Institute for Vocal Advancement

If you haven’t heard about the Institute for Vocal Advancement, then check out their website here

This organization is run by a group of fine teachers, mostly of whom are previous master teachers from the Speech Level Singing organization run by Seth Riggs.

I believe this organization has much to offer both students and teachers.  It is the same sound instruction that SLS offers by a group dedicated to staying in touch with the latest developments in vocal science.

I have quoted a section about technique from their website below. It is well said, and explains to singers exactly why we need to exercise our voice regularly and correctly.

Why is Technique So Important:  Singers don’t have frets like guitar players, or keys like piano players.  We don’t have a volume knob. In order for us singers to change pitch and volume we have to rely on finding and maintaining vocal balance. Problems start when that balance goes out of whack.  Unbalanced vocal qualities like singing too airy, too husky, too tight, too squeezed, or too pushed, can contribute to throwing your voice out of balance.

Pharyngeal “throat” sounds

What I like about both SLS and Estille voice technique is that it takes the emphasis off of breathing as the front line for good singing technique, and it lets the singer focus on other co-ordinations first, that are just as important as breath control. There are other coaches that also do this: Ken Tamplin, Robert Lunte  (The IV Pillars), Roger Love, Singing Success (Brett Manning), Eric Arseneaux and Kevin Richards (Rock the Stage).

Focusing on cord closure, pharyngeal resonance, keeping the larynx stable, and yes, breath control, can instinctively get the singer to coordinate and sing better.

Let’s talk about the back of the throat. This spot above the vocal cords is a mysterious area of the vocal tract. We know that the ability to make certain sounds gets the larynx to tilt, (which in turn stretches and thins the cords), which then can help with efficient breath control, and allow for pharyngeal resonance (twang). Twang is an important coordination for genres like rock, pop, country, and any extreme kind of singing you may want to do.

Twang is a word originating from Estill Voice Technique. I think it is a term all singers should be familiar with. Robert Lunte uses this term it in his program The Four Pillars.

The ability to twang (make pharyngeal sounds) is important because the fundamental frequency creates harmonics (overtones) that are perceived as volume and brightness to the listener. Now, I am not going to even pretend to explain the science behind this coordination. It is your job as a singer to “feel” for these harmonics.  Yes, you CAN feel these harmonics as they resonate, echo and buzz through your head.

One of the best sounds for twanging is a duck quack. But remember, as you get higher you must quack with thinner cords (your head voice). This can be challenging but that is the point! Can you quack like a duck in your head voice?

p.s. without getting louder than you quack in your chest voice?

Singers, you have a choice!

Times have changed, and they are going to continue to change for singers. This is a great thing! Singers now have a choice!

Gone are the days when there was one, and only one, way to train the voice. There was traditional voice training, and there was traditional voice training! You could go to university and develop a beautifully resonant head voice that soared through arias. Or, you could go to a private teacher, who either learned the same way, or taught what worked for them.

Traditional voice training was developed for traditional European music (where a singer had to be heard at the back of the concert hall with no microphone), but this type of projection was not what rock’n rollers and contemporary singers needed to help them sing better. Most traditional voice teachers considered these modern types of singing (which was predominantly a thick fold/chest voice coordination) wrong and damaging to the voice.

We now know this isn’t the case. Certainly there are limits to what the voice can do (in any coordination), but making unique and different sounds other than traditional classical, choir-like sounds is not always damaging to the vocal cords.

Seth Riggs was a pioneer in developing a vocal technique that strengthened the bridges in the voice and encouraged transitioning through the registers. No more vocal breaks. Hallelujah! This technique balanced the singer’s voice so they could sing whatever genre of music they wished.

Some teachers are now helping singers who want to make even more extreme sounds. Resonance and bridging is fundamental in these music genres to ensure the singer maintains a healthy larynx.

Singers, what do you think? Have you found freedom and balance in your voice, while at the same time you’re able to make sounds you are happy with?

OK, let’s cut to the chase

Please remember, I’m here to help you….yes, help you so you don’t take years off your career, like I did, just to figure out what you want from your voice.

If you are not interested in singing classical music, then don’t go to a classical voice teacher!! Period. You have options! If you want to sing Broadway, be careful about what voice teacher you choose.

When I was pursuing my dreams as a singer, I didn’t see my options. I knew I was struggling with my voice on the weekend with my band. I was yelling. I was hoarse. And then, on Sunday mornings I would use “this other voice” to sing songs in church. It was bizarre. I knew my voice was “disjointed” ‘but I didn’t know why, and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it on my own.

After taking voice at university, I had gained superb breath control, but still hadn’t figured out the voice I wanted. I felt like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I was with Dr. Jekyll on Saturday nights, and Mr. Hyde on Sunday mornings. It was not a great feeling. I knew something was wrong.

Then I learned about the mixed voice! Yes, the middle voice! Ladies and gentlemen, this is the ticket! No more flipping; no more yelling, no more breathy high notes. Finally, the answer I was looking for. Thank you Seth Riggs!

This is the answer for you as well! Don’t waste time like I did. Cut straight to the chase. Figure out your middle voice and voila….you can sing anything you want to and be proud of it!

Why I Admire Seth Riggs

Seth Riggs, the man behind the incredible singing technique called Speech Level Singing. Many great singing coaches have learned from his early teachings. Teachers such as Brett Manning (Singing Success), Roger Love  (The Perfect Voice), and Roger Burnley (Singing Made Simple) have gone on to create fabulous singing programs in their own right.

What makes this man so incredible is that he realized that many trained singers had a consistent and ongoing problem negotiating the middle of their voice. He realized most trained singers had only a head voice coordination when singing notes below their first passagio, and singers on Broadway would typically “flip” into their chest voice to get their speech-like belt, and end up yelling out the high notes, until they needed to flip back to their head voice coordination to continue on higher pitches.

He also realized that many untrained voices did the exact opposite. These singers would typically sing with a chest voice coordination only, and they usually ended up yelling and splatting on their high notes.

So hooray for Seth Riggs! This man has created a system of scales and awareness that strengthens the middle voice. This is called mixing!

Easiest job in the world?

I remember my friends saying “Wow, you have the easiest job in the world, singing!” I would think to myself, you’ve got to be kidding. They had no idea the physical effort I was enduring to keep my voice balanced and controlled, and sounding the way it did ever minute of my performance.

Sure, singing isn’t rocket science, but singing well for long periods of time is a balancing act of coordination between body, air flow and the vocal cords. If one of these is out of sync, then something has to give. Usually it’s the throat!

Ladies, I’ve been there!

While growing up in my small town, I always sang in the church choir. And, there was the school choir as well. I was considered an alto because I couldn’t reach notes as high as some of the other girls.

When I was 12, I think, my favourite artist was Olivia Newton-John. If any of you remember her when she had hits on the radio in the 70’s then you can likely guess how old I am!  Other favourites at the time were Helen Reddy and Anne Murray. I also loved The Captain and Tenille and Linda Ronstadt. Oh, and how can I forget The Carpenters! Oh yes, they were my absolute favourite!

So, during the day I was a choir singer and at night I was a pop singer! It didn’t take me long to start noticing that I was singing two different ways with two different voices! I went on doing this for years!

I joined a band when I was 16 and we toured around the towns in my local province. At times I would have trouble hitting the high notes the way I wanted to, and sometimes it would be so difficult that I would go hoarse, or actually lose my voice, by the end of the night.

This never happened when I was using my “other” voice. You know, the voice I saved for Sunday and the school choir.

In my 20’s and 30’s I took loads of singing lessons from a variety of teachers. I went on to achieve my Western Conservatory grades. You know, the songs where you sing in every language but your own. I was still rocking out on the weekends with my band. It was a bizzare thing to be singing with two different voices in the same day. I still hadn’t found my true voice.

It wasn’t until I was almost 40 when I ordered an online singing product written by Seth Riggs. OMG, is all I can say! I did these exercises every day and my voice blossomed. No longer did I have two voices but one voice that extended from the bottom of my range to the top of my range. And guess what? My bottom note extended down to E below middle C, and my top note extended to C above high C! I had never before even made a noise on these notes!

The rest is history. I have continued to study and train my voice, as well as helped 100’s of students here in my studio.

I’m in the process of putting singing exercises online at Keep an eye there for useful exercises that will help your voice gain strength, endurance and power. Please let me know if you have any questions! Susan

Let’s be clear what SLS is and what it is not

I’ve been a huge fan of Speech Level Singing for over ten years, and continue to be. I’ve studied with some of the best SLS teachers in the world, and I use SLS exercises continuously in my studio. I think the method is superb and was even certified for two years. I vocalize with the SLS technique daily.

What SLS is: A fabulous vocal training method to keep the vocal folds in tip top shape. This can allow you to sing any genre you wish.

What SLS is not: A vocal training system that teaches you how to sing any genre you want in a safe, effective way.

The problem with SLS is that it doesn’t help singers build their signature sound. It is a fabulous way to keep the voice in shape, but it doesn’t allow the singer to learn how to make sounds that are specific to their genre.  For example I like to sing country, pop and rock. There is no way I am going to sing a high C in a song the same way I sing high C when I vocalize. My preference is to use more chest voice “in my mix” and keep the resonance near the front of my face to achieve the sound that I want. I even prefer to allow my larynx to rise a little and tilt. This gets me the sound I like in a safe and effective way. Lots of twang and great breath control.

I think SLS could take the next step in helping the artist develop their signature sound in a healthy way. I believe Brett Manning’s organization is much better suited to a variety of vocal sounds than is the Seth Riggs Organization. Brett is getting loads of country singers in Nashville so you can bet he is helping them achieve the sound they want in a safe, effective way. Seth Riggs, on the other hand, is a pure and very specific vocal training system to teach singers how to sing from the bottom to the top of their range in a balanced way. This is a fabulous thing, but I think some students may be confused about what the voice can and cannot do in terms of making healthy sounds that suit their specific genre.

If you are a rock singer and have been vocalizing with the SLS method for some time, consider this? Are you happy with your high notes? Are you able to get the sound you really want without straining? If not, then the next step is looking at safe ways to make those specific sounds. I  believe some SLS studios can do this, if they understand what you want. Communication with your coach is definitely key here. If your current teacher isn’t equipped to help you with these sounds, then you may need to consider other coaches. There are ways to build your chest voice higher in your mix in a perfectly safe way. And, I’m not talking about belting. That is a very different way of singing.

SLS will always be a fabulous singing method. But singers need to be clear about what it is, and what it is not.

The mixed voice

I’ve talked about the “mixed voice” and how to find your “mixed voice” before. This is a term created by Maestro Seth Riggs in his Speech Level Singing method years ago. It is also used by Brett Manning, Roger Love, Dave Brooks, and countless other top-quality singing coaches from around the world.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding this term in the singing community. Some singing teachers from around the world cringe when they hear the term “mixed voice”. I believe this stems from the fact that we physically do not actually have a “mixed voice,” and the fact that many singers do not actually know what it is, what it should feel like, or how to get it.

However, I believe all singing teachers will agree that we do have a chest register (or chest voice as referred to by SLS), and a head register (head voice as referred to by SLS). These are two terms that have been around for hundreds of years, and are commonplace in a singer’s vocabulary.

I tell my students that a mixed voice is simply the ability of a singer to ascend or descend in pitch between their chest register and their head register without constriction, and with the appropriate balance of both registers. Every singer knows about those whacky areas of their voice where singing gets a little tricker. This area, called the bridge or passagio, is where the larnyx and the body need to make careful adjustments in order to sing higher without constriction. In SLS, coaches do this with carefully selected scale combinations of vowel (resonance), consonant (cord closure), and volume (air flow).

I, frankly, like the term mixed voice for myself and for my students. For myself, it is a balanced sensation (or state) that I exercise daily with scales to keep my voice healthy, strong, and flexible. I don’t use the same blend of mixed voice when I perform because I prefer to sing harder at my gigs. That is a choice I make. I am self aware of my vocal limitations, and trust me, we all have them!

Do you have questions or comments. Please leave them below! Thanks.

Belting….is it safe?

Well, that’s a good question. It is…..and it isn’t!

The voice is a fragile instrument, however it can hold up to elements of abuse at times. If you think of your vocal cords as the movements of a dancer, you can visualize the motion and flexibility that is required for good singing.

A good dancer makes movements look so easy and graceful. They can move their muscles in a sustained flow that allows challenging moves to happen without harm. They are trained and conditioned to do this.

Singing is simply the dance. Without the conditioning and training, the cords get “banged up” and abused. The cords can handle this intermittently. Just like a bruise on your body will heal, so will your voice. But repeated movements, without the conditioning and effort of the correct muscles throughout the entire body, will inevitably hurt the singer.

Knowledge is your best friend. Learn how to condition your voice. It’s your instrument of choice. Just like a piano player practises scales, the singer must “practise” as well.