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.

The rock singer’s voice

Singing rock music is extreme. If you are going to do it, you had better do it well. This means you need to be fully aware of what is going on inside your throat and body.

If your goal is to sound a certain way, or to sound like somebody else, then you may very well be in trouble. Most rock singers you admire have been singing for years and years and years. That’s why we love their voices. They have that vintage-sounding tone even in their speaking voice. Check your speaking voice; do you have a brassy component left over from years of blowing hard through your vocal cords. Probably not. And most teachers would say, that’s a good thing!

Singing extreme music like rock will require you to challenge yourself to be extreme. Are you sure you are ready? Are all your ducks lined up? The key here is being extreme in all the right places.

1. Do you have one continuous, seamless voice from the bottom of your range to the top of your range? (mixing)
2. Are you are total control of your increases and decreases in volume? Can you go from loud to soft back to loud in one long breath? (cord closure)
3. Can you do all the sounds I’ve listed in some of my posts? (ie hung-gee, the sirens, nay, nay, nay) (resonance)

If the previous exercises bog you down, then you are not ready for more. These need to be as easy as speaking.

Next step: Go out and do it! That’s right. Go get a gig and do it for free. Sing, sing, sing, and then go sing some more. Follow all the guidelines about warm-ups and cool-downs, but sing everyday, as long as you can. Pay attention, be careful. Get in tune with your voice and body.

When you can sing for 4 hours continuously without going hoarse, you are ready to step up your game.

Any comments or questions. Please leave them here.

Rock singing and Twang

This is a match made in heaven.

If you have twang in your speaking voice, hooray for you! Check for this: Can you imitate cartoon or comedy characters in your high/mixed voice? (This cannot be breathy). It should be loud and whiney with a brassy, bright sound. Can you make a nasty, witchy sound, or nyae-ae-ae like a horse (make it usually whiney). Now, check yourself. Did this happen effortlessly in your mixed voice, or are you trying really hard and getting stuck in your chest voice? Trying too hard will only get you in trouble. You must practise this the correct way and build from there. This is the nay-nay-nay exercises in SLS.

Twang is a great quality to have for any genre of singing. It means you have a tilted cartilage and are able to narrow your Aryepiglottic Sphincter. I know, it’s a big word….but it’s important! The physiology is very complex within the larynx. Just know that the ability to narrow the AES is key to “the illusion of power” in rock singing.

Twang is easier to produce in higher frequencies than it is in lower frequencies. The sensation of making twang originates high up in the back of the throat. Rock singers who can twang usually have no issues with bridging or “mixing”. Just think Steven Tyler, Ken Tamplin, Jamie Vendera or Robert Lunte; these singers all have great twang.

How did they get such great twang?

1. Great breath control.
2. Great bridging.
3. Great cord closure.
3. Optimum effort in all the correct places.
4. No fear.

Questions? Comments? I look forward to you leaving them here.

Good singing is when you have control

While I was studying SLS I had some interesting experiences while actually singing songs.

Before I explain, let me say that mixed voice and balancing the voice is the best way to gain control over your abilities to do other coordinations. It’s your baseline. It’s the place where you return when you get out of whack. (And, by the way, you can access these great scales at Vocalize U. These scales are an octave and a half and if you can get through the scales comfortably, then you are indeed mixing!)

Speech level singing lessons are great for training sound and safe voice technique, but they leave the artist out of the equation.

My experience was when I was singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow in the key of C. The first two notes are low C to high C. You go through your first passagio at about A (ladies). My coach wanted to change my mix at high C. He wanted a headier sound on high C. I was quickly able to change it for him, but it was at that moment that I realized there must be more.

And indeed, there is.


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?

Speech Level Singing versus Estill Voice Technique

One of my goals is to share with you the similarities and differences with Speech Level Singing and Estill Voice Technique.

They are both great voice methods, and there is something to be learned from both. In its’ simplest form, SLS is one recipe among the many Estill Voice Technique possibilities.

I love SLS because it balances the voice, which I think is an important element of good singing. What I don’t like about SLS is that it doesn’t allow the commercial singer to learn how to belt or to have more “chest” in the mix. My SLS lessons strengthened the overall balance of both my registers…chest voice and head voice. But, my coach continually had me cutting back on my chest voice in my mix (near high C for instance). I could do this at his request, but it left me wondering where is the “me” in my voice. I needed to “belt” out my high C’s (and I’m in a mix!) when I wanted. I really felt the SLS method let the performer in me “down”.

With Estill voice training, you learn voice qualities….speech, sob, twang, opera, belt, and falcetto. SLS talks about a “neutral” larynx, while Estill recognizes that the larynx moves up and down and tilts according to the sound you want to make.

This is an important point. The larynx can tilt and move up and down safely, depending on the sound you wish to make. SLS leads to confusion about the larynx when they draw so much attention to it remaining “neutral”. The larynx cannot remain neutral in rock singing or musical theatre where the singers needs to give a belt sound (*note: I am not referring to the Estill version of belt here). These sounds can be done with freedom and good technique, but the larynx is slightly raised. Note: that if the larynx is too high, you will not be able to transition well into head voice, therefore, you cannot mix.

But, singers beware. Belting correctly is not easy to do, however, it is possible!  Lea Michele (musical theatre), Steven Tyler (rock), and Carrie Underwood (country). All these singers have something in common. They are balanced, and they are able to take their singing voice to the extreme …. called belting.

Belting well simply means a singer is using relatively thick folds, possibly has a sob quality in their voice, and their tongue may be slightly raised (this may alter the vowel sound). Belting requires optimal breath control. In other words, the ability to control the release of breath under great pressure while resonating in both the head voice and chest voice with thick folds. Belting is indeed a great “talent”.

Questions? Comments? Please leave them here.

Position of the larynx

Speech Level Singing has been given a bit of a bad rap when it comes to the position of the larynx. Let’s review.

First of all, our larynx has a default position when we speak. Everyone is different. My larynx rises ever-so-slightly when I speak. I just happen to have a slightly “twangy” speaking voice.  I can speak (and sing) with my larynx lower, but that is not my “default” position or my most-natural position.

Some people incorrectly think that Speech Level Singing demands a “low” larynx. This is not the case. SLS simply achieves a larynx that is “neutral” when singing….in other words not too high, and not too low.

I think this is a great way to train the voice. Good singing starts with balance. Balance is the ability to sing your entire range with a relatively neutral larynx.

Then comes style and your signature sound. And, yes, your larynx will rise a little when you belt.





And so my journey continues…..

So, why do I write a blog? I write a blog to help singers everywhere learn as much as possible about their own voice. As most of you know, I have studied SLS for the last few years, and prior to that had many years of training with Bel Canto technique. I have recently attended an Estill Voice Technique Workshop and have had a fabulous time exploring my voice and understanding the many coordinations I was able to do! I look forward to sharing with you loads of useful tips that can be added to your “toolbox”.

What do SLS and EVT have in common? A few things, but the lingo is certainly different.  How do they differ? Well, the easiest way for me to describe the difference is that SLS is one of the many, many “recipes” that Estill can teach a student to do. Another difference is in the way the “recipe” is taught.

I will dive into more of these differences with some upcoming posts so stay tuned!




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.