Creating your own sound

A large percentage of female singers struggle with being “stuck” in their head voice. This is usually the classically trained voice or “choir-like” voice.

For those of you looking for a more “pop” sound, or “beltier” sound, try these exercises. These signature sounds can be heard in the voices of Rhianna, Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion.

1. Open your mouth as if you were going to bite into an apple. Let your tongue hang out over your bottom lip. Make a “whiny” sound like a little child. Do these high sounds in your higher range and carry the sound down into your speech area. Don’t fight the urge to “sing”. Simply allow the sound to be. You may not like it. Try to visualize what the sound feels like. Notice your tongue is up a bit at the back of your mouth, and the sound is hitting your teeth and hard palate and coming out your mouth.

2. Quack like a duck. Don’t force it or squeeze it. Simply feel the “twang” that you are creating in your head voice. If this is a foreign feeling or sound, keep it light and experience it often. There is a component of “twang” in every great singer’s voice.

3. Meow like a cat.

4. Neigh like a horse.

5. In speech level singing, there is a great exercise with the nay, nay, nay sound (like “nyet” in Russian). Doing it properly is key to experiencing the twang sound. It’s OK to do this exercise slightly nasty. It should be buzzy and even annoying. Try to focus on the feeling of the resonance in your mouth and head.

Any questions, let me know. Some singers can find this sound very easy. Others will have a hard time. Every voice is unique, so enjoy the process of exploring sounds!


Extreme Singing

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

Well first, let’s check… 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!


The root of the tongue

Learning how to sing better means knowing about your voice, and all the elements that can affect your sound. The tongue can be a major player in sound production. It can help you make beautiful sounding tones, or it can cause your voice lots of grief.

The root of the tongue starts in the same area as the vocal cords in your throat. Most untrained singers don’t even realize the tongue is causing problems with their singing. Usually this creates a tightened or strained sound, and sometime it causes a nasal sounding singing voice. What is happening is the tongue is actually backing up and “covering” the vocal cords, instead of coming forward, staying relaxed, and allowing the throat to be open.

You can check this by singing your favorite chorus with your tongue lying out over your bottom teeth and lower lip. You don’t have to force it out, because again you would be creating tension in the tongue. Is your jaw and tongue relaxed enough so that your entire throat feels free? Now sing your chorus.

It is difficult to pronounce words this way, but the purpose of this exercise is to notice the open throat and tongue release.

This is a great way for rock singers and singers who are learning to belt to get in touch with the physical effort necessary in their body for optimum breath support for their mixed voice. Notice you may need to decrease your volume to maintain the balance of cord closure to allow the voice to mix in the upper register.

If your sound is breathy, then that is a key indicator that your vocal cords and breath support can be engaged better with proper coordinations. You have taken the tongue out of the equation so you can focus on your “cry” to get cord closure.

Do this everyday with the tongue out and experience an open throat with good vocal closure. Use sounds like “uh-uh” (as in “us”) and sing up and down through your register break. Don’t force your sound. Your voice will eventually start to become less breathy and you will start to hear and feel the edges of your cords touching. This is a great way to get in touch with “vocal fry” too.

Questions? Comments? I would love to hear from you. Please leave a message a below.

Ladies: Your Money Notes

Getting fit as a singer means learning how to sing through all your vocal breaks–your entire vocal register. Ladies, the average range for you is approximately F or G below middle C (C4) to G above high C (C5). This is the average…..good female singers may sing through to high high C (C6) and even through the next passagio to G above C6. And yes, some singers–(men included) can easily make sounds higher than that. Just listen to Brett Manning from Singing Success on You Tube

Most genres of music in the 21st century are written with certain pitches “money notes” in mind.  These notes usually fall within the 1st and 2nd passagio, and for women, that’s between B flat (below C5) to E flat (above C5). A range of about 4 or 5 tones. This is an important area of your voice called the middle voice.

This is the belting range. This is the area of a female voice that is most difficult to manage.

Here at 21st Century Singers we work this area in both directions to get fit. Top-down exercises will create the muscle memory of using your head voice in the middle pitches. Bottom-up exercises will create muscle memory of establishing a strong chest voice as you transition into your head voice register through the middle pitches.

This is how you mix. This is singing in a mix….in other words….your middle voice.

Book an online singing lesson with me and learn how to strengthen your middle voice. Whether you are classically trained, or have no training whatsoever, this area is key to learning how to belt and sing with power. Lessons are only $50 for 45 minutes.  Get started with learning how to sing better today. All you need is a webcam and a desire to sing better than you ever thought possible!

Questions? Comments? Please leave me a message below!! Thanks.



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!






Carrie Manolakas sings Creep (Radiohead cover)

I’m sure many of you have seen this heart-wretching rendition of Carrie Manolakas’ cover of Creep. She possesses such a compelling hold and control of this song. Have a listen.

Jen DeRosa from Tom Burke’s Voice Studio talks about how Carrie is managing these sounds.  (A Quick Fix for Chicks that Mix)  Check that out here     (And, if you are not subscribing to Tom Burke`s Studio yet for singing tips, then you better get there fast!)

I want to add a couple of things to Jen`s comments, that may seem obvious, but definitely crucial for anyone who is trying to make contemporary sounds in this range (belting).

1. Note Carrie`s body and breath control. Watch her stomach. Notice how effortless it appears she is working. This is NOT the case at all. Carrie is able to hold back huge amounts of air to create the pressure needed to make these sounds safely.

2. Note the `cry`in her voice that is very apparent starting around 2:26. This is good vocal cord closure. See how the top of her mouth is up (ensuring a raised soft palate), and her front top teeth are showing. Again, this is helping with the entire coordination of good cord closure and placement of tone and resonance.

3.  Note her chin starts to rise at the chorus. This is very effective for her belt sound, once she has good cord closure and optimum breath control. This only works when the throat is relaxed, open and you are `MIXING`. Note how the belt increases by the activation of the cricoid cartilage, and supreme oral resonance. (In other words, happy shouting!) (Note again, the soft palate is high, and the tongue is also slightly high in proportion to this coordination….and the throat is open and free). This is giving the illusion of pure chest voice.

4.  What is going on in the larynx? Lots of things.

The thyroid cartilage is tilted and the aryepiglottic sphincter is narrowed. This is creating oral twang which is a essential component for safe belting.

We know the the thyroid is tilted because her “cry” is very apparent (in her mix). Try meowing or doing a puppy dog whimper in your high mix. (Ladies, high C area and men G above middle C). We also know her aryepiglottic sphincter (AES) is narrowed because of her supreme oral twang. This makes her voice louder. This allows her to lift her chin. (Try quacking like a duck, or saying “nay, nay, nay” like a schoolyard bully with a nasty little bite to your voice).

If Carrie’s thyroid cartilage was not well tilted and the AES was not narrowed, Carrie would not be able to left her chin to better activate her oral twang and resonance. This laryngeal coordination is key to belting in any style of music.

Questions? Comments? Please leave them here.



One of the best country singer belters is Carrie Underwood

No doubt, one of  the best female country belters is Carrie Underwood.

Take note of Carrie’s first line here at the chorus of How Great Thou Art…starting at 2:26. Notice the head tilt back in conjunction with the ascending notes…..“Then sings my soul”, and then the head comes back down when descending on the notes “my Savior”; back up for “God”, and back down “to Thee”.  Carrie is well-known for this head technique. When she is “in belt mode” she raises her chin which activates the cricoid cartilage in the larynx.

So what is going on? Is Carrie actually just shouting? Well, yes, she is actually shout-singing in a controlled manner (in this case a C above middle C).  She appears loud (and sounds like she is solely in her chest register). This is an illusion. Carrie sounds like she is pulling chest, but she is definitely mixing. You can bet that she could sing like this in your living room without a microphone and control the volume well enough to not bother your ears. It appears loud, but it really isn’t “too” loud.

According to Estill Voice Technique, cricoid tilt increases loudness with less breath.

Let’s talk about Carrie’s breathing.

Carrie is a great breather. This is a hidden technique that you can’t see, you can only feel, and/or experience.

If you watch and listen to Carrie breathe throughout the entire song you will notice there are NO big gasps of breath intake. Notice they are very quick sips of air through the mouth. Almost like she is simply just “topping up” at the beginning of each phrase. Yes, it’s a little noisy (which can be considered poor technique).  Also, notice you never see Carrie’s shoulders or upper chest rise.  Carrie has great breath control and everything down yonder is working with maximum efficiency. Check out her ending to this song starting at 4:36. This is superb breath control.

At 4:36 and 4:49 the word “great” is on a high E flat. This is approximately the 2nd passagio of the female voice and a very challenging area for pop, rock and country singers. The voice ideally should be allowed to transition to pure head register here, but that would definitely not be in keeping with the style of the rest of this song.

Carrie is a little tight on this E flat, but this is a live performance!  I think she handled it remarkably well. The long “a” vowel in the word “great” is a challenging vowel (diphthong) at the best of times. Carrie could have tried to narrow the long “a” vowel a little bit to make this easier for her (such as a short “e” as in “bed”).  The audience wouldn’t notice that she is deliberately changing the long “a” vowel. Their ears would still hear the word as they already know it.  This narrowing would have allowed the word to resonate easier in the head voice and likely have caused less strain in the sound.

The other great quality Carrie has to her natural voice is “oral twang”. This bright, brassy, piercing sound allows her to sing loud and resonant without using a lot of breath, and without a great deal of effort.  You can hear the “twang” in her speaking voice. She doesn’t need to work at it. It is part of her inherent sound quality. Note that twang can be a missing element to achieving volume (resonance) in your head voice. Singers who don’t have a lot of oral twang can sometimes try to alter or “push” the sound to try and make their voice louder. This usually activates muscles that “squeeze” the sound instead of allowing the tone to freely make it’s way from the back of the throat and beyond.

Note that when Carrie is belting, she is not “thinning” her vocal cords as she ascends past her first passagio.  She does thin her cords sometimes above her bridge, and you hear this anytime she is singing high pitches that are not shouty. Some of you might refer to this as a falcetto sound. And, that’s OK. It definitely is breathier. (This is part the challenge of belt singers……to be able to use thick or thin folds while singing in the head register without being breathy).

In conclusion, the ability to maintain speech-level thickness to the cords, and allow the larynx to tilt and stretch are essential elements to safe belting. This allows the sound to get out of the back of the throat and resonant throughout the entire register…..hence mixing!!

Questions? Comments? I look forward to hearing from you.

The belt zone

Ladies, your belt zone is around B flat, B, high C, and high D. This is the area where we usually start pushing and tensing to make the sound more “powerful”.

One of the best things you can do as a singer is pay attention to consistency and tone of your voice. All the notes (below and above your passagio around A above middle C), should “feel” the same. They should resonate the same. You should not feel any undue strain in your throat.

What I mean by this is simply allow the sound to remain the same. Do not try and make the high notes more powerful or “more” than they need to be. They may appear breathy at first. That’s OK.

They simply need to stay connected.

Once connected, your power will come from focus that happens far below the vocal cords….deep within the body……the energy exhibited when holding back breath and creating a balanced pressure above and below the vocal cords.

Check out this head voice exercise to gain strength and power for belting.

oooo dynamic breath control exercise

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……..