lot pf chest register being yelled at a high pitch that usually sounds dull, painful and, to say the least, quite unpleasant.

It isn’t uncommon for singers to try and duplicate this type of sound with their chest voice…it is however, the wrong approach.

Instead, the singer needs the practise “twang” in the head register. (Try quacking like a duck, or sounding nasty like a witch). You should be able to do this easily without any constriction or tightening in the throat. What usually happens is the head voice is not able to twang easily, and the student will over-compensate with throat muscles. Sometimes the singer will “flip” into falcetto mode.

Both Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have a superb ability to twang in their head register. This gives the listener the illusion of a powerful chest register volume, when in fact, they are not using much chest register at all. They are, in fact, in a middle voice/head register configuration with a lot of twang.

Secondly, the vocal cords are under a great deal of breath pressure. In other words, the singer is able to hold back a lot of breath without flipping to falcetto.  This ability allows for great mouth and head resonance and again gives the listener the illusion of great power and volume.

Two singers that come to mind that do sing too high in their chest register at times are Adele and Christine Aguilera. Even though they both sing very differently, they both sing very loud and very high in their low register. Christine Aguilera has only had trouble with this as she has gotten older. Her ability to sing in a loud chest, middle and head voice mode through her entire range when she was younger made her a superstar.  She is still a superb singer, but as she gets older her cords have probably thickened from singing so hard in her chest register. Thick folds can make it hard for a singer to ascend into their head register and keep control of their voice.

Do you have any questions or comments? Please leave them here.