Thick versus Thin….

What I’ve always loved about “speech-level” singing is the impact it has on the singer’s chest voice, especially for the ladies. When we sing low notes, it’s relatively easy to use thick folds, and in general we “thin out” as we ascend higher in pitch.

The ability to control the thickness of the cords at higher pitches (especially above the first passagio) is a coordination of such great singers as Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, Adele, Kelly Clarkson, Christine Aguilera, Whitney Houston, and many more. In fact, all these singers command attention with their shouty and assertive singing voice in their high register. It is the ever-changing degree of thickness and stretching that makes these singers great. If they were always using the same degree, the sound would be boring and lack interest.

Maintaining thick folds in the higher register demands great breath support. Without the support, the cords are unable to weave in and out of varying degrees of thickness and stretching. Exercises in volume changes are great for the vocal folds.

It is especially challenging to do these exercises properly without strain above your first passagio. Many amateurs “push” the sound beyond what the cords are capable of managing on the edges. This is where Brett Manning’s word of “light and right” stands true.

And, one more thing…..all these great singers who are singing with thick folds are actually “mixing!” Yes, their voice is resonating in their head and chest area. They are “allowing” the cords to stretch and thin out because the larynx is tilting. This allows for great mouth and head resonance!

Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line.

Light and right / Strong and wrong

If you haven’t already subscribed to the Singing Success channel, you can get to it here:!

This is Brett Manning’s most recent video about extending chest voice.

This is such an important video for those of you trying to “belt”. The first and foremost thing you must be able to do before belting, is know that you are mixing!

If you feel a ceiling as you try to sing higher, or if you have to sing louder and push harder to reach higher notes, then you are not mixing well.

Brett talks about a wide open mouth at 1:30. This is essential for safe belting.  You must be able to allow the sound to reach the front of the mouth and teeth, as well as ring freely in your head register.

Brett talks a lot about results. There are many factors to extending chest voice in your mix. Here are a few details:

1. Optimum breath control. (Engage your upper abdomen and rib cage area).

2.  Keep a stable larynx. (Put a sob or moan in your coordination. This will help keep your larynx from rising).

3. Optimum cord closure. (Initiate your onset with a “cry”. This will help you with cord closure. This sensation is small and light as Brett talks about at 2:00. It is challenging to keep it “light and right”. But, that is your job! That is the exercise!)

3. Optimum thyroid tilt. (The more you “cry” at the onset of cord closure in your upper  register, the more your larynx will tilt. This is essential for safe belting).

4. Oral twang. (The ability to say your words in your upper register. This is like sounding like a cartoon character).

Questions? Comments? Please leave them here!






Check out Brett Manning’s mouth

Brett and his associates don’t talk much about your mouth or your soft palate, but take a look at him here.

Do you see his teeth and the wide smile? I love this! This is exactly the placement for singing high notes, regardless of the style (unless you are singing opera or classical). This wide smile and lifted upper mouth allows the vowels to resonate cleanly and nicely in the head voice.

Also, note the sob (moan), and “cry” to his voice. This is essential for good vocal cord closure.

Try it! Don’t sing too loud. Just allow those high notes to blend with the low ones, and VOILA!

Pharyngeal “throat” sounds

What I like about both SLS and Estille voice technique is that it takes the emphasis off of breathing as the front line for good singing technique, and it lets the singer focus on other co-ordinations first, that are just as important as breath control. There are other coaches that also do this: Ken Tamplin, Robert Lunte  (The IV Pillars), Roger Love, Singing Success (Brett Manning), Eric Arseneaux and Kevin Richards (Rock the Stage).

Focusing on cord closure, pharyngeal resonance, keeping the larynx stable, and yes, breath control, can instinctively get the singer to coordinate and sing better.

Let’s talk about the back of the throat. This spot above the vocal cords is a mysterious area of the vocal tract. We know that the ability to make certain sounds gets the larynx to tilt, (which in turn stretches and thins the cords), which then can help with efficient breath control, and allow for pharyngeal resonance (twang). Twang is an important coordination for genres like rock, pop, country, and any extreme kind of singing you may want to do.

Twang is a word originating from Estill Voice Technique. I think it is a term all singers should be familiar with. Robert Lunte uses this term it in his program The Four Pillars.

The ability to twang (make pharyngeal sounds) is important because the fundamental frequency creates harmonics (overtones) that are perceived as volume and brightness to the listener. Now, I am not going to even pretend to explain the science behind this coordination. It is your job as a singer to “feel” for these harmonics.  Yes, you CAN feel these harmonics as they resonate, echo and buzz through your head.

One of the best sounds for twanging is a duck quack. But remember, as you get higher you must quack with thinner cords (your head voice). This can be challenging but that is the point! Can you quack like a duck in your head voice?

p.s. without getting louder than you quack in your chest voice?

Taylor Swift’s voice gets in the mix

If you have been paying attention to Taylor Swift’s range and voice, you will notice some changes happening in her mix. Her first two albums were “strained” in the mix, as she “pulled” her chest voice to manage notes of A, B flat and B above middle C on songs like “Teardrops on My Guitar” and “Stay Beautiful”.

Brett Manning has done some fine work mastering her mix. She is now sailing smoothly through her middle voice with ease. If you listen to “Safe and Sound” you will see she is reaching E flat at her second bridge in the lines “just close your eyes,” and “come morning light” in a nice light mix.

If she continues to train the middle area of her voice (which is the where you find your most commercial sound), we are sure to be delighted with a stronger and more powerful mix on the next album. Can’t wait to check that out!

Why I Admire Seth Riggs

Seth Riggs, the man behind the incredible singing technique called Speech Level Singing. Many great singing coaches have learned from his early teachings. Teachers such as Brett Manning (Singing Success), Roger Love  (The Perfect Voice), and Roger Burnley (Singing Made Simple) have gone on to create fabulous singing programs in their own right.

What makes this man so incredible is that he realized that many trained singers had a consistent and ongoing problem negotiating the middle of their voice. He realized most trained singers had only a head voice coordination when singing notes below their first passagio, and singers on Broadway would typically “flip” into their chest voice to get their speech-like belt, and end up yelling out the high notes, until they needed to flip back to their head voice coordination to continue on higher pitches.

He also realized that many untrained voices did the exact opposite. These singers would typically sing with a chest voice coordination only, and they usually ended up yelling and splatting on their high notes.

So hooray for Seth Riggs! This man has created a system of scales and awareness that strengthens the middle voice. This is called mixing!

Easiest job in the world?

I remember my friends saying “Wow, you have the easiest job in the world, singing!” I would think to myself, you’ve got to be kidding. They had no idea the physical effort I was enduring to keep my voice balanced and controlled, and sounding the way it did ever minute of my performance.

Sure, singing isn’t rocket science, but singing well for long periods of time is a balancing act of coordination between body, air flow and the vocal cords. If one of these is out of sync, then something has to give. Usually it’s the throat!

Let’s be clear what SLS is and what it is not

I’ve been a huge fan of Speech Level Singing for over ten years, and continue to be. I’ve studied with some of the best SLS teachers in the world, and I use SLS exercises continuously in my studio. I think the method is superb and was even certified for two years. I vocalize with the SLS technique daily.

What SLS is: A fabulous vocal training method to keep the vocal folds in tip top shape. This can allow you to sing any genre you wish.

What SLS is not: A vocal training system that teaches you how to sing any genre you want in a safe, effective way.

The problem with SLS is that it doesn’t help singers build their signature sound. It is a fabulous way to keep the voice in shape, but it doesn’t allow the singer to learn how to make sounds that are specific to their genre.  For example I like to sing country, pop and rock. There is no way I am going to sing a high C in a song the same way I sing high C when I vocalize. My preference is to use more chest voice “in my mix” and keep the resonance near the front of my face to achieve the sound that I want. I even prefer to allow my larynx to rise a little and tilt. This gets me the sound I like in a safe and effective way. Lots of twang and great breath control.

I think SLS could take the next step in helping the artist develop their signature sound in a healthy way. I believe Brett Manning’s organization is much better suited to a variety of vocal sounds than is the Seth Riggs Organization. Brett is getting loads of country singers in Nashville so you can bet he is helping them achieve the sound they want in a safe, effective way. Seth Riggs, on the other hand, is a pure and very specific vocal training system to teach singers how to sing from the bottom to the top of their range in a balanced way. This is a fabulous thing, but I think some students may be confused about what the voice can and cannot do in terms of making healthy sounds that suit their specific genre.

If you are a rock singer and have been vocalizing with the SLS method for some time, consider this? Are you happy with your high notes? Are you able to get the sound you really want without straining? If not, then the next step is looking at safe ways to make those specific sounds. I  believe some SLS studios can do this, if they understand what you want. Communication with your coach is definitely key here. If your current teacher isn’t equipped to help you with these sounds, then you may need to consider other coaches. There are ways to build your chest voice higher in your mix in a perfectly safe way. And, I’m not talking about belting. That is a very different way of singing.

SLS will always be a fabulous singing method. But singers need to be clear about what it is, and what it is not.

The mixed voice

I’ve talked about the “mixed voice” and how to find your “mixed voice” before. This is a term created by Maestro Seth Riggs in his Speech Level Singing method years ago. It is also used by Brett Manning, Roger Love, Dave Brooks, and countless other top-quality singing coaches from around the world.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding this term in the singing community. Some singing teachers from around the world cringe when they hear the term “mixed voice”. I believe this stems from the fact that we physically do not actually have a “mixed voice,” and the fact that many singers do not actually know what it is, what it should feel like, or how to get it.

However, I believe all singing teachers will agree that we do have a chest register (or chest voice as referred to by SLS), and a head register (head voice as referred to by SLS). These are two terms that have been around for hundreds of years, and are commonplace in a singer’s vocabulary.

I tell my students that a mixed voice is simply the ability of a singer to ascend or descend in pitch between their chest register and their head register without constriction, and with the appropriate balance of both registers. Every singer knows about those whacky areas of their voice where singing gets a little tricker. This area, called the bridge or passagio, is where the larnyx and the body need to make careful adjustments in order to sing higher without constriction. In SLS, coaches do this with carefully selected scale combinations of vowel (resonance), consonant (cord closure), and volume (air flow).

I, frankly, like the term mixed voice for myself and for my students. For myself, it is a balanced sensation (or state) that I exercise daily with scales to keep my voice healthy, strong, and flexible. I don’t use the same blend of mixed voice when I perform because I prefer to sing harder at my gigs. That is a choice I make. I am self aware of my vocal limitations, and trust me, we all have them!

Do you have questions or comments. Please leave them below! Thanks.

How to sing with a low larynx…

I can still remember having trouble pronouncing the word “larynx” when I first started SLS training. Even though I had studied the voice for years, other teachers hardly ever talked about that funny little bump in the middle of my throat. Once I started studying Speech Level Singing and other modern vocal techniques, the larynx was one of the many topics I began to understand in better detail.

If your current voice teacher can’t or doesn’t explain to you why you are doing certain exercises, then there is a good chance he/she doesn’t actually know. I did exercises for years, without being told why or understanding why. Now, I always explain to my students why and what we are working on.

Keeping your larynx (your voice box which encases your vocal cords) stable and reasonably low is highly recommended when singing. It ensures a healthy and relaxed mode for the voice, especially as you sing higher.  I love this video…you can watch Brett Manning from Singing Success manipulate his larynx here with different sounds.

The yawn works wonders. I like to use woo, woo, woo on a 1 1/2 octave scale with the low larynx. The student keeps a finger on the Adam’s apple to feel the changes as the notes get higher. There are a few things to watch for as you progress from the exaggerated low larynx to a more-neutral position. This is why it’s so important to have a trained coach watch you do the exercises.

If you can relax and sing freely with a low larynx with the woo woo woo exercise, then you should notice that your jaw feels very loose (even as you get higher). It should be able to bounce (move up and down) slightly as you pronounce the word “woo”. If you feel your jaw fighting you and wanting to stay still, then you are not truly free. Lessen your volume, don’t worry about your sound, and simply say “woo” in that yawny-feeling. Keep a pouty, relaxed, mouth. Visualize the word “woo” as tall and thin. Remember, your job is not to “sound good” during the exercise. Your job is to understand and remember the feeling (assuming you are doing it correct!).

Once you can sing this with a relaxed jaw, you can then switch to goo goo goo to ensure the cords are staying connected through your bridges. Notice, the narrow oooo vowel should make the transition to your high register fairly easy. Then try switching to “go, go, go” and finally “gee, gee, gee”. Keep the same easy feeling that “woo, woo, woo” established, and go back to this if you’re having trouble. If you find these easy, then move on to “ba, ba, ba” and “na, na, na”.

Give these a try and let me know what you think. How does it feel to you? Can you sing through your songs any easier after vocalizing with a low larynx?