The Breathy Voice

Many singers are told and believe a breathy voice is harmful. This isn’t necessarily true.

Bottom line, too much of any one thing can be harmful. But having the control over a breathy voice can be a great thing. You need lots of breath to belt and to sing long phrases. The key is the ability to allow that breath to pass through the vocal cords in a controlled manner.

Singers who “pull chest” quite often are not allowing enough air too pass through the cords as they ascend in pitch. In other words, they may squeeze the cords to stop the air creating over-compression. These singers tend to get louder as they sing higher.

Next time you are singing the chorus of your song, try to add a little more air. If you “flip” into falcetto, it could mean you need to work on the control of adding more breath. Try to sing with less volume.  Involve your chest and abdomen in the physical control needed to control your breath. Try and find that balance where you feel the same freedom at the bottom of your range as you do at the top.

Questions? Why not drop me a line. Susie


Best “Ah-ha” moment

One of the best “ah-ha” moments about my voice came to me the summer I had a quaint little gig in the bar area of a classy restaurant. It was a quiet room that only sat about 6 people at the bar, and had six tables in a room approximately 20′ X 20′.

I had a small speaker system that was a perfect set-up for me and my digital piano. Now, the point I’m making here is how I learned to sing better that summer.

Prior to this, I always sang in bands. Loud bands. Big bands.

This experience was revolutionary for me.

You could hear a pin drop at times. My job was to entertaining the romantic couples who were waiting for their table, or who came in after dinner for a dance or two before going home. My job was to sing my heart out without being annoying loud.

Have you ever tried to sing/belt your heart out to a Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, or Kelly Clarkson tune, without being too loud? It’s an interesting combination, and one that is the key to your success as a strong singer.

I must say I did this well, and got better at it week after week.

The effort came from deep within. Almost deep within my soul, if that makes any sense. I had to take in huge breaths to build enough pressure to create the illusion of singing loud and belting. With careful play on the microphone, I was able to add emotional intimacy to my voice on the verses (usually the lowest pitches of a song), and then build intense dynamic power by increasing the strength and breath pressure in my body for the choruses.

Yes, the choruses were a bit louder, and I would simply back of the mic just enough to create that build up of intensity that matched the intensity of singing close to the microphone in the verse.

Does any of this make sense to you?

Questions? Comments? Please let me know below.


The benefits of amplified acoutics on your voice

Have you ever noticed how nice your voice sounds in the shower? Do you not agree the shower is the absolute best place to listen to yourself sing!

There are a few good reasons for this. First, the steam from a hot shower is a healthy treat for your voice box. Second, you are usually showering alone (notice I said usually), and nothing helps you relax more than when you’re singing and no one is listening!

Third is the benefit of a reflective acoustical space created by the hard surfaces present in most bathrooms (mirrors, tile floors, and no carpet!) The reverbant sound of your voice feeds your mind with a lush, velvety smooth sense of one’s own voice.  Now if only you could amplify that! (And yes, you can!)

My experience has always been that when I’m singing with amplification and some reverb added, I am really able to enjoy listening to myself. It fills me with a sense of being in a much bigger place with a much bigger voice……and who doesn’t want a bigger voice?!

This scenerio is likely to lessen the urge to sing too loud and push too much air through your vocal cords. Listening to yourself in an enjoyable way helps you relax and “feel” your instrument. Ultimately that is what good singing is…..the ability to feel how good you can sound! What do you think? Do you sound good in the shower?

Let’s talk Justin Bieber’s voice

I can’t diss this young man. After all, he grew up in my province of Ontario!

My concern is the care and development of his voice, now that his voice is changing. I heard him on The Voice recently, and I wasn’t all that impressed. The middle voice didn’t sound “easy” and effortless, and he was reaching for his high notes.

I do believe he has the potential, but I’m not sure that he is getting the vocal support he needs at this stage in his career. He needs to be vocalizing everyday through his entire register. Otherwise, vocally he will be out of shape, and he will suffer by having to reach and strain for his high notes…in other words… his larynx will rise. If his larynx is rising then he will likely face troubles such as hoarseness and laryngitis.  In the studio, miracles can be done… that doesn’t count. He will sound great in the studio. Live performance is the only indicator that will tell us whether Bieber is mixing well enough when he sings.

Time will tell……….

Singing technique for children

Children deserve the right to explore and learn about their voice just as much as teens and adults. Don’t you wish you had more direction with your voice when you were a child? I know I do. Children learn to speak by mimicing what they hear, and children can learn to sing by mimicing what they hear as well. However, listening to commercial/contemporary music is not the answer. In fact, this is what causes many young singers to run into poor singing habits.

How we sing can be a direct result of how we speak. Vocal habits (good and bad) are developed early in childhood, and can be carried on throughout a lifetime. Many factors influence the speaking habits of children, such as coping with asthma, allergies and reflux; genetic factors such as the shape and size of the vocal structure including the mouth, throat and jaw; social components such as whether a child lives in a busy and loud household; and what about the child who attends sports events and has developed the habit of shouting and yelling.

Parents need to be made aware. A child’s voice is an instrument they will have for a lifetime. If managed properly from an early age, it will grow and develop into a beautiful, healthy instrument.

In my studio, children are encouraged to sing from a very young age. We make high sounds and low sounds, loud sounds and soft sounds. We learn to hoot like an owl, and meow like a cat. All these coordinations are useful in learning to sing.

Small group settings work well, and are especially fun when incorporated with actions for the very young. It’s important to not make practising sounds a serious task. Most children will simply copy what you suggest and have fun doing it. If this is repeated regularly, their small voices with memorize these coordinations and easily repeat back on task. Pitch is then usually mastered if sounds are encouraged in a consistent way in the same part of the voice every time.

Taking It Easy….

OK, so I haven’t literally “been on the road” with a band. Most nights I was actually able to crawl into my own bed around 3 or 4 am. I had worked tirelessly for years at three and four-night weekend gigs, most of them requiring significant travelling before and after…anywhere from 1/2 hour to two hours each way. When I was younger I didn’t think about how taxing this lifestyle was on my body. I was having fun….doing what I love. I had the best job in the world.

However, as the years went by I began to notice the effects these gigs were having on my voice. I was growing more aware of the trouble I was having singing my “big” songs at the end of the night, and I noticed my throat was often sore. When I had a cold I would sing anyway, and almost welcome the hoarseness because it gave me a husky sound that I couldn’t otherwise accomplish. I would wake up in the morning with severe broken-up sound quality due to “pushing” through the hoarseness the previous night.

It took almost ten years to realize that my voice had gone downhill. Songs that once came easy with “big” notes were now a constant concern as to whether I could “push” them out.

My life changed when I started studying my voice…..and got a nice “little” house gig in a lounge. These two changes complimented each other nicely. My voice has since grown “bigger” than it ever was.

There is no more ideal way to learn how to sing better than to simply know about your instrument…how it works, how to take care of it, and how to exercise it so it will last you a lifetime!


I’m not a big fan of commercial radio…..

You are not going to hear the best singers in the world on commercial radio. Oh, don’t get me wrong…there are loads of great singers making a living on commercial radio….but there are loads of mediocre singers making a fortune. It really is sad how the industry has progressed.

My concern is for the young and ill-informed singers of the future. Where are they going to hear great singing to learn and copy from?

There are great singers all over the world who work hard everyday at their craft. These singers will never sing on commercial radio. They may never make a living with their beautiful instrument.

I encourage all singers to explore and expand their thoughts about what makes a great singer. Go to coffee house, theatre productions, local concerts of all genres and styles of music. If you only listen to the radio, you are missing a world full of great singing.

And more importantly, learn from the variety of voices available. Recognize that your voice is as unique as theirs is. Explore many styles.

In the end, be yourself….be your own voice….be your authentic self. That’s great singing.

Do you know your chest voice from your head voice?

Hi everyone,

I watched the American Music Awards last night. Very entertaining but I tend to over-analyze the singers’ voices instead of just enjoying the show.

I can’t help but wonder if some of these singers know the difference between their head voice and their chest voice. I have a hard time listening to singers who don’t mix their head voice (high voice) well with their chest voice. There is no doubt that the chest voice is what is predominant in all these singers, but some know how to mix much better than others.  On the other hand, fans have fallen in love with Christine Aguilera’s shouty chest belt, so why would she bother to try and sing “better”?

Now, let’s define what “better” means to me. And to do this we need to make sure that everyone understands the difference between their head voice and their chest voice.

Your chest voice is the voice closest to your speaking voice. If you sing near the pitch that you talk and put your hand on your chest, you will notice that it vibrates. The resonance is mostly coming out your mouth. The “resonance” is the sound that we hear after our breath goes through the vocal cords, and reflects off bone, teeth, sinuses and soft tissue. As you start to sing higher, the resonance should shift from you mouth to higher up in your head. It actually splits and feels like it is going through the top of your head, as well as out your eyes, nose and mouth (the front of your face). This is a sensation that not all singers are familiar with.

Instead, a lot of singers will not “allow” the voice to shift gears into this split resonance, and instead they try and keep that “beefy” sound that they can create in their chest voice. This is the average singers interpretation of “power”. What they don’t realize is that it is definitely not the best way to get power out of the voice, and frankly, I think it’s very unpleasant to listen to.

To find your head voice, one just has to do a light sigh on a pitch above their “passagio”. The passagio is the “break” or “bridge” between the chest voice and the head voice. For men this is around E flat to G (above middle C), and for women the bridge is around A flat to C (above middle C).

MIXED VOICE: Of course, no one wants to sing just in their head voice….well, unless you are an operatic soprano or one of the Bee Gees. However, it is important to be able to sing in your head voice….to become familiar with it. Without your head voice, you cannot sing “in the mix” and mix is where it all happens. The mix is a wonderful blend of both the chest voice and head voice. Some singers find this naturally, and others struggle endlessly. Without a good mix, singers will fatigue quickly and struggle with pitch and consistency. Without a strong mix a singer is always missing a part of their voice.

Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments. I will try and blog more about “the mix” next time. Susan

I Just Want to Sing Better!

There are many reasons why the voice may not do what you want it to. Today lets talk about vocal strain! This is probably the most common reason singers have trouble. Quite often the strain is caused by the muscles in the throat tightening up when the singer goes for higher notes. How do you know if these muscles around the larynx are tightening inappropriately when you sing? Does your larynx rise up when you try to sing a high note?

Sometimes the only way to know is by having a professional watch and listen to you sing.  With the help of a  good vocal coach you can learn the best way to sing through your entire range and get the sound you want.  When your voice is exercised properly and regularly (yes, just like going to the gym), then singing becomes as free as talking………and that’s the way it should feel.