Say goodbye to strain

What exactly is singing with strain?

Basically, it means a singer is over-compressing the vocal cords. Over-compressing is “squeezing” or “pushing” the sound out, instead of simply allowing the sound to release with good cord closure. This can happen a lot when singing high notes. We tend to “reach” or “squeeze” to sing our high notes.

Try doing your vocal exercises and your favourite songs (especially the high notes) while:

1. Lying down on your back, flat on the floor.

2. Walking around the room.

3. Holding a book in each hand while holding your arms out (like flying a plane).

What do you notice about your singing effort now? Is it more challenging to get the tone you want than standing in one place? Is your tone it breathier?

I suggest you keep vocalizing with these new ideas for a few weeks. You should start to notice breathiness (falcetto) start to lessen as your vocal cords get stronger at cord closure with the correct coordination. You should also notice you are much more relaxed while singing giving way to a free and flexible voice!


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!






How to build chest voice

Before you start “building” your chest voice, be sure you are mixing. In other words, be sure you have a low, middle and a high voice that are working well together. This is the ideal first move in building up your voice.

If you are wanting to build “power” then you could be fooling yourself if you think building chest voice is the answer. Chest voice is your speaking voice. You can work on your chest voice simply by working on your speaking voice.

There is a small population that needs to build their chest voice, and they are mostly females. I divide this into two main categories.

1.  Ladies who have had previous voice training and sing only in their head voice to reach low notes.

2. Ladies with poor speaking habits. ie too much breath. This causes inadequate cord closure which causes inadequate onset of the sound.

It is rare to find men who don’t use their chest voice when they are speaking. I’m sure speech therapists do come across this, but I never have.

So if you think you want more chest voice, find out first what your chest voice is already like and ask a singing coach or teacher.

If you want more power in your voice with a deeper more bottom end sound, try lowering your larynx and working glottal onsets. Voila……….a beautiful deep rich tone.

Tongue out exercises

Love ’em, love ’em, love ’em! And you should do ’em, do ’em, do ’em!

This is no easy task but it’s a sure fire way to find out if the back of your tongue is getting in the way of mixing from chest to head voice.

So, let your tongue hang out…not forced out like you would stick out your tongue at someone, but loose and lazy with a big mouth. You will notice that your jaw will drop and your larynx will automatically stay reasonably low and stable. Ideally you want your face to resemble the start of a nasty scream or a happy yell. Your cheeks and nasal area should raise, and your upper lip will spread  wide.

Now it’s time for making noises. Don’t try to sing. Making sounds with “g” like “gug” and “goo” in your middle to high register will challenge you to work your tongue high in the back of the throat. The tongue needs to touch your soft palate to make the ‘g’ sound, and yet in order to make these sounds in a mixed voice, your soft palate has to be high enough to allow the sound to resonate into the nasal area.

You should notice yourself making interesting facial expressions as you try to figure out how to get cord closure (so your sound isn’t breathy) into you high voice.

This is twanging in a mixed voice. Twanging is a term used in Estill Voice Technique, and Robert Lunte’s Four Pillars TVS program. For those of you working on Brett Manning’s Singing Success and Mastering Mix programs these are pharyngeal sounds. And by the way, all four of these are great invaluable programs with loads of insight into great singing.

Try it and let me know what you think. Can you do it? How high can you get without your cords allowing too much air to get through?

Oh, and the best place to do these exercises is in your car on your way to and from work:) The other drivers will love it!

Pharyngeal sounds

For those of you familiar with speech level singing exercises, the nasty “nay” sound is probably all-too-familiar. This is a sound that many singers do wrong. The goal here is to feel the resonance behind the cheek bone and nasal area, not in the mouth or at the back of the throat.

In Estill Voice Technique this sound is the schoolyard sing-song taunt. Again, it can be done incorrectly if you are using the wrong coordination.

The challenge is making this sound above the first passagio.

I suggest starting with a puppy dog whimper in your head voice. This will get your cords thinned out. Close your mouth and work this whimper in a hum. Raise your cheeks and think a “cry-like” sound.  If you are having trouble, take your volume down to a level where you can manage a simple light coordination of a whimper sound in your head voice. Keep your mouth closed……now you have thin cords.  Your larynx may want to rise, and certainly the ideal condition is for it to remain neutral. Take note of this. To counter the raising of the larynx, consider what is going on inside your mouth at the back of your throat. Lift your soft palate as best you can.

I suggest making this your home base. Men, this will be around F or F# above middle C, and ladies, this will be around high C or C#.

Once you can master the puppy dog whimper in your head voice, then you need to work the whimper through the first passagio. For men, you need to master the whimper from F# below middle C to F# above middle C.  Ladies, middle C# to high C#. If you feel a “catch” in your voice, then you simply need to do it over and over and over every day until that “catch” evens out. (If you practise everyday, it will eventually even out).

Consider taking the volume down to the point where you can master this.  Do the whimper both ascending and descending. You can turn this into a continuous whimper siren if you like. Notice your head voice is clearly present. Try to coordinate a balance that works for you. In other words, the lowest notes are predominantly chest voice and your head voice needs to allow this transition. The high whimper is mostly head voice, so again you need to allow this transition. If you find this challenging, then consider your volume again. There will definitely be a level where you can coordinate this transition. You might not be happy with the sound…..but that doesn’t matter. It’s not about the sound! It’s about the coordination. This is your starting point. Do not increase your volume until you can master this transition of puppy dog whimper through your first passagio.

So, now that you have good cord closure and you are mixing well through your first passagio, you can actually begin to work on your pharyngeal sounds like the nasty “nay” or “meow” sounds.

Should you bridge early or not??

If your goal is to have a thick (chestier) sound in your upper range, then bridging early isn’t going to get you there.

Bridging early will help balance your voice, and achieve good cord closure through your entire register. Bridging later will give you the advantage of more mouth and throat resonance with a tilted cartilage and narrowing of the aryepiglottic sphincter.

For example, I can sing high C with two different co-ordinations. One sound is more legit with great head resonance and cord closure. This is when I bridge around G above middle C. The second co-ordination is a thicker and chestier sound with stiffer cords. Because my thyroid is tilted and the AES tube is narrowed, the resonance doesn’t split the same as it does when bridging earlier. This gives the listener the impression of a thicker, chestier sound.


Mix comes in many colors and textures…..

Adding color and texture to the voice is a sure-fire way to add life to your singing. The best way to get full control over texture and color is to master control over your breath. The best way to get control over your breath is to master good cord closure. The best way to get good cord closure is to do your exercises every day!