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Head voice creating problems for aspiring star.

Q61. Since i was very little i have wanted to sing! i go to singing lessons and i practise regually. my question for you is how can i hit the high notes with out going into my head voice? your help will be much appreciated!!! thanks.

E.B Victoria, Australia

Imagine driving around in a beautiful Rolls Royce car. Now imagine that you could only use first gear to drive anywhere. It would be pretty bad wouldn't it? But this is equivalent to a singer who only wants to use chest voice. The larynx or voice box is designed perfectly - like the gear box on a car - to allow us to sing within a range of two, three or even four octaves. And just as you could never reach 100km per hour in first gear in the Rolls Royce, you could also never reach top C using chest voice.

With the huge number of 'singing competitions' now on TV, it's easy to recognize singers that have learned incorrect vocal technique. As they sing higher their voices sound more and more strained. Then when they finally flip registers, their high notes are weak and breathy. In many cases their high notes are non existant. In one instance I even recall a contestant developing singers' nodules.

When the voice is trained with the larynx in a low or yawning position, and the breath is not forced, then the vocal registers will take care of themselves. This is healthy singing. The two opposing sets of muscles that control pitch are the Arytenoids and the Cricothyroids. On low notes 'chest voice' the arytenoids are more active, while higher notes 'head voice' rely more on cricothyroid activity. When you reach the 'register break' or passagio these muscles engage in a 'tug of war'.

To smooth out the passaggio try vocalising on the 'u' vowel as in the word 'put'. You'll find it very difficult to know when the register change has occurred. It will usually take some time to smooth out the register change completely. Which brings me to my next point. There are no registers in the singing voice when it is correctly produced. Listen to a really good singer. Their 'gear' or register changes will be impossible to notice, just as the gear changes in that Rolls Royce.

Audition worries.

Q60. have a really really important audition for Eponine in Les Miserables. I have to sing On My Own and it is really hard to 'make the song my own.' By this I mean, sing the song in my own style. I know that this is a really hard thing to do, and i would really appreciate it if you could help me. What else is there I can do to the song besides rhythmic changes and contrasts in emotions? I have to make all the words interesting filled with emotions and attitude. Secondly, I am also having difficulty with presenting the song. I do not know what to do with my hands and my face. Please help me asap. Many Thanks.

I'm overwhelmed by the number of singers who come to me, who've been told to stand still by their previous singing teachers. Some have even been told to stand as if their arms are glued to their side. Of course when these singers start performing on stage they look like they want to join the armed forces rather than be an entertainer!

VoicePower lessons integrate movement, emotions and characterisation as these elements of stage craft usually take as long to develop as vocal ability. Firstly start moving around when you sing, even when you sing your exercises. Try finding what movement helps to make the sound flow. Eventually you'll start to feel that the movement is actually helping create the sound in your body. You can also imagine that the sound is coming from your hands. Experiment with singing your exercises and songs using different emotions and notice what body language and facial expression is needed to convey the emotion. In regards to the song, what is your character trying to portray? What is the purpose of her communication? How young/old/poor/rich/beautiful/talented/fortunate is she?

Practise in front of a mirror and you'll begin to discover your destiny as a natural and exciting performer.

Student puzzles over voice training.

Q59. Dear Melissiah (I think I would even call you Messiah after finding your site and this great FAQ). I'm 19, male. I know nothing about singing (tones, range, keys, etc.) never sung before until this summer with friends for fun, but somehow, we started taking it seriously (we are separated by thousands of miles but we're managing: thank God for the Internet). I, as you might suppose am going to be the singer in... Progressive Death/Black Metal. Yes I am perfectly aware of all the damages that might occur. But during the songs I am not always going to sing raspy and harsh voices, so I hope I'll keep damages to a minimum.

Which brings me to this: what should I do if I want (I have to anyway) to start from scratch. I mean, how do I know what kind of voice I have, what type of training should I follow, etc. When I sing clear voices (as opposite to growling which I'm good at and improving), I really can't go high. I don't know if it has any relevance, but I can make myself heard at a great distance (is that what you call projection?) when shouting (clearly). And one last thing, I've found a book on the Internet that claims that it covers the voice in its entirety for singing purposes and can help anyone wanting to learn or improve his voice whatever the singing style (including growels). And if you don't answer this mail, I still thank you very much for all the support you're giving to the singing community.

Mr M.L Lancaster University UK

If you really want to learn singing, it's best to learn one-on-one with a teacher. If you really can't afford a teacher, have you thought about trying a set of instructional CDs? I've come across what I consider some good teaching products on the internet - the "Singing Success Program" by Bret Manning and for opera singers there's "An Introductory Lesson with David Jones". Dreamquest will also be releasing a set of training CDs later in the year so stay tuned.

Learning what kind of voice you have is a bit like exploring a thousand roomed palace full of treasures and monsters. The quest takes time, patience and courage. Eventually you'll discover that you can sing higher and you won't need to shout to project your voice. (I like to think of projecting as directing your voice inwards and finding all the resonators in your body.) Good luck on your journey.

Mystery cough bugs country music singer.

Q58. I'm a 19 year old girl and I sing country music. I have done for most of my life and I find that I have extensive trouble with continuous singing. It doesn't create vocal strain or a hoarse voice but I cough mid song. I do not smoke or drink or do anything that I can attribute such a cough to. It is basically a clearing of the throat as opposed to a hacking cough that usually smokers get. I also have a lump in my throat which my doctor reassures me is just my tonsils but I'm concerned that perhaps this could be part of my problem. I know you aren't a doctor but you've probably encountered situations such as mine before and I'm curious to know what your opinion is concerning my problem. Thankyou.

K.S. Perth, Australia

I've taught several singers in the past with enlarged tonsils and I've noticed that they also have a throat clearing problem. It may have something to do with the immune system working overtime and producing more mucus. Your problem may also be related to airborne particles and allergens such as pet hair, pet saliva (on the hair shed by pets), pollen, car fumes, dust mites and even wool or angora sweaters. Sometimes simple things like replacing feather pillows with latex or foam can make an enormous difference to the quality of breathing. As you come from Perth, which has a relatively dry climate, it might also help to leave a few bowls of water around the house to increase humidity.

An interesting and thought provoking concept of health and immune function can be found in the book "Eat Right For Your Type."

Singing Lessons vs Vocal Coaching

Q57. Just a question 4 melissah. ive just started singing lessons a couple months ago and so am not too sure as to wat to expect. the tutors method involves getting us to bring in music 4 to a song and getting us to sing along to it 4 the half hour duration of the lesson. is this method adequate or should i perhaps look 4 a new teacher.

M.O Sydney, Australia.

Working only on a song is fine if you're already a good singer, but a good teacher will train you with specific exercises designed to improve certain areas of your voice eg range, vocal tone, evenness, breath control, vibrato, etc.

If you'd like to look for a new teacher then you may want to leave your details on this site

Nasal Sound Blues.

Q56. Hi, I'm a 13 year-old girl who has never had singing lessons. I sang in a local choir for two months (I had to quit because of expense), and have been in my school's choir for two years. I am about to start taking lessons from my choir teacher, who was previously an opera singer and has been in a few broadway plays. Recently, she told me that I sing "nasally". From my research on the internet, everyone uses their nasal cavaties to sing, right? I am under the impression that singing "nasally" is always bad. I don't consider myself a great singer, but I know I'm not bad, either. How can I tell if I'm singing too nasally? Thanx.

Charlene, Sierra Vista USA

Everyone does use their nasal cavities to sing, but a nasally voice results when the tongue is too high in the mouth or the soft palate too low. A good singing teacher shouldn't just tell you that you sing nasally - she or he should also give you guidance to fix it!

To remove the nasal tone practice singing open vowels like 'Ah' or 'Oh' like you are yawning or pretending that your mouth is a big vacuum cleaner! Shine a torch into the back of your mouth when you're practising these vowels and you'll see the difference between a beautiful tone and a nasal one. If you can't see into the back of your mouth it also means your jaw needs to be relaxed and dropped a bit more. On the other hand singing nasally isn't always bad. Many RnB singers use a more nasal tone than pop or rock singers, as do native singers from France, India, Asia and the Middle East.

Child stars questioned over talent.

Q55. On your site, you have a question asking at what age it is advisable to begin singing. You say "as young as six". Just so you know, singing lessons before the age of 14 are practically useless-- your voice is still changing. Plus, your vocal chords are too immature and easily damaged before the age of 14. It may be sooner for some, but the average age is 13-15. I have verified this fact with several vocal teachers, and did not begin my own training until I was 15.

Miss Alexis R. Wyckoff, USA

You are correct when you say that your voice is still changing as a teenager - yes the whole vocal apparatus is still growing, However, singing lessons before the age of fourteen are certainly not "practically useless". Just ask Michael Jackson, Aled Jones (boy soprano now operatic baritone), Tina Arena and Mariah Carey. I am well aware that the vocal cords are immature and still developing, along with the rest of the body. However should we also stop children from playing, dancing and doing sport because the body is still developing and easily damaged? Of course not! Most children often vocalize loudly ie screaming, for extended periods of time with no apparent damage to the vocal folds.

he great majority of young children love to sing, and VoicePower lessons for young children are far less serious and formatted than singing lessons designed for adults. Children's VoicePower lessons involve fun and educational voice/speech exercises, nursery rhymes, acting, movement, percussion and improvisation. And it's the children who love performing the most at the Dreamquest Talent Shows!

Based on a growing body of research,
music education at an early age conveys four great benefits - success in society, success in school, success in developing intelligence and success in life. Further info is available at the Music Education Facts and Figures site

The case of the vanishing falsetto.

Q54. I've been a professional singer for 12 years performing solo on average 4 nights a week for 3 1/2 hrs per night. I've always had a strong falsetto when doing Bee Gees, or female vocal songs in a parody. It has been deteriorating over the past few months and now can hardly get any falsetto at all. I saw a specialist and he said there were no problems with my vocal strings. My falsetto is a big part of my show and I'm wondering what to do? I thought it was from overwork and just got back from 3 weeks holiday. During that time I was trying to do easy practice to get it back. It hasn't. I'm having to push more air through to get the notes and can't perform a whole song like that.

The only other thing I could think of is that a smaller PA I bought is making me push harder cos' I can't hear certain frequencies as well. Is falsetto the 1st part of your range to go? Do singing teachers know enough about falsetto for men? I'm 37. Do your vocal strings thicken as you get older? My range is Bass Baritone or lyrical baritone. Having to sing rock and pop with this vocal range has always been difficult. I've also lost about 3 tones from my chest voice. Can you give me some advice? Thanks

Mr B.G. Leichhardt, Australia

I believe the answer to your problem could be either one or a combination of three things. Firstly, even though you have been singing for many years, you don't mention voice lessons. It is very easy for faults to creep into vocal technique, even with accomplished singers. These little faults then multiply to such an extent that they may cause major vocal problems or even disorders such as vocal nodes or oedema. Just as top sports people work with coaches, it is important that working vocalists receive some sort of coaching - even if it's only once a month. I say this because many of my voice rehabilitation clients were working vocalists with heavy schedules before their voices deteriorated. All of them were either untrained or hadn't had lessons in years. In this instance their vocal problems were troublesome to eliminate due to ingrained habit.

The second reason your voice could have deteriorated may relate to your new PA. The eminent French ear, nose and throat specialist Dr Alfred Tomatis, proved that "The voice contains only what the ear hears." Therefore if certain frequencies are missing from what you hear when you perform, especially the higher overtones, your voice will immediately deteriorate. Tomatis also discovered that "If the lost frequencies are restored to the hearing they will automatically be restored to the voice." If singing through a better PA doesn't restore your voice, then your problem may relate to a deterioration of hearing. (Ringing in the ears after a gig is a sign that hearing is being damaged.) Faulty hearing and tinnitus may be remedied with sound therapy.

Hormones could also be the third reason behind your voice deterioration. As men age, production of testosterone decreases, which usually results in the voice losing both power and depth. (Vocal cords are receptor sites for sex hormones in both men and women.) Androgen deficiency in men and andropause (male menopause) may be determined by a series of blood tests. Your doctor could then advise on appropriate HRT if needed. Further information is available from this link

Pop to opera easier than you think.

Q53. I wondered how is it that your method of voice training - VoicePower - enables one to transcend through opera to pop singing quality without sacrificing the singing technique and voice quality from opera to pop??? Normally if an opera singer sings pop, they sound too operatic. And if a pop/modern singer sings opera, they don't sound operatic enough. Does VoicePower have the ability to let the same singer sing really like the correct natural voice quality in any music gene (eg.operatic in the classical/opera music) whenever he/she wants without much difficulty???

Weijie, Singapore

By experimenting with the placement of vocal sound in the various resonators of the body, students of VoicePower discover the difference between opera and pop singing, and all the shades in between as well! Though it is rare to find any student who wishes to master their instrument in the genres of both pop AND opera, all students are introduced to both styles and eventually come to the conclusion that pop singing is a compromise of the vocal apparatus. A compromise because pop singing involves less of the body's most efficient resonator the pharynx. This is not to say I am against pop singing - far from it! In fact I love mixing both pop and opera styles into individual songs (just like Russell Watson) as I feel it adds greater dimension to my vocal expression.

For students who wish to master both pop and opera singing the study is arduous but ultimately very rewarding. One of the exercises involves singing the same vocalise three times in the style of pop, 'popera' or musical theatre, then operatically. When a student masters this exercise they often sound like three different singers!

Group fears laid to rest.

Q52. I want to know if is it better to have singing lessons in a group or to have private lessons?

Ms M.N. Brampton, Canada

It all depends on your age, budget and how far you wish to develop as a singer. I take on many students who have previously tried to learn singing in large group lessons. Much of my initial work with them is to undo bad singing habits that have developed or have gone unnoticed in the group classes. As no two voices are the same it makes sense to work with a teacher who will use exercises specifically designed for your vocal range, voice type and developmental issues.

On the other hand, group singing lessons are a fantastic way to learn how to sing harmonies, improvise and develop confidence in front of other people. In fact our grading qualifcations for singing specify minimum attendance in group class attendance. Children also prefer the stimulation of group classes. It's essential however that you join a group class appropriate to your level of voice development. I have heard stories of talented professional singers - one of them an international performer - being placed in group classes alongside beginners.

Help for shy singer.

Q51. i am only 12 but want to be a singer, i'm very shy and don't like to sing in front of people can u help

M.M. Narangbe, Australia

Just about every performer in the world feels some sort of anxiety before they have to sing publicly. This includes the big stars! You'll probably find that your shyness disappears the more you keep training your voice. Working with a singing teacher or coach will also help you develop your vocal instrument and your ability as a performer. When you feel ready, try singing a song in front of a few friends or family members. You might feel a bit nervous at first but after you've actually done it you'll feel a huge sense of achievement. With more performances you'll gradually realise how exciting and exhilirating it is to share your talent with an audience.

Where has my voice gone?

Q50. I saw that you have some questions posted and would like to know if you could answer one for me. I have never had any professional voice training. I always have sung since I was a child. I was complimented on my voice and range. Recently when I go to sing nothing comes out. My voice is almost locked?? I will apply more force but still no voice comes out any more....I thought maybe it was a cold or winter flu thing but it has been 6 months now? Have I ruined my voice somehow??! Is their anything I can do or any suggestions?

M.D. Concord, USA

You say your voice is locked but can you still speak? If you can then it sounds like your singing problem is tension related. When we hold our breath or are about to lift a heavy object our vocal cords close together. To vibrate the cords as in singing or speaking a small stream of air needs to be pushed through the cords. It sounds like you are applying excessive force to close your vocal cords instead of using your abdominal and lower back muscles to push out the necessary flow of air.

I recommend trying some primal sounds to get your singing voice back. Try a big sigh or yawn on 'Ah', then try a surprised sound on 'Oh'. Gradually lengthen these sounds, keeping your throat relaxed and you should be singing again in no time.

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