I love the idea of “speech level” and “allow”

Speech level singing can get a bad rap these days.

For me, having my first lesson with a SLS instructor over 10 years ago, was true validation. Two main things happened for me:

1. I finally had a coach who was working my entire range at one time. Two and a half octave scales, going up or down by semi-tones, had me singing through five passagios in one exercise! I heard and felt improvement in my voice within the first day.

2. I finally found a teacher who encouraged vowels that didn’t sound classical.

Now, I’m not saying that forming classical-sounding vowels is a bad thing, I’m simply stating that I am not a classical singer, and had never encountered a teacher who allowed me to sound this way. I had been taught belting, and that just felt wrong. I now know that belting doesn’t need to be shouting. Healthy belting is done by mixing your registers.

Extreme Singing

So you want to sing with more “belt” in your song?

Well first, let’s check…..do you know if you are mixing? Do you know if you are accessing your head voice resonance and tilting your larynx?

Belting cannot be done safely (or sound good) without these two conditions first.

I suggest that you continually work on bridging (mixing) exercises every day as a warm-up and as a build-up to more extreme singing. Once you can easily go up and down your entire range without strain then you are ready to “intensify”.

Not sure if you are bridging correctly? Sing your entire song with a hum…..the kind of humming sound you make when you say “uhm, uhm, that tastes good!” Notice the slightly “nasty” and “whiny” sound you are making.

Make sure your nasal port is closed. In other words no sound is coming out your mouth.

You may notice that you have trouble reaching your high notes…..yes, this is a true indicator!!

Take your volume back to a point where you can manage your high notes with this buzzy hum.

Add a slight “sob” feeling to your voice….as if you whining about something…you will notice that your cheeks and your nose and even your eyebrows will engage with this sensation. Relax into this. Don’t fight it. Recognize that all the action is in this area……what classical singers call “the mask”.

Now back to your song…..are you sure you are ready to belt?

If you cannot hum your song with ease in your head voice (without flipping into falcetto), then you are not ready for belting out a song……..

So…..back to your bridging (mixing) and building exercises!!

Questions? Why not drop me a line!


How to Belt

Most singers want to know how their favourite singers get their sound…in other words, how they sing so well. We all want to understand the voices of Steve Perry, Celine Dion, Kelly Clarkson, Adam Lambert. The list goes on and on.

It’s a complex question with a complex answer, but one thing is true with all these singers. They are great belters!

First, belting in the true sense simply means yelling. Is this a good form of singing? Absolutely not!

Can a singer learn to belt properly with a strong and healthy sound….absolutely yes! This is why we love singers who sing high notes with ease and power.

There are many key factors…and this may be an appropriate list in order of importance. However, proper and healthy belting cannot exist without all of these factors.

1. The ability to blend (mix) registers. In other words, the ability to transition from the lowest of your low notes to the highest of high notes without a bump in the road (vocal break….I think you know what I mean).

2. The ability of the vocal cords to withstand huge amounts of breath pressure….yes, this means attention to breath control!

3. The single, probably most important factor of all, the ability to “twang”. Twang simply means the larynx is doing remarkable things such as tilting to allow the cords to stretch and thin in a healthy manner. There are other things going on as well, and in a nutshell, it means the singer is able to make sounds which resonate easily because of the formants he/she is creating. This means the singer is able to make sounds that are loud and vibrant to the human ear with very little effort! This is the beauty of twang! This creates the illusion of a powerful chest voice, when in fact the singer is resonating in his head voice like crazy!

4. And lastly, but not necessarily of least importance, is the ability to control the larynx. A great singer can sing with their larynx high, low and in the middle. In other words, a great singer can maneuver the larynx and sing in all positions, depending on the “color” of sound he might want. A low larynx gives a darker sound because there is more space in the throat for the sound to resonate. This is the sound we hear in opera. A larynx that can move freely around from mid to higher, and that can tilt, is the ideal larynx for all other styles.

I hope this has given you a better idea of what good belting truly is. Have a question? Why not drop me a line!


Raise Your Voice by Jaime Vendera

If you are still trying to figure out how to belt correctly, then you need to read Jaime Vendera’s book, Raise Your Voice.

This book has it all. Every little byproduct of good singing technique is in this book. His tell-all approach is inspiring and contagious. He doesn’t miss a thing.

What I really appreciate from this book is the reminder that first and foremost, a singer needs to be healthy, and remain healthy for optimum vocal performance. He goes into great detail about how to take care of your body, your voice, and your mind.

It’s an easy read and very motivating.

The author is the same guy who can shatter crystal goblets with his high-pitched screams. He appears truly humble in this book, and proudly shares the stage with many other famous and not-so-famous vocal coaches on different ideas, tips and coordinations.

I recommend every singer learning to belt or sing in any extreme manner, read this book. It is not for the amateur, and in fact, that may be the only downside of this book. It may lead the reader to believe it’s as simple and direct as he seems to indicate it is. When, in fact, belting is truly a condition where nothing is as simple as it seems……..



The big mouth

So why do all your American Idol favorites sing with huge mouths?

Answer: Because the big mouth is directly related to the freedom associated with making sounds found in contemporary styles such as rock, pop, gospel, jazz, musical theatre, country, and even opera!

The ability to get great cord closure (to sing high notes with thin and stretched cords), and resonate in the oropharynx (back of the throat and out through the mouth), is what we are talking about here. This means the soft palate is high enough (which it needs to be), and the jaw and tongue are relaxed enough (which they need to be), and the throat is open enough (which it needs to be), to allow the sound to project off the uvula and soft palate area. This creates great oral resonance (oral twang). With the right amount of breath support, this sensation is very freeing and very BUZZY. You will feel the buzzy vibrations on your upper teeth, the hard palate, in the nose, and even out the top of your head! But be careful. Make sure you are not just making head resonance. It needs to come out the front of your mouth! This is mixed voice (middle voice) in high gear, and the safest way to belt out your notes! This is what gives great singers the illusion that they are singing in the chest voice, when in fact, they are mixing like crazy (split resonance).

This is not easy to do, and it’s not as simple as described above. The actual critical playing card is your ability to control and manage your breathing.

Give it try. What do you think? Allow the voice to come out the mouth with the freedom of resonance in the head. Stick three fingers between your teeth to keep your jaw and tongue from gripping. I know it’s hard to form the consonants in your words…so just sing the vowels. If you can perfect this to a sound you like, you are well on your way!

More on rock singing…..

My last post told you of the set-up in the voice box that is ideal for singing rock music. So what differentiates a good rock singer from being just-OK?

The answer is control! Most amateurs are squeezing out their sound in an attempt to sound “big”. When a singer is in control of all the fine details of the sounds he is making, the listener will be engulfed by how “large” the sound is when the “effort” is in the correct place.

Thyroid Tilting

The ability to tilt the thyroid cartilage will give the listener the illusion of “chest voice power”. Tilting will help the singer to bridge to their head voice with pharyngeal and mouth resonance. To achieve ideal conditions and optimum resonance in the head voice, the cords need to stretch (lengthen) and thin.

The puppy dog whimper is a good indicator (if you are doing it correctly) as to whether you are tilting well. The cords must stay together as you practise! Too much air will blow the cords apart too much. You should feel this “whimper-like cry” behind your upper teeth or behind the nose. Some describe it as starting at the back of the throat and carrying through the head voice area. Pay attention to making it as buzzy and light as you can. This means you are working the inner edges of the cords. The ability to do this without flipping (cords blowing apart) above your first passagio is very difficult. Master the delicateness of this and you will see your control improve instantly. (Alter your volume to find the balance where you can maintain this sound). Start small and light and achieve control of the detail).

To help keep your cords thin, add a “cry” to the onset of your sound. This moves the larynx up slightly, so be careful to know that you are tilting as well. The “whimper” and the “cry” in your head voice will set you up nicely for thyroid tilt and cord thinning.

Do you have any questions? Please let me know. More later on another very important component of the voice when singing rock……TWANG!!

More on belting

Healthy belting requires ultimate breath control to avoid damage to the cords.

First, no pushing. Simply allow. It requires a lot of energy and effort to belt safely. This effort and energy is felt in your abdomen, pelvis, ribs and back. You should feel no tension in the throat. The throat is very open and the tongue is high in the back of the throat. This doesn’t mean you will feeling nothing in the back of the throat. But, you should have no pain, strain, tickle or cough-like feelings.

Belting high notes should be done with thin cords (although it may sound like some singers are belting in the chest voice). The volume of a good belt sound is no louder than the volume of your loud speaking voice.

Try this.

With good cord closure (compression), allow some air to escape with your high note. In other words, belt “hey” while allowing the “h” to help you let some air leak through your cords.

Keep your jaw relaxed and your mouth wide open like biting into an apple, or just like the feeling before a yawn. Again, the tongue should be high in the back of the throat with the tip sitting behind the front bottom teeth, and the soft palate is lifted.

If you feel tension at the back of your tongue then you are straining. Start again with a relaxed high tongue and open mouth and throat.

Staccato exercises in your high voice (thinning of cords) are great for stopping the breath, gaining control, and prepping to belt and sing rock.

This means your breath is drawn down deep into your lungs, and your abdominal muscles, back muscles and rib cage muscles are engaged in the effort of controlling your breath.

And don’t forget, you should always warm up and warm down with lip rolls, sirens and tongue trills.


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!


There’s good belting….and there’s bad belting

Bottom line…..good belting doesn’t hurt. It has a sweet edge to the sound. The larynx is tilted allowing the cords to close and stretch while remaining thick.

On the other hand, bad belting is usually pitchy and lacks “emotion”. A bad belt is simply yelling on pitch. There’s nothing musical about yelling on pitch without control that comes with proper belting. When you belt with thyroid tilt and just the right amount of breath pressure and emotion, you get a fabulous sound that you can control from the softest of soft to the loudest of loud.

My favourite theatre belters … Lea Michele http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNHVwwIIJXc

Check out Ted Neeley … watch at 6:00 minutes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rEVwwB3Iw0

Note: He`s over the top here with distortion and extreme sounds….but this man can handle it. I`m sure he has built himself up and saved for this moment of such raw emotion.

Favourite pop singer belters: Adam Lambert and Celine Dion.

Favourite country singer belter: Carrie Underwood. I can`t think of male country belters right now………Hmmmmm, who do you think. Let me know.

Favourite female rock belter: Ann Wilson from Heart

Stay tuned …. more on belting on future blogs:)

Speech Level Singing versus Estill Voice Technique

One of my goals is to share with you the similarities and differences with Speech Level Singing and Estill Voice Technique.

They are both great voice methods, and there is something to be learned from both. In its’ simplest form, SLS is one recipe among the many Estill Voice Technique possibilities.

I love SLS because it balances the voice, which I think is an important element of good singing. What I don’t like about SLS is that it doesn’t allow the commercial singer to learn how to belt or to have more “chest” in the mix. My SLS lessons strengthened the overall balance of both my registers…chest voice and head voice. But, my coach continually had me cutting back on my chest voice in my mix (near high C for instance). I could do this at his request, but it left me wondering where is the “me” in my voice. I needed to “belt” out my high C’s (and I’m in a mix!) when I wanted. I really felt the SLS method let the performer in me “down”.

With Estill voice training, you learn voice qualities….speech, sob, twang, opera, belt, and falcetto. SLS talks about a “neutral” larynx, while Estill recognizes that the larynx moves up and down and tilts according to the sound you want to make.

This is an important point. The larynx can tilt and move up and down safely, depending on the sound you wish to make. SLS leads to confusion about the larynx when they draw so much attention to it remaining “neutral”. The larynx cannot remain neutral in rock singing or musical theatre where the singers needs to give a belt sound (*note: I am not referring to the Estill version of belt here). These sounds can be done with freedom and good technique, but the larynx is slightly raised. Note: that if the larynx is too high, you will not be able to transition well into head voice, therefore, you cannot mix.

But, singers beware. Belting correctly is not easy to do, however, it is possible!  Lea Michele (musical theatre), Steven Tyler (rock), and Carrie Underwood (country). All these singers have something in common. They are balanced, and they are able to take their singing voice to the extreme …. called belting.

Belting well simply means a singer is using relatively thick folds, possibly has a sob quality in their voice, and their tongue may be slightly raised (this may alter the vowel sound). Belting requires optimal breath control. In other words, the ability to control the release of breath under great pressure while resonating in both the head voice and chest voice with thick folds. Belting is indeed a great “talent”.

Questions? Comments? Please leave them here.