What happened to Christine Aguilera?

You probably heard the gossip surrounding Christine Aguilera’s mix-up of the words of Star-Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl. You can revisit that performance here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpCFpYLPw74 I would like to talk about that performance, but not about the words she messed up, but rather her voice.

First, let me say I am a big fan. She is one-of-a-kind. I have heard her perform at times extremely well (You tube – live video concerts) and other times, not so well. This performance was definitely the latter. It is clear that she was not able to get into a good mix as she ascended in pitch during the song. She probably recognized that she was “pulling too much weight”, and things weren’t just right. This may be the reason she messed up the words. It can definitely be distracting when you find yourself in the middle of song, giving it everything you have, and knowing that there’s no backing down now, you have to get to the big finish, you have to get to that big note…….and…..well, what happened in Christina’s case, is that she had to flip and sing the biggest note in the song in her head voice. I’m sure that was not her plan.

What went wrong? Well, a number of things could have gone wrong. Maybe she had a virus and her cords were slightly swollen. Maybe she didn’t prep her mix well enough before the performance. I wouldn’t think she would go into the performance unprepared, but my guess is she belted with too much volume in the beginning of the song, such as the words “by” the dawn’s early light. These heavy chest tones can immediately unbalance the voice and make it difficult to get into your head voice. This song is in the key of F and the main belting note that she sang over and over is the A above middle C. I think the fact that she pick this key was detrimental for her. The key of G would have put her over her bridge slightly at the belting note, and possibly made it easier to be in the mix. In other words, she could have actually been singing higher, and not have had to flip. She would have been able to carry the chest in the mix all the way up to D above middle C no problem.

Finding your head voice…..

This is such an important topic….. the head voice.

I have two singing students currently age 9 and 10 who have great pitch and love to sing. The problem is they came to me not ever having used their head voice. They’ve never mimicked or experienced their head voice. They’ve avoided the entire range about their first bridge. Needlesstosay, the only songs they want to sing are from artists who sing below their first bridge such as Taylor Swift. This can be severely limiting and unfortunate to a young singer.

Children need to be taught to experience their light, babyish, high voice at an early age. This can be done by mimicking the sound of a bird or a train whistle. Children with a high speaking voice have an easier time because they are already close to their head voice. However, girls and boys who have a deeper speaking voice, usually because they have slightly shorter and thicker vocal cords, may have a more difficult time. It’s usually this type of singer that gets “stuck” in their chest voice.

Another thing to watch out for is the child who frequently has a hoarse or raspy voice. It’s highly likely their vocal cords are damaged from either poor speech habits, frequent loud talking or yelling such as at a hockey game, or possibly from swelling in the larynx due to health reasons. These children usually have trouble finding their head voice as well.

It is amazing to me how many children and adults have poor speech quality in their voice. The singing voice starts at speech level, so if a voice is muddy and unclear when talking, then it’s going to be muddy and unclear when singing.

Hopefully this article has raised some awareness for parents. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.