Narrowing your Vowels

Good singers are narrowing their vowels on high pitches all the time, and we as listeners don’t usually hear any difference!

If you are having trouble with high notes, and frequently getting stuck in your low “chest” voice, try narrowing your vowels which will change the resonance.   Narrowing the vowels will allow the resonance (that is stuck in the mouth on wide vowels) to move to the pharynx (back of the throat) and up into the head resonance. This should allow you the opportunity to sing that high note with a nice ring, and stop any strain you are feeling in the throat.

But how, exactly, do you narrow vowels?

One of the easiest ways to narrow your vowels is to first sing your song with the sound “nuh”. Think about what the sound feels like in your cheeks, nose, and mouth. Now, switch to the actual word in the song,  being sure to put the word where the “nuh” is resonating.

Did that help you get the high notes?

Other important factors include getting good cord closure by thinning the edges as you ascend in pitch. Remember to think “cry” or “puppy dog whimper”. A new suggestion I saw recently from another vocal coach was with the Italian phrase “mama mia”  (with a strong Italian inflection). This can definitely add a nice cry to your voice!

And, if you are still have trouble, try thinking “oh, poor me”… to help keep the larynx in a normal position. This phrase should stop you from widening your mouth too much which should help with narrowing vowels. (The position of the larynx is an entire topic of its’ own. Check out Mark Baxter’s video here……love it! )

Well, what do you think? Are you able to reach those high notes a little easier now?

Does the mixed voice resonate in the throat?

Hi Jeff, Thanks for writing.

Yes, a mixed voice definitely resonates in the throat. If you put your finger on your larynx, you will feel it vibrate. However, the chest voice alone resonates in the throat as well….and this is not mixing….so beware.

The true test for mixing is having ability to ascend and descend through your entire range without a break and without strain. Learning to mix well means teaching the cords to thin and stretch as you sing higher. The only way the cords can do this well is if the larynx is in the proper position. The best way to get the larynx (and the cords) in the correct position is to practice sounds that cause it do that coordination.

Here are some sounds to practise. I suggest a range from middle C to G for the male voice….and increase the range as this gets easier. Your goal should be to keep it light and crisp at first. Pay attention to the “edges” of your sound. This is a tough area of the voice for a male to get the cords to really thin out. Careful you are not just in head voice (falcetto). If so, start slightly lower. Ideally, you will be in a mix if you “allow” both registers to exist. It may feel like you are “sitting on a fence”. To manage your control, find the volume that allows you to balance this sensation. It may seem “small”. That’s OK.

1. The puppy dog whimper
2. Meow
3. Nay, nay, nay (speech level singing)
4. Hung …….. hold out the ung in a hum
5. A buzzy hum

6. Miren (slide with siren and “m”

Again, thanks for writing. Let me know how it goes. Susie

How to sing louder in a mixed voice

If you follow speech level singing dialogue online about “mixing”, then you have probably read, somewhere, sometime, suggestions that a mixed voice can’t be powerful.

Au Contraire! The mixed voice is very powerful.

Let’s review what is the “mixed voice”. The mixed voice is simply the ability of the singer to ascend and descend in pitch throughout all vocal registers with good cord closure, adequate resonance, and correct vowel placement.

That’s it.

The magic formula now is to allow this to remain consistent while you are singing songs. No going back to old habits. Instead, focusing on what’s going on “below the throat”.

Breath control is the number 1 force behind power. Intake and output of breath is key to finding your level of “power” for your voice at its’ current level of ability right now. It’s when you overstep your level of control to make your voice appear powerful, that takes you back to old habits.

If you are running out of breath while you sing, this can be a good thing. It’s telling your body to find ways (below the throat) to either get more air in, or stop letting so much air out. Awareness of your back, ribs, stomach and groin area are fundamental.

With proper momentum of your breathing, you can find the balance and control where you will not have the sensation of being breathless after long phrases in a song.

Beware, you may not be content with your level of perceived “power” with your current level of breath control. That’s why it’s best to have a good vocal coach join you on your journey to find “power” in your “mix”.


I can’t control my break!

I want to thank all my readers for your comments and questions. It is my pleasure to help you learn how to mix your voice and sing better.

I received an email recently from a young man who says he always breaks as he ascends in pitch. Here was my response.

Hi Taciano, Thank you for your comment.

With practise, you can control your break. You need to revisit your exercises everyday.

Some vowel/consonant combinations are easier to mix, so try starting with a “koo” or a “goo”, and grow into other combinations such as “mum” and “buh”. Notice the “g” and “k” will help you maintain your mix. This is your tongue helping with breath control, which in turn helps keep you in a mix (so your folds don’t blow apart from too much breath escaping).

A “staccato” sense to your exercises will help you maintain your mix as well. This, again, is due to the breath pressure you create at the vocal folds. But be careful that you doing this correctly. Many students try to make staccato happen with their body or their throat, and this only gets in the way of the natural ability of the vocal folds to do their job. A sense of a bouncy “staccato” delivery of your notes will happen easily and automatically if you are creating the breath pressure necessary to maintain a good mix.

Another useful tip to maintain your breath control is to engage the muscle at the top of your stomach. Simply focus on this area as if someone were going to hit you. Don’t do this down low in your stomach….just at the top where your rib cage meets. And, when you breath notice how your ribs and back naturally engage too. Notice the smallness and the exactness of these sensations. Notice how it also engages your head, neck and posture. Stay in this coordination as you do your exercises, and see if it helps.

Remember, it does not take much breath to sing well. Most amateur singers use way too much breath, which in turn causes many problems. So try the opposite. Allow yourself to enjoy the sensation of singing with less breath. Your ribs and back muscles will learn to engage while you are singing…and this will help you maintain your mix.

Good luck. I hope these suggestions have helped! Susan

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.



Are you finding your “mix”?

I get many emails and audio files from singers asking how they know if they are mixing. They want to know how to sing in a mixed voice.

The #1 tell-tale sign that you are NOT mixing well is if your larynx is rising too high and you feel like you have hit a ceiling. This usually makes your throat very uncomfortable. You should feel no tension, no pain, and no choking in your throat when singing high notes. You will feel movement, however, as the larynx tilts and moves gently up and down to allow the vocal cords to stretch.

A great way to get in touch with the sensations in your larynx is to put your finger on your voice box as you make sounds. Notice, if you imitate an opera singer it will go down. If you imitate a whiny baby crying, it will go up. The challenge comes when singing high notes, to maintain the balance of a flexible larynx that easily moves and easily tilts. This is necessary for optimal control of your voice.

Here are some helpful hints to keep your larynx neutral and flexible, and help you stay in a good mix:

1. Decrease your volume. You will instantly notice an ease when you sing the chorus of your song at a decreased volume. You may not like your sound….it may be breathy. This means you need to practise at this level working on your laryngeal tilt. Stop shouting.

2.  Add a “cry” to your voice. What does this mean? This is a sensation that will help with vocal cord closure. This is a sensation of a sob or moan in your face and body. Some singers have a lot of trouble getting in touch with this coordination. It may appear to be a feminine trait, but it will give instant results for better cord closure. It helps keep the larynx neutral. You will notice also, that you immediately sing less loud using this coordination.

3. Work on your breathing exercises. See my previous posts. Practise your song with these body sensations in mind.

4. Narrow your vowels. Some words will automatically get you in trouble on the high notes. You must try to remember what the sensation feels like on vowels that are easy to mix, such as “oo” as in “cool,” and “oo” as in “book”. Sing your entire chorus with these vowels. Add the consonant “n” to get that sob/moan sensation…”noo” as in “nook”.

5.  Be careful of your word formation. Watch out for challenging vowels and consonant. Practise forming all words with the sensations you felt in #4. Staying in touch with these sensations will show you the challenges of singing words like “girl” and “get” in your high register. Do not allow these difficult words to throw off your coordination. Instead, alter the word and keep your sound “in the mix”.

6. Have fun and ALLOW these suggestions to help. Stop listening to the sound of your voice, and start focusing on how your voice feels. Good luck!! If you have any questions, or you want me to listen to your voice, send me an email at


How do you “sing with emotion”?

Why is it that “your” music stirs up such a strong “sense” within you, but not necessarily in the person beside you. Is it the lyrics? Is it the beat? Is it the volume and speed? Is it the singer? Why is it that what rocks one person’s music world doesn’t do the same for another?

We are all unique and special. We come from different backgrounds, different cultures, and different eras. However, the one thing that is for sure, music stirs emotions within us.

Rock music is typically raw, edgy, loud and speech-like. There is usually no vibrato.  If you sing rock music, the risk is that you may create these conditions incorrectly within the larynx causing the cords to over-compress in your low register, and not thin out or stretch as you sing higher. This can decrease your ability to express emotion.

Singers who “mix” their voice in both registers, can usually express their emotions in more distinct ways. The dynamics are more varied. They can easily add vibrato once in a while if desired. They can move with flexibility throughout their entire range with good pitch control, and easy production of consonants and vowels to form their words.

All these qualities are signs of good vocal technique. And let’s not forget that the body, head and neck is working very efficiently along with the vocal cords to hold back breath.

This is when the emotions you are feeling can actually be heard or “felt” by others. This is how you sing with emotion.

Questions? Comments? Please leave a message below.







Too perfect?

I have a female client who has been training with me for the past year. She has lovely sound. A very pretty voice.

However, she is not happy with her sound. She wants to sound more like a radio singer (she names examples likeTaylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Rhianna).

This young lady had previous classical singing lessons. Her breath control is wonderful. Her head resonance is crisp and present, and her glottal onset is precise and clean……so beautiful, so lovely………and she hates it.

This young lady is so well trained that she is having trouble undoing her perfect classical sound.

What can she do to sound more contemporary?

1. Change the vocal cord set-up. She currently has a seamless onset where her breath and cord closure meet with smooth connection. There is not much edginess. We have been working on her “speech level” closure in her chest voice with wide vowels.

2. We have been working on changes at the vocal cord level in her speech level chest voice. She is doing exercises that keep her in stronger mix of chest voice versus head voice with lots or oral twang and mouth resonance.

3. I have suggested listening and copying other singers. One of the best ways to explore and grow your voice is by trying new co-ordinations. When you do this, you need to pay special attention to how your throat feels. It should never hurt, but the co-ordinations may definitely feel “different” from what you are familiar with.

Questions? Comments? Please leave a message below.


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.