Controlled effort

One of the most important things you can do as a singer is to learn how to balance your voice. In other words, know how to negotiate the first passagio, so you have no issues with the transfer of resonance as you move back and forth through that bridge. Men, your first bridge is around D to F above middle C, and ladies your bridge is anywhere between A (above middle C) to high C. One key element to negotiating this passagio is the idea of “bridging early”. Don’t avoid this sensation, but don’t flip into falcetto either.

One of the easiest ways to know if you are bridging is simply to match the volume as you sing higher. Your body needs to figure out how to control the air (send less air) as you ascend in pitch.  You need to allow that heady feeling and turn on your body anchor. Without enough body effort you will likely notice the sound starts to become “weaker” or “not intense enough”.  You will likely want to sing louder, but that’s not how to improve your voice. Instead, turn on your body! Pretend you are lifting a heavy suitcase in each arm. Notice your rib cage engage as you exert some pressure there. Be careful not to tense up in the neck area. This may cause undo strain.

Good singing does take effort. The effort is a controlled feeling of energy all over the body.  Effort in the wrong places, such as at the vocal cords or inside the throat, will only constrict the sound. We want a free, open and controlled sound!

Some coaches don’t talk about effort simply because it can get in the way. But without the correct effort how do you expect to improve your voice? Never under estimate the value of “effort”.

Your GPS to a better singing voice

There are no short cuts to having the voice you always dreamed of. However, with a good singing coach you should notice improvements in the first lesson and continue to learn and grow. With a good singing coach you should see a plan of action that will take you to a better voice one exercise at a time.

Knowing your vocal habits, good and bad, is a huge step towards better singing. A good coach should be able to tell you the issues standing in your way at the first lesson.

Not all coaches will have the same suggestions and exercises for improvement. Some will focus on breathing exercises, or abdominal muscles and posture. Some will focus on your song material. This is where you, the singer will need to decide if this coach is for you.

When you come to my studio, you learn about your “mix” or “middle voice” first, and what your singing habits are. Sure your breathing and posture are  important, but these coordinations will take hold nicely as you learn how to transition through your passagio without strain or a break in register. We will start with a focus on cord closure, air flow and vowel formation.

From there I will map out an exercise plan for you one week at a time. You are included in the plan. You get to know your voice and what it can do, and you learn what needs the most work.

In no time at all you will understand what makes you “tick” as a singer. You will learn how to engage your body for strength and endurance without undue strain.

Learning to sing to your maximum potential is a balancing act. In my studio, you, the singer, are involved in the process. You will know exactly why I have picked certain exercises for you, and you will understand how and why as your voice unfolds.


Why does it seem that I have two singing voices?

Do you ever notice that when you sing along with the radio you usually have this very talky kind of singing that can be fairly loud but you have trouble reaching the high notes. Then when you sing at church on Sunday, you have this other voice that is, let’s just say, different, kind of whimpy maybe, yet sweet. 

This isn’t everyone’s experience but it is common, especially for women. Songs on the radio are usually written in lower keys so the singers can use their chest voice. Then when they get to the higher notes, they “belt” out the high notes. This is that shouty, yelling kind of voice that some audiences love, and some audiences hate!

Traditional church songs are quite often written in a key that is too high to use your chest voice well. Instead, singers need to use their head voice to reach the high notes. This is why some church choirs with older women have that unique sound!

Depending on your singing background, you may be more comfortable in either one of these voices. Most children who grew up singing in choirs are very well acquainted with their head voice. Children who did not sing much growing up, are much more likely to be comfortable in their chest voice, because this is the range that is closest to their speaking voice.

The key here is to know which voice you gravitate to, and then work on the opposite. Good singing needs a balance of both the head voice and chest voice, irregardless of the kind of song you are singing.

Did you find this post helpful? Please leave me a comment!

Singing with Emotion…

When someone wants to learn how to sing better, there are quite a few angles that can help. Technique is obviously very important, and a huge part of the puzzle is being able to sing and show “emotion” in your voice.  How do you know if you are singing with emotion? Well, for me as a listener, if a singer can make me “believe them” then they are emotionally reaching me with their song!

“Feel” Your Voice, Don’t Just Listen

Good singing originates from the sensations you feel. When you sing a note that is close to your speaking voice, you should feel it resonate in your chest. Put your hand on your chest and try it, but don’t push or sing too loud. Singing (and talking) should be done at a comfortable “medium” volume. As you sing higher you should notice the resonance starts to leave your chest and you should feel a sensation in your mouth and the top of your palate and teeth.  As you start to go even higher the resonance shifts to the back of your mouth in the soft palate. This is where a lot of singers try to adjust their sound by reaching for those notes. Instead of “reaching” for the notes you should approach them with ease. Yes, the sound will be lighter but it will be true. Learn to “feel” what your voice sounds like in this relaxed state. This step is necessary in the process of creating a balanced sound that connects your entire voice from low to high.

That’s my head voice?

Have you ever had an “ah ha” moment? Well, that’s what happened with my adult student today and it was her first lesson.

She had developed the habit of only using her chest voice to sing. She ignored her head voice. I guess she didn’t like the sound. It’s actually quite a common habit among singers.

The problem is if we ignore our head voice, then we can’t reach the high notes “appropriately”. That is, with a “mixed voice”. Oh, you may be able to reach that high note, but what does it sound like? Is it wide and splatty, and overall just plain not nice to listen too? Probably.

You see, you can’t get a nice sound on a “high” note without using some of your head voice. That’s why you need to learn how to mix the chest with the head so you get a balance of each.

Are you not sure what is your head voice? Well, try to sing the vowel “oo” (like the hooting of an owl), and make high sounds……like the siren of a fire truck or ambulance. Is it breathy? Then you are likely using falcetto…..that is not your head voice. Try again, but don’t let the high note be breathy. Lean into it a bit. There you go, that’s your head voice!

I Just Want to Sing Better!

There are many reasons why the voice may not do what you want it to. Today lets talk about vocal strain! This is probably the most common reason singers have trouble. Quite often the strain is caused by the muscles in the throat tightening up when the singer goes for higher notes. How do you know if these muscles around the larynx are tightening inappropriately when you sing? Does your larynx rise up when you try to sing a high note?

Sometimes the only way to know is by having a professional watch and listen to you sing.  With the help of a  good vocal coach you can learn the best way to sing through your entire range and get the sound you want.  When your voice is exercised properly and regularly (yes, just like going to the gym), then singing becomes as free as talking………and that’s the way it should feel.