Stuck in chest?

There are all kinds of singers with all kinds of voices. What kind are you? Knowing your habits is a huge step to improving your singing.

Learning how to “mix” from the bottom up, and from the top down, is the most important coordination for your voice. We learn how to do this in the exercises, but more often than not, when we sing a song, we go straight back to our original habits.

One way to move forward is to practise the “call”. Check out Ian Castle from here……and good luck with those high notes!!

Thank you for a great year!

If you have been following my singing blog, you will know I have trained in a few different methods of singing over the past years. Each one has been slightly different, yet the same, if that makes any sense.

In my early years, I trained in Bel Canto with various teachers and later went on to Speech Level Singing and Estill Voice Technique.

As a singer in my teens, 20’s and 30’s, I always felt I had two very different voices. My “choir” voice and my “rock band” voice. I struggled with understanding what was going on and how to get the sound I wanted without hurting my throat.

A revelation came when I studied Speech Level Singing (Seth Riggs). I learned how to use my entire range efficiently without flipping, pulling, or straining. Those of you who have studied SLS will understand what these terms mean. I learned how to “mix”. That is, I learned how to bridge in my middle voice by allowing transition to my head register without strain. I later went on to teach SLS and continue to use a lot of these concepts with my students.

My issue with SLS started when I came to a stalemate about my middle voice while singing a song for a Level 5 SLS teacher. I was singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow in the key of C major. The first two notes are middle C to high C. This is a big leap over the female first passagio. My teacher was listening for a certain amount of cord closure and head resonance on the high C. I was able to produce the coordination and sound he wanted, but I personally didn’t want to sing my song the way he wanted me to sing it.

After studying Estill Voice Technique, it became clear to me that SLS is a safe and effective way to balance the voice, and to stay in “shape”. The exercises are fabulous, and I do them every day. However , with SLS I would never learn about safe belting or even a better understanding of your voice.

It is important for each and every singer to understand their own voice. When you know what you are good at, and what you are not so good at, then you can take the steps necessary to achieve the voice you always wanted.

In 2014 I will continue to share with you exercises and explanations that will continue to help you understand your voice and the art of singing. I welcome your questions and concerns, and hope you find my posts engaging.

Let’s face it….we all have one thing in common…we all want to sing the best we can!

Can You Feel It?

As a singer it is important to “feel” your voice. It is a true balance of listening while you feel the cords stretching and thinning that will lead you to the next level in strengthening your vocal cords.

I like the “ng” exercise for establishing cord closure above the first passagio. It’s easy to do below your passagio, but as you go higher you may notice a dulling between the first and second passagio.

You can find the “ng” by saying the word “hung” and letting the “ng” continue like a buzzy hum. You should notice no sound coming out the mouth…..only a hum in behind your nose and soft palate area. You may feel it at the back of your upper throat and even in the top of your head… should not feel this hum deep in your throat or on your bottom teeth. If you do, then lighten up your “ng”.

Now “siren” this sound through your first passagio without flipping. It’s good to siren both ways….starting on the bottom and going up, as well as starting on the top and sirening down. Men, I would start with A below middle C and siren up to at least A above middle C (without flipping). Ladies, I would siren from middle C to F above high C.

If you feel you are not “mixing” (in other words, it feels and sounds like there is no chest voice in your mix), then start on a lower note, and start from the bottom going up first to establish a good mix.

You may find you need to lower your volume in order to maintain good closure on your high notes, and to stop you from flipping. This is why you need to “feel” your hum.

One more thing…..the larynx will move when you do these sirens….it has to move!! It is going to move up and tilt forward!!

Put your finger on the larynx as you do the sirens. Allow a “whiney-sob” feeling. This will help the larynx tilt as you ascend in pitch.

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions below!



Singsong-like speech

Do you know what is meant by the term sing-song-like voice? You know, the talking voice that flows up and down in pitch throughout each sentence. Great speakers and presenters usually have this, and so do actors. The freedom of a sing-song-like speaking voice is usually prominent in people who are confident and interesting and/or happy. They are easy to listen to because their speaking voice changes pitch and inflections on every word.

Practising a sing-song-like speaking voice is a great step to finding your mix. Singing in a mix requires the freedom to “let go” of your default pitch for speaking.

So, grab a book and start reading. Pretend you are telling a fabulous story to a group of children, and in the story there are many different animals with different sounds. Some of the animal sounds are louder than others. Some of the animals are small and cute, while others are big and bold. Try to reflect this speech to the back of the room in a “free” and “continous” feeling. For fun, try and draw out the last word in every sentence on whatever pitch it lands on.

Simply float your speech on a steady stream of breath while  moving your pitch up and down. As you get comfortable with this, move your pitch even higher to your bridge area. Do not flip. Engage your body with the energy that is necessary to maintain this without getting louder.

This is a great exercise for vocal awareness.

Broadway singers must demonstrate belt

I’ve said before what a tough job it is for female Broadway singers these days. Most casting directors are requiring singers to demonstrate a belt, as well as show a nicely mixed legit voice. Not many auditions require a legit soprano voice anymore. Instead, they are looking for a legit voice that can sing from the bottom up without a break in the middle….a strong chest voice with a mix that can ascend into a belt without flipping.

Where are you going to find your voice teacher?

As I have said many times before…I’m glad I didn’t take voice lessons as a teenager!

Why? Because I would have gone to the old lady down the street who directs the church choir….that’s why! There were no other options where I grew up.

And watch out. There are still many more choir-like teachers in your city than teachers of what-I-like-to-call 21st Century Singing teachers.

So, where should you take voice lessons?

First, you need to do your research. Watch out for university trained classical singing teachers if you want to sing R&B or country or pop or rock. This is not an ideal situation. Now that being said, there are some classically trained teachers who do understand a commercially viable sound in chest voice and mix…….but I believe they are few and far between.

Remember, your goal isn’t to blend in with all the other singers……….your goal is to stand out among the other singers!

Adele’s new voice – Skyfall

If you are working on your chest voice so you can sing more Adele songs, you may be able to access your mix more easily in her latest song Skyfall.

Most of this song is under the first bridge (as are the others). But most importantly, there is no chorus repeatedly using thick folds through the first bridge, like she did in Rolling In the Deep, and others.

Instead, Adele is playing it safe (and so she should so soon after surgery).

The word “tall” in the chorus of Skyfall is a very light mix….she’s definitely holding back here. This part of the chorus could have been bigger. Instead she is using thinner cords with no pushing whatsoever. A beautiful blend.

The first time we hear any belting whatsoever is at the word “heart” at 2:29.

Listen to the “cry” in her voice at 3:43 on the word “stand”. Note her head register in the mix at 4:13 on “let the sky fall”.

The build does start to happen at 4:24 to 4:30. She has saved her chest voice for 4:24 to 4:30. This is the only part in the song where she carries her chest voice up through the bridge with very thick folds and a lot of air pressure. At 4:436 she releases into her head voice for a beautiful exit to her phrase.

Singers, lots to learn here from Adele’s singing……….listen to it again…….and notice.

Comments? Questions? Please leave them here.

Focusing on sounds……not singing

Have you found your mix? Ladies who can siren or sing from middle C up to high C without strain or flipping….you are mixing. Men, if you can “mum, mum, mum”  (from the bottom up) from F# below middle C up to F# above middle C…you are mixing.

Now let’s work the mix!! Let’s get that thyroid cartilage tilting and your aryepiglottic sphincter narrowing! Let’s get control and variation in that mix.

The “nay, nay, nay” exercise (always from bottom up), will help you narrow the sphincter (tube). This is not intended to sound pretty.  It will be whiny, brassy, and annoying! The more annoying the better! Make sure you work this through the bridge….using the note range above. If the sound is breathy, then decrease your volume and work the “sound”.

The thyroid cartilage rotates when you do the puppy dog whimper. Try to think of a sob or crying (in your high voice) as you do this sound. This helps to get the cords to close.  This is a sweet sound. Think the vowel “oo” as in “cool” underneath the whimper.

Now….if you can join the “nasty” with the “sweet,” you have got a great thing going. Remember, you need to practise at the same volume on the bottom notes as the top notes.

BEWARE, if your larynx is “choking” you. These sounds should be made with a neutral larynx… other words, at the same height that you use when you speak.

When doing this coordination correctly, it may appear as though you are singing with thicker cords (chest voice). In fact, you are stretching and thinning the cords as you ascend in pitch. Current research suggests the cords may actually stay closed longer when vibrating, thereby giving the illusion of a “thicker” sound.

Comments? Questions?  Please leave them below.




An easy way to find your mix is when you moan.  Yes, really exaggerate that whiny moan. Notice this makes you sing less loud……….that’s a good thing.

Can you get through your bridge now? Did it make those high notes feel easier? It should because you are tilting your thyroid cartilage.

If it’s not helping much, then take the volume even lower and engage the muscles in the upper part of your abdomen. Do not flip into falcetto. Control that feeling without tensing your throat……….voila, MIX!!