“Learn the rules like a pro, and then break them”

There is a saying in dance “learn the rules like a pro, and then break them”.

It’s perfectly appropriate for singing as well.

Freedom to express yourself is directly related to the amount of control you have over your voice. With good singing technique, you have equal control of your high, middle and low registers. You are essentially creating a baseline that you should always return when warming up and vocalizing.

Does this mean you have to stay there? Absolutely not. Once balanced, the voice can explore the qualities that ring true with the style of music you want to sing.

Although good singing technique is necessary to sing all styles of music well, certain styles can require the voice to do certain unique co-ordinations, especially with vowel formation, amount of breath being released, glottal attack and twang. However, most important is knowing that you are mixing well from the top of your range to the bottom.

Get your voice balanced and then start to build the qualities you are looking for.




Laryngeal rise versus laryngeal tilt………

There’s a big difference between the larynx rising and the larynx tilting.

Too much raising of the larynx will only cause you grief. You are basically choking yourself into a squeezed sound with nowhere to resonate.

Tilting the larynx, on the other hand, will allow you to sing in your high register because the cords are being stretched and thinned. Good tilting will actually give the listener the illusion of thicker cords (chest voice).

One of the best exercises for laryngeal tilt is the ‘ng’ sound. Say the word ‘sing’. See how the tongue touches the roof of your mouth. Leave it there. The ‘ng’ will block off sound leaving the mouth. With two fingers, plug your nose to see if you are doing it correctly…. the sound should stop completely.

Now practise this through the break in your voice. Ladies from middle C to high C……..men from A below middle C to A above middle C.

If you can make this sound smooth and consistently through your entire range then the larynx is tilting well!

***Note, the upper range will feel and sound like a whine or whimper. This is necessary to keep the cords closed while ascending.


There are three main areas of resonance for the voice. The chest, the head and what I like to refer to as the middle. This is the mouth (soft and hard palate) and the back of the throat…..also known as the oropharynx.

This resonance happens easiest when you have a balance of chest register and head register (mix). If you are too much in a chest register coordination it is difficult to get this resonance, and same goes with too much of a head voice coordination. A good balance of the two will allow the larynx to adjust for effective middle voice resonance.

Check out this exercise to hear a good example of pharyngeal resonance. When you do the exercise you shouldn’t feel any strain in the throat. Just lift the cheeks slightly, and relax the jaw. http://soundcloud.com/beemusicstudios/the-shouty-singer

The big belt – the Christine Aguilera voice

The body is an unique instrument and these are unique times.

The voice can make soft, loud, breathy, scratchy, raspy, whiney, yelly, low, screechy, shouty, deep, high, thick, shallow…..sounds. That’s right. We can make almost any sound we want. There’s no right or wrong. Only safe.

Think of a ventriliquist. He can make some amazing sounds and we don’t even see his lips move.

Think of a cartoon character…Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fud, Scooby Doo. Can you make any of these sounds?

Think of an impressionist who can sound like your favourite celebrity. What a well-respected talent to have!

The voice is an amazing instrument, and some people can do amazing things with it!

I truly believe the naturally-gifted singer is the one who can copy with great accuracy and feeling. The one who learns to take risks so they can grow and evolve on their own. I also believe the naturally-talented singer is the one who learns all about their own instrument. The singer who is “self-aware” and totally intune with their mind and body.

Christine Aguilera is one of those. She follows her instincts when she sings, and you can hear it in her performance. She learned to copy her favourite singers when she was young. She is passionate and a risk-taker. She sings how she wants and her fans love it. She has learned how to make her unique sound that no other singer can match. I can’t think of another singer who sings as “hard” as she does in her chest register. (Well, actually, that’s not true…I can think of a few….)

Here is my take on what’s going on. When I hear Christine’s voice, I feel “her pain”. No, I don’t mean her passion for the song, (although I get that). I mean I feel and hear the vocal constriction and effort in her sound quality. You don’t hear it on recordings so much, but you do hear it in live performance…raw, sing-it-from-your-heart-now live performance. Oh, how we as an audience love to hear a singer “let it all hang out”; expose absolutely everything they have to give us in a song. We welcome that energy and passion and commitment.

However, years of bearing her soul have taken a toll on Christine’s voice.  I believe her days of Lady Marmalade are soon over if she doesn’t achieve better vocal technique. In order for Christine to continue with a successful career she will need to find a new way to entice her fans. With some knowledge and direction, Christine’s voice can be more seductive and more sultry than it ever was. And, we her fans are ready for it!

Here’s my advise to Christine (and every other singer out there!)

1) A daily guided selection of octave-and-a-half exercises starting from A below middle C and ascending. These would include lip rolls, tongue trills, light hums (sirens), goos and nays. These are just a few important combinations. Easy does it. Do them everyday, often.

2) Seeing a master vocal coach regularly to learn how to mix the voice and stay “in the mix”. In other words, Christine needs to learn how to access her head register even when she is belting. Learning the `mixed`approach of a careful balance of the two registers will keep Christine`s voice safer and healthier for years to come.  And, as most of you know, she is already working with one of the best vocal coaches in the world, Seth Riggs.

3) Breathing exercises to take excessive weight off the vocal cords are important. And, of course, a daily regimen of eating healthy, staying hydrated and gettings loads of rest.

It will be interesting to hear Christine’s next album. Will her voice still stretch the boundaries of what vocal experts consider safe? I think it’s highly likely she will still continue to wow us with her deep, thick, sultry vocal cords. However, only Christine will know what her throat and voice feels like at the end of the day. Only Christine will know if she is going to be able to duplicate those superhuman sounds again tomorrow.


The yodel

What is a yodel? It’s simply a defined change in register from your low “voice” to your high “voice”.

Can you make your voice yodel? I actually have trouble doing it. My mixed “middle” voice is so well connected that imitating a yodel takes a certain coordination for me.

If you are a trained singer and you have a defined yodel, then your middle voice is not well established. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-familiar issue with some my students who have had classical training. The “yodel” may not be an exactly defined pitch in the voice, it may simply be the section where you have trouble controlling the quality of your sound–in other words losing that connection from your low notes to your high notes….you sense a “flip” or “disconnection” as you sing higher.

The “yodel” can be a preferred quality of sound in some voices…..Sarah McLachlin and LeAnn Rimes come to mind. There are many voices like this in pop/country music.

If you like your yodel then that’s great. But most singers have no control over this “flip”. The control happens in exercising the middle area of your voice (two registers in balance).

If you are training to sing and your teacher always exercises your high register and your low register as two separate voices, then you have a problem. If your teacher is always training your high voice and working downward, then you have a problem.  They are setting you up for this problem, and it will become very apparent when you need to sing songs requiring your chest register to “belt” out songs in theatre.

Is this blog hitting home with you? Let me know your experience. Please leave a comment.