Q U E S T I O N S   &   A N S W E R S

Send your questions by clicking this link to my blog Meant2BHeard.com where you can join the conversation about the voice and authentic, empowered expression. Please check first that your question hasn't already been answered below.


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DRY THROAT

Question: I'm a 50 yr old singer,and this past year my throat is dry a lot!! My voice cracks & I can't reach my range all the time. Caffeine and ice have a negative effect on my throat. What am I to do?

Answer: The best advice always is to go to a doctor (ENT or laryngologist) and have your cords looked at. Make sure the condition is not being caused by acid reflux, allergies or some other physical condition. You are at an age where women often get thyroid disease and that can cause dryness, as can peri-menopause. You need to work with a medical expert to determine what is creating the condition. At the same time, stop caffeine and ice if they affect you adversely. Drink lots of water and Throat Coat Tea (Traditional Medicinals). Steam. Avoid cough drops and use only Thayers lozenges (health food store). Work with a coach to get a cleaner phonation, brighter resonance and solid breath support. Rest. Rest deeply.

AGING, SHAKY VOICE

Question: I am a 73 year old vocalist that now has a voice that is shaky Is there anyway to correct this?

Answer: If the shakiness is a vocal issue and not due to some other physical development then yes, I believe it can be improved. You will need to get a very refined phonation, good forward resonance, and think of using a straight tone (no vibrato). Once the voice is pure and clear it will start to spin on its own. All of this will need to be supported by some strong, steady expansion in the lower ribs to keep the air away from the voice. That is, use as little air as possible to make the tone.

CAN PEOPLE LEARN TO SING?

Question: I'm not a very good singer at all. will singing lessons help my voice a little? And do you believe that a person can learn to sing?

Answer: YES! I believe a person can learn to sing and lessons with a good teacher will help. Have fun!

CHEWING GUM

Question: Can chewing gum on a regular basis improve the singing voice? And if so, could you suggest any types?

Answer: The only benefit of gum is that it can keep you producing saliva and therefore keep the voice "moist." I think it would be better to just drink water or Throat Coat Tea. If you are going to chew gum or suck on hard candies, avoid strong mint or lozenges with eucalyptus -- these tend to dry the tissues and are really meant to aid decongestion. Better to steam for this.

IMITATING OTHERS

Question: I understand that Justin Timberlake's voice is geared to sing high notes. Sometimes I hear it tremble but it sounds good. When I go back to singing his way should I copy the trembling?

Answer: I don't recommend copying anyone -- I think it is most wonderful and wisest to find your own, unique sound. However, vibrato (trembling as you say) is a natural component of a healthy vocal sound and generally improves the quality and beauty of the voice so it is a good thing.

STRAINED VOICE

Question: I have strained my voice before. I sang high notes and lost my voice the other day but it came back strong after resting my voice. I had been angry (but tried to control myself) and wonder if I scream quietly and a little less softly, what can happen? Hopefully i didn't injure my vocal chords. Can you advise me?

Answer: Excess tension on the voice, especially screaming, can cause small blood vessels to burst and this results in hoarseness. If the injury becomes irritated and doesn't heal, if you keep singing on it or using the voice in extreme ways, you can develop nodules. You need to see a doctor to determine if you have injured the cords and then follow whatever advice you receive. AND YOU MUST NOT SCREAM. You can however learn how to shout in a harmless way. When you work with a voice coach you can develop a technique that will allow you to express yourself in empowering and healthy ways.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING

Question: What is the most important thing that a voice teacher can convey to their student?

Answer: I'm not sure any of us really knows what is important but even if we did, this is a question that can never be answered -- it depends on the student and on the moment. Both teacher and student have to be uncompromisingly present and embrace the mystery.

CLOGGED THROAT

Question:
Why does my throat feel clogged up when I sing?

Answer:
I really can't say because there are many causes for congestion. However, if your voice feels clear but you have more phlegm when you sing, it could be that the resonance (vibration) is loosening congestion and causing a nasal drip or the need to clear your throat. Your best bet always is to see a doctor.

WRITING INSPIRATIONAL SONGS

Question: How can I write an inspirational song?

Answer: And what would define an inspirational song? It could be a good dance song that inspires people to go out and joyfully be in community with others. It could be a story song that gives us the company of the soul of another human being. It could be a delightful children's song that supports their learning and growth. It could be a jingle for an advertisement that moves people to take a socially supportive action. Inspirational songs, in whatever form they might take, choose us when we are a receptive channel. When we seek to open our hearts and be of service in whatever way creative source wants to use us, we improve our channel. When we devote ourselves to the mystery of creation and the wonder of life, we improve our channel. When we hone our craft to a level of exceptional concentration and technical excellence, we improve our channel. When we have the humility to write the songs that are our truth and not what we wish they would be, we improve our channel. If spirit calls a song through us that is to inspire and support us with our calling as we sing it to ourselves, that is a precious gift. If some day we are called to share it with others, then we find the way to do that too. We merge with the mystery of creative source through our devotion, practice and actions and then we are a vessel for inspiration and we never know how that is going to manifest.

DRY MOUTH

Question: Why do I get dry mouth while I'm singing and become hoarse?

Answer: Dry mouth is a common symptom of performance anxiety. Continuously breathing with your mouth open can also contribute to the problem. Common symptoms of dry mouth include a dry feeling in the throat and hoarseness.
There are other causes as well which a doctor can help you with: side effect of certain medications (including antihistamines and decongestants), side effect of certain diseases and infections, side effect of certain medical treatments, damage to the salivary glands, nerve damage, dehydration and lifestyle (smoking, alcohol, etc.) If you think your dry mouth is caused by certain medications you are taking, talk to your doctor. He or she may adjust the dose you are taking or switch you to a different drug that doesn't cause dry mouth. Other steps you can take that may help improve saliva flow include sucking on candy or chewing gum, drinking plenty of water to help keep your mouth moist and breathing through your nose, not your mouth, as much as possible.

NEED A PLACE TO SING

Question: I love to sing. The only thing is that I don't have a place (in public) to sing at. Any suggestions?

Answer: Many of my students go to karaoke and open mikes. You can find them by doing a google search for your community. You can also check with all of your local retirement communities, nursing homes and hospitals -- when you do this ask what kind of repertoire their patients most like to hear and try to match your songs with their tastes. Check out the social activist groups and other community organizations -- they often like to have singing at their events. You can also form a friendship circle with other people who want to perform and have "house parties" or soirees. If you feel you are at a professional level you can offer to perform at a local restaurant in return for dinner -- it is a way to be heard and can turn into other things. You can also join a choir and maybe even earn some solos through your enthusiasm and commitment. Use your imagination and just give it away without expecting anything in return. Be in your pure joy with it. That is what will open doors and magnetize opportunities.

NERVES AND TREMBLING

Question: I can sing but my voice trembles and I also am nervous in public; please help!

Answer: The best antidote to nerves is to breathe deeply at the level of the diaphragm and to work very hard to keep the lower ribs open. The ribs will expand when you inhale and working to keep them expanded the whole time you sing is the key effort that will slow your respiration and heart rate. It will ground you in your body and make it easier to steady your tone. Choose an opening song that you can sing strongly, with a clear, fairly loud voice. It can also help to use a song that moves quickly or has coloratura passages as the trembling will not be as noticeable. Do not try to stop the trembling by gripping or holding back -- this just makes matters worse. Instead, just sing out and let your nerves move through you as part of the sound. If you accept them and take advantage of the energy they provide, you will start to feel at home by the second or third song and the rest of your performance will be a joy. Also, work mentally and in therapy to uncover the beliefs and fears you have that create the anxiety in the first place. Feeling afraid is really wanting people to like and approve of us and that is not the audience's job. They can think and feel whatever they want. We all have different tastes: some of us like chocolate while others prefer strawberry. We have no control over what people like. Our job is to be so spilling-over full of all that we have to share through our singing that we just can't keep it to ourselves. That's what moves us to share with others through performance and we trust that our singing is called. Finally, the only way to work through nerves is to keep putting ourselves in situations that make us nervous. Take classes and seminars that focus on performance anxiety and read books that offer solutions. Many people focus on this issue and they have a lot of GREAT suggestions.

PULMONARY EMBOLISM

Question: I had multiple PE in both lungs and now my voice is weak at time. Why?

Answer: I suspect you have lost some of the ability to support and pace the breath. If there is too much air passing through the cords, the resulting tone is weak. The breathing and phonation exercises on the Vocal Tune-Up CD might help you re-develop your strength. However, before you do anything, be sure you have your doctor's permission to work with the breath and voice. Ask the doctor if you should have professional input. The doctor might be able to prescribe work with a speech therapist and that might be covered by your insurance.

VOCAL CARE AFTER SINGING

Question: How can I keep a soothing voice after I have sung for a long time?
I heard honey and lemon help. Is that true?

Answer: Some people find honey and lemon soothing but I have learned that what feels good can be very personal. Throat Coat Tea made by Traditional Medicinals is a very good choice as is plain warm old water. Steaming feels good to some people and others like to gargle with a little warm, very lightly salted water. It is also good to not talk too much if you feel tired. And of course, rest is the best.

ENCOURAGING CONVERSATION

Question: Please describe two things you can do that would encourage someone to communicate with you.

Answer: Here are more than two suggestions.
1) Smile
2) Listen carefully
3) Ask questions
4) Make eye contact
5) Don't interrupt
6) Be authentic and kind
7) Have fun!

SMOOTH VOICE

Question: Can you make some suggestions about how to have your voice sound smooth and not rough when you sing?

Answer: Part of what makes the voice sound smooth and connected is the quality of the vowels and they way they flow into one another. Try singing different vowels on one note: EE -- AY -- AH -- OH -- OOH. Another factor in smoothness is the way we move between different pitches. You can try singing melodies on one vowel instead of using the words; you can even slide or glissando the voice between the pitches to feel and practice a sense of connectedness and flow. Then, when you add consonants, make them as efficient as possible so they barely, if at all, interrupt the flow of the vowels and the transition between different notes in the melody.

AUDITION -- NO HIGH NOTES

Question: I have an audition in a month but am concerned because when I sing it seems that I can't get my high notes anymore. I don't know what it is . . . I used to get really high notes. I just came off a 2 week rest but my throat is still the same: it feels really dehydrated. Can you give me some advice please?

Answer: This sounds like you have strained the voice -- you might have a little burst blood vessel or some swelling. You will need to go to a laryngologist and have the cords looked at. If it is a small swelling you might be able to treat it with a round of steroids so that you can do the audition. However, I encourage you to work very carefully with a teacher if you choose to do this. If the voice has been stressed, you will need to work very carefully, avoiding the extremes of the range, and for very short periods of time. Most importantly, don't worry. Fear and anxiety cause tension and there is no need to be afraid. Your voice will heal and it will do so faster if you just stay calm and do the next right thing. Good luck at your audition!

SQUEAKY SINGING VOICE

Question: Are there any techniques to make your voice not squeak when you sing?

Answer: Yes. There are many techniques depending on what is causing the issue. The answer would be very different for different causes so I can't be specific for you. First, you need to be sure your voice is healthy and that there isn't a physical limitation -- perhaps by seeing a doctor. You will need to work in person with a teacher so they can assess why your voice is functioning the way it does. They will know exercises to help you develop the voice so that you can overcome the issue.

MUCUS IN THE THROAT

Question: I get my throat stuffed with mucus -- how can I make it stop because it doesn't let me sing.

Answer: The best thing to do is go to a doctor to try to determine the cause. The doctor might recommend something to thin or dry the mucus. You might be able to change your diet or some things in your environment. You can also read the suggestions under the answer to BLOCKED NOSE.

BLOCKED NOSE

Question: Last summer I had a sort of crack in the voice every time I sang head voice. My tutor asked me to go to an ENT (Ear-Nose-Throat) doctor. The doctor said I have a blockage in the nose. I have allergies in the nose -- I used spray but still my nose is blocked. What shall I do?

Answer: Very often when we have a blockage we push against it and this pressure can cause the voice to "crack." Instead, try to use maximum support by expanding your lower ribs in order to keep the breath low and away from your voice while singing a very small, pure tone. Have the sense of threading this small, pure sound through the congestion rather than pulling against it. Use an EE vowel sound first and don't try to go high at first. Teach yourself that singing is easy. Try plugging one nostril and sending all of the tone through the opposite side. After doing this for a while, switch sides. The sound SHOULD be nasal and the vibrations will start to break up the congestion. Then sing through both sides and notice the improvement. The sound will fill and move higher when it is ready. Your job is to be patient and persistent and fearless. Anxiety creates vocal tension -- faith creates release and ease.

You can also do yoga cleansing breath, netti pot and steaming. These and other practices on the Vocal Tune-Up CD might help you if you work diligently with them.

WILL MY VOICE GET STRONGER?

Question: I have taken voice lessons before and have been told by my instructor that my voice is not very strong, but is pretty. I was wondering: will my voice get stronger as I learn to make my diaphragm stronger, learn the correct breathing etc., and as I practice more? or will it always stay the same?

Answer: First, be certain your voice is healthy and that you have no other health problems causing the weakness; you can see a doctor if you aren't sure. Then, if the suggestions your teacher makes are functionally efficient and the practice you are doing is mindful, your voice will definitely strengthen. Give the lessons time and be diligent. If, after a while, lessons aren't helping, try a new teacher with a different approach. No technique works for everyone and you might have to try a few before you get the results you want. Good luck!

CAREER FEAR

Question: My problem is that my voice has become hoarse and breathy and anytime I talk or sing , I get a scratchy , sore sensation in my throat so I stop. I always have to put in extra effort to talk and it feels like I'm straining even when I say a simple sentence. It has forced me to speak in a low volume and my voice is not strong. The muscles in my throat and under my jaw hurt and it feels like there is a lump in my throat when I swallow. I went to my throat hospital but they said there was nothing wrong three months ago. Can you help me please because I have a major audition in two weeks and it will ruin my whole singing career if my voice fails me.

Answer:The first thing you must do is release all stress and fear. Stress and anxiety create extreme pressure on the voice and they do nothing to help you solve your dilemma. And you must have faith -- no single audition can make or break a career -- if you are unwell you reschedule -- singer's get sick. You MUST go back to a doctor because a lot can happen in 3 months. And you must keep going to doctors until you find someone who can determine the cause of your problems. It took years before someone finally diagnosed my thyroid disease which was causing major havoc not only in my throat but for my entire body. You must find out not only what is happening to the cords but also what is causing it. Meanwhile, rest deeply, do NOT take anything with menthol, eucalyptus or citrus in it (they all dehydrate). Steam. Drink as much water as possible. Try tea or drops with slippery elm and black licorice (Throat Coat by Traditional Medicinals is a good brand). Visualize your singing in "real time." Hear and see yourself singing effortlessly and beautifully. See your listeners enjoying every note. Notice that you are at peace while you sing, that you are flooded with grace and that grace goes through you to your audience. Lastly, surrender. Accept this and determine to do whatever it takes because it is not the illness that ruins a career but rather one's attitude about it. Everything is possible and you must live to create the good that life is capable of.

HIGH SCHOOL PLAY

Question: I am entering high school. I desperately want leads in the plays. My voice is good, on the lower notes, but I am having the worst trouble on the high ones. I get to "la" on the scale, and any notes following come out as a squeaky whisper. Help!

Answer:
Learning how to bridge into the upper voice is a challenge for many singers, especially if they sing too loudly or work the throat muscles in an aggressive way on the low notes. If you are very serious about this, you need to develop proper breath support, vocal cord function and resonance balance that allows you to move seamlessly throughout your entire range and you will need a teacher to help you. Until you have one, here's a little something you csn play with: try making descending sirens, sliding slowly on the sound "ee" from your high voice down into the low part of your range without letting the sound get stronger. Keep it all as though you are singing high notes. Then try sliding back up without having a noticeable shift from bottom to top. Work for smoothness rather than for strength. Keep your posture tall with your ribs open and strong as you do this. And smile! Once you can do a smooth siren on an "ee" you can try other sounds. Try to sing melodies as though they are as smooth and connected as sirens, without any notes too strong or belted. Over time, the rest of the voice catches up to the low notes and you will have a different kind of strength that can be sustained. Again, this is a very complicated coordination that takes time, practice and a good teacher.

SHAKY VOICE

Question: When I sing my voice is shaky; how can I make my voice stronger?

Answer: You will need to work with connecting the strength of your entire torso with the way in which you manage the flow of air through your vocal cords and you will have to bring your vocal cords together robustly enough to produce a strong, even tone. This is something a singing teacher or voice coach can help you with.

TIRING HIGH NOTES

Question: I don't know what to do: I cant control volume with very high notes -- I always have to sing very loudly. If I try to soften it, the note just goes flat. The volume isn't really the issue and I'm not going out of tune when I sing loudly; its just I physically get tired -- I feel my whole body going weak after the first chorus. After that I literally don't have enough air to go on.

Answer: Muscular strength develops over time. Just as we do only a few repetitions of weight lifting exercises and then take a break before doing more, we can develop our strength as a singer by working for short periods of time more frequently. Instead of practicing for an hour, try practicing 10 minutes twice in the morning, twice in the afternoon, and twice in the evening. Practice high notes for only 3 minutes in each session. If you work within your present capability you will teach yourself that singing high notes is easy and fun! We all find it easiest to sing high notes loudly at first because it takes more strength to sing them softly. Once you can do the loud ones without stress, you will naturally gain more flexibility and choice with volume.

BREATHING EXERCISES

Question: What types of excercises or vocal warm-ups could I do to increase breath control?

Answer: I refer you to two sources: Yoga breathing exercises and the portions on breath management in Richard Miller's THE STRUCTURE OF SINGING.

CIRCLES ON TRACHEA

Question: I'm a 14 year old boy and I found some little circles on my trachea. I wanted to know if that was bad. They are not on my vocal folds.

Answer: This is something that only a doctor can answer!

EXCESS SALIVA

Question: I have just started singing lessons but when I sing (it's quite a fast song) I have to swallow midway through a note not because I am breathing but because I have saliva in my mouth. I get lots of it and I would like to know how to get rid of it while I am singing.

Answer: You could go to your dentist or doctor to make sure you don't have a health problem with your saliva ducts. However, since excess saliva can be a result of anxiety it is also possible that this will be less of an issue as you become more relaxed with your singing. Avoid drinking beverages that stimulate saliva and breathe through your mouth rather than your nose.

TENORS AND FALSETTO

Question: Is it true, that classically trained tenors can benefit from exercising the falsetto voice from high to low and back again? And, if one does, is there a right or wrong way to do this?

Answer: There are differing ideas and opinions about this. I recommend you go to your local library and consult Richard Miller's book, TRAINING TENOR VOICES.

WEAK DICTION

Question: My diction is weak. I have a Lisp. As a result I find it hard to pronounce my words properly. What can I do about this, how can I pronounce words properly?

Answer: The best thing to do is work with a speech therapist because they have many exercises and a lot of experience. The VOCAL TUNE-UP CD offered on the site has an entire track on consonants to help with diction as well.

YOUNG MEZZO ABOVE HIGH C

Question: Im a 18-year-old mezzo-soprano. My vocal range is from an octave below middle C to high C. How can I expand my vocal range above high C properly without damaging my voice?

Answer: This is work to do in private lessons with your teacher. It will involve getting a more refined phonation, accessing the highest resonators and developing the breath support to be strong enough to prevent excess air pressure against the voice. The muscles between the lower ribs have to be very strong because it takes almost no air to sing high notes! This is a strength that develops over time.

14 YEAR OLD GRUDGE

Question: I'm a 14 year old boy and I want to know why my voice sounds like the grudge sound when I'm talking soft and kinda low.

Answer: I'm not sure what the grudge is but many people collapse in the body and lose all the structural and breath support for the voice when they speak soft and low. Try speaking in a loud, strong manner and then keep all the same physical strength, vocal clarity and energy as you speak more softly.

LYRIC SOPRANO/COLORATURA

Question: Can a lyric soprano sing coloratura roles?

Answer: There is a voice type called lyric-coloratura and these sopranos will sing cross over repertoire from both types. They often sing the coloratura roles when they are young and grow into the more lyric repertoire as they mature.

18 AND WONDERING ABOUT WHISTLE REGISTER

Question: I'm an 18 year old female and I wanted to expand my range (both higher and lower notes) and I was wondering how I could do so without putting a strain on my vocal cords. I always wanted to know, is it too late at my age to sing in the whistle register? Just three years ago I was able to sing in the whistle register but I'm unable to access that part of my voice now.

Answer: You can definitely sing in your whistle register. However, your voice has just changed due to puberty and so you might have to find it anew. I recommend you work with a teacher. Don't worry too much about expanding your range -- focus instead on having a lot of breath support, clear, easy vocal cord function and complete resonance. Once you develop these elements, the range will naturally increase.

MEZZO MODELS

Question: I am a mezzo-soprano singer. For my repetoire, may I ask for a list of Mezzo-soprano singers and vocalists in pop,r&b and modern music.

Answer: Because most singers in these musical styles sing in the lower part of the voice, the distinction between mezzo and soprano has less meaning than it does in the classical world. I don't think about voice types in the pop world so much as I think about singers I admire. Think about singers you admire, the ones who have what you want and listen especially to those who have long, consistent careers.

14 YEAR-OLD HIGH NOTES

Question: I'm a 14 year old girl, and I can never hit high notes loudly. Is there anyway I can improve that?

Answer: Yes. You are at the eage where your voice will be developing more depth and strength but it is important not to oversing or strain in order to create volume. As you learn to access more resonance in your face and head, the volume of your high notes will increase and they will still feel easy and free. Do a lot of humming in the high part of your voice and play around with the vowel sounds of ee as in "feet," and a as in "cat."

MALE TEEN VOCAL RANGE

Question: I'm a 14 year old boy and I wanted to know what type of exercises I can do to do to expand my vocal range so I can hit a whistle register. I really don't know how many octaves I have but I think it is 3.

Answer: The male voice does not have a whistle register; it has what we call a falsetto (thinner higher notes that you make using the false vocal cords). Because the voice is so vulnerable at your age, you are best advised to work with a teacher or to simply do what is natural and easy for you. You should not do anything that tires you vocally and it is not the time to be developing an extensive range. You would be better off developing a strong breath support and resonance.

SIXTEEN YEAR OLD HIGH NOTES

Question: I'm only 16 years old and am a male...I find that I can get high notes but they are not natural sounding...its as if I sounds like a different person. Can you please tell me why this is and how I can change it?

Answer: You must be very careful not to push your voice while it is developing. Your high notes will strengthen naturally with age. Meanwhile, choose appropriate repertoire and find a teacher who understands the developing male voice so you learn to practice support and resonance in a safe, healthy way.

WHISTLE REGISTER

Question: Whistle Register

Answer: Refers to extremely high pitches in the female voice. These pitches tend to be less substantial or rich in tone than the rest of the voice (hence their name) although some singers (especially high sopranos) develop and integrate them very successfully. Producing them feels like "squeaking." Practicing them can be useful to develop an easier, finer phonation on high notes and can also help one find more overtone in the resonance.

BEING MADE FUN OF

Question: I'm a 16-year-old girl that is constantly made fun of about my nasally voice and my lisp. Somehow I just can't lower the back of my tongue to lose the nasality; I'm too used to it raised high. I already went to a speech coach for my lisp and well that didn't work at all. Is there any other way I can lose my nasality and lisp and not be made fun of anymore at school for this problem. Or, is there anyway I can get the back of my tongue lower?

Answer: First, I want you to know how saddened I am to learn of your experience and what you must endure. As you move through your life and meet more mature people you will not be treated like this. Meanwhile, I don't know why the work with the speech therapist didn't help but if you are unable to correct the problems on your own you must try different therapists or voice teachers until you find what you need. You might also see an Ear-Nose-Throat doctor to make sure that everything is normal structurally. These doctors often work with voice therapists and might be able to recommend someone who can help you.

INCREASE RANGE

Question: How do I increase my vocal range? Are there any excercises that I can do with my voice and a piano that will increase it? I am a baritone and I want a tenor sounding voice.

Answer: Wanting a baritone to sound like a tenor is like wanting someone who is 6 feet tall to be 5 feet tall. Some things cannot be changed. When you express the beauty and power of your authentic voice singing the repertoire that is right for you, you will be the most wonderful you can be. That being said, there is a book called TRAINING TENOR VOICES by Richard Miller that will have the kind of exercises you are looking for.

HIGH LARYNX

Question: I find that sometimes my voice sounds tense and not smooth and relaxed. I have discovered it is because my Larynx is in a high position instead of a low position in my throat. My question is, how can I make my Larynx go low while I am singing?

Answer: The larynx should not be pushed low either -- you simply want it to remain as stable as possible without putting pressure of any kind on it. There a a few things you can do to help:
1) Make sure your posture is balanced and lifted, that your shoulders are relaxed and that your head is level (that the chin is not lifted or tucked).
2) Make sure your tongue is not pulling high and back in your throat.
3) Don't open your mouth excessively wide or grip your jaw.
4) Expand your ribs when you inhale and try to keep them open while you sing in order to pace the flow of air and keep pressure off the voice.
5) Do sirens while very lightly touching the larynx to help you focus on keeping it as stable as possible.

SINGING LOUDLY

Question: How do I clear my voice to sing loudly when needed?

Answer: Sometimes we have phlegm on the vocal cords as a result of allergies or post nasal drip. However, if it is not phlegm causing the lack of clarity, the vocal cords might be swollen or have a tiny burst blood vessel that might have been caused by speaking or singing too loudly with an unsupportive technique. In any case, you should avoid "clearing the throat" as it brings the cords together in a harsh way and can make matters worse. The first step is always to see a doctor and determine what is causing the voice to be unclear. Once you determine the health care needs of your instrument, work with a voice specialist. If you feel there is a resistance (something blocking the sound) there may be a tendancy to push against it in an effort to clear the voice. This stresses the instrument. Instead, you need to bring the vocal cords together in the most refined way possible and to sing a pure thread of tone. Once this precise phonation is established, you use the resonators to create volume. Your loud voice should feel easy and effortless in the throat because you are using such great strength in your torso to support it; if there is any strain you need to work with a coach. If you have developed a pattern of singing with strain or excess air, it takes time and practice to undo that reflex and replace it with a new pattern so . . . be patient and wise. Loud singing can damage the voice when it is not done properly.

WHISTLE REGISTER

Question: How do I increase my whistle register range in a safe manner?

Answer: Work with a knowledgeable voice coach. There are so many factors involved it would be irresponsible to try to write advice here. You can also read Richard Miller's THE STRUCTURE OF SINGING.

THE RIGHT DOCTOR

Question: I`m a musician and when I sing (or speak) it sounds like I have a cold (nasal). It would greatly improve my career if I could at least sing back-up vocals. I`ve tried singing lessons and speech therapy and they didn`t help. I`m considering surgery but don`t know what kind of doctor to look for.

Answer:
You will need an ENT (ear, nose and throat) or Laryngologist. Once you see a doctor you will know if the condition requires surgery or if vocal work should help it. If so, you need to try different teachers and therapists until you find one who knows how to help you. There are many different techniques and practices out there and all of them work for someone but none of them work for everyone.

EASY HIGH NOTES

Question: How can I sing notes above high c with ease?

Answer: This is not a short answer question. First, you have to determine what is making it difficult. It could be a lack of proper breath support, imprecise phonation, poor resonance balance or health issues. It might also be a limitation of the voice itself. Once you have determined that, you need to find the vocal practices that help you to develop your particular weaknesses and release tension. You can refer to Richard Miller's THE STRUCTURE OF SINGING for more information. The best solution would be to work with a qualified teacher.

CHANGING VOICE TYPE

Question: I am an 18-year-old, female mezzo-soprano singer. The highest note I can sing is high c although I have tried whistle register notes with good results. I would like to know if, with more time and pratice, can I become a full soprano singer. If so, may I have some tips on how to do this and how long will it take? Thank you for you time.

Answer: We cannot change our voice type -- we can only develop our voice to be the best it can be and then sing the music that is appropriate. Because you are young, your voice will be developing for some time and your voice type is best determined in lessons with a teacher. Developing the high notes, or any part of the voice for that matter, varies greatly from one person to the next. Some people have to develop strength in the breath support before they can release stress on the voice. Others have to learn how to access and balance the appropriate resonators. Still others have to learn how to bring the vocal cords together to vibrate more energetically while some have to learn to bring them together more gently. All of this is to say, I can't really give you any specific tips because I have no idea what you do. You have to go to a teacher to get the right practices for your specific needs.

ALLERGIES

Question: Hello. I am a 21 year old soprano. I find that because I have very bad allergies my throat gets congested while I am singing and I find a need to clear my throat in the middle of a song. Is there anyway to keep the passage clear while singing? Thanks!

Answer:
You might try using a sinus cleanse (a simple saline solution) with a neti pot as well as kapalabhati breathing from the yoga traditions. If you do a google search you can get free instructions for both. These will clear the sinuses before you go on stage. Overtone chanting is also great for clearing the respiratory passages. You need to find what is causing the allergies and avoid these things as much as possible. Very often changing one's diet can help: eliminating dairy, wheat or red meat are examples of things that have helped people. You might work with an allergist and a nutritionist.

VOCAL RANGE

Question: I want to know what my voice type is. I am an 18 years old female and my vocal range is from c3 to b6 maybe c6. I have also attempted whistle register exercises with good results but it's not really my tessitura. The tone of my voice is dark but lighter on higher notes.

Answer:
For all readers, let's first define some terms: c3, b6, and c6 refer to certain keys on the piano. If you google "notes on the piano" you will pull up websites with lots of information to help you. "Tessitura" refers to that part of your voice that is strongest, most beautiful, and where you do the bulk of your singing. Whistle register is often used to refer to the highest notes a woman can make in her range. Some women have the ability to resonate these tones into full bodied sounds and integrate them with the rest of the voice.

In the world of classical singing, we tend to categorize voice types. Part of what determines voice type is the "range," meaning the actual notes one can sing from the lowest to the highest. Next we consider "timbre," which is the quality of the voice: dark, light, heavy, steely, flexible, etc. Our writer sounds like a mezzo-soprano but because she is so young, the voice might develop in many directions. As she develops the high notes she might even become a full-voiced soprano -- I cannot say without hearing her. The most important thing at such an early age is to not push the voice. Keep exercising it and allow it to develop naturally. Meanwhile, sing repertoire suitable for a young mezzo soprano.

In both the opera and Broadway worlds, the type of voice we have plays a large role in determining the characters we will play. Women with rich, large voices often portray heroines while others with bright, clear voices are likely to be cast as ingenues. People with unique or quirky sounding voices get to play what are called "character" roles (sometimes the comic or the wise-woman).

In the world of popular music, where we are free to change the key we do songs in, we simply sing songs where they are most comfortable for our voice regardless of vocal range or type. However, just as certain clothes look terrific on some body types and not on others, you will find some songs fit your voice while others don't. Just because you can sing the notes doesn't mean it's a good song for you.

No matter what: Do not push your voice -- go where there is freedom and beauty in the sound and you will land in the right place for you.

INCREASING RANGE

Question: How can I increase my vocal range? I want to be able to go very high without having to switch to falsetto. Is that possible?

Answer:
First, you need to determine your voice type. If you are a tenor you should be able to sing a good high C in full voice. If you are a baritone you should be able to sing high G. Of course, different voices have different ranges -- you can refer to THE STRUCTURE OF SINGING by Richard Miller for detailed information. Once you know your range, developing strong breath support, optimal vocal cord function and balanced resonance will allow you to sing high notes within your range without shifting into falsetto.

DO LESSONS HELP?

Question: I'm a 15 year old boy and each year I've been told that my voice deepens slightly... but it hasn't broken yet. I also have a slight British accent whilst living in South Africa... I am going to start Pro singing lessons... Will this improve/deepen my voice? Or is there another method? When I record myself singing, I listen to the playback and get embarrassed... thinking if thats really what my voice sounds like; yet most people say that when I sing it sounds good... Please Help!

Answer: Your voice will deepen in its own time but lessons will help you learn to support it, to make it reliable without straining. You will also learn how to hear yourself, how to listen for the beauty that others hear. Singing tends to take away the accent because we focus on making the sounds purely and precisely. Enjoy your studies! There is so much to learn and singing just keeps getting better.

HOW TO STRENGTHEN THE LOWER VOICE

Question: I am a 15 year old baritone from Australia, and I am singing the basso solo for the Mozart Requiem in the two movements that require soloists. I can sing the lower notes, however they do not expand and resonate as much as I'd like them to -- they are simply too soft. I was told to use the french 'ain' sound in warm-ups to release the larynx, but often this seems to increase nasality. Could you suggest an appropriate solution to this, such that in about a month I could have a slightly thicker sound coming through?

Answer: At your age, the one thing you absolutely must not do is push the extremes of the voice. Your low notes should be soft at your age and you should be very careful not to sing repertoire that demands too much of your instrument. You will have decades of singing if you are sensible now; you could create vocal challenges and future dysfunction if you are not. Ask if the rest of the ensemble can be very soft when you sing the low notes in order to support you.

FALSETTO

Question: I am a male, 16 year old. I was wondering if it hurts your vocal cords to laugh or sing in your falsetto voice? When I am singing in my falsetto voice I can hit an "A." I am confused because everyone is telling me something different... please help!

Answer: When you are in falsetto your are not actually using your vocal cords (you are using what are called false vocal cords) so you will not hurt your voice. If you refer to Richard Miller's THE STRUCTURE OF SINGING you can get a full explanation of falsetto in the male voice.

AIR IN MY STOMACH

Question: A lot of times when I sing I get air in my stomach and I do not know if it is because I am breathing incorrectly or not. What do you think, and if you think that I am breathing incorrectly, what do you suggest that I do. I am also having trouble with my tone. Sometimes I sound nasal on Oooooo vowels. I have started relaxing my jaw and flaring my nostrils; that feels right but I am not sure if it is right. What exactly should it feel like to sing correctly?

Answer: My best guess would be that something with your digestive system is activated by singing. Sometimes when people have a drink,especially if it is carbonated, or even if it is just plain water, they burp or have a sense of "air in the stomach." Also, if you ate recently singing can churn up your digestive process and cause this. As for the nasality, you likely have the back of your tongue raised too high. Practice keeping some space between your tongue and soft palate.

BOYISH VOICE

Question: I want a more boyish, higher and younger voice but not sounding broken because I have a young face to start with. I want to know how I go about doing that, whatever it takes to do so.

Answer: I recommend you work with a coach in your location, wherever it is you live. This is not something I can help you with in a short answer in an email, nor is it an area of expertise for me. Whatever you do, love your voice and honor the function it is designed to have -- in that perfect function is the grace and miracle of your self-expression and your relationships.

CLOGGED UP

Question: I'm told I have a beautiful singing voice. Last Sunday I did a duet with another girl but I was so clogged up I wanted to scream and felt so bad afterwards. What can I do to remove the clog?

Answer: I assume that you are referring to nasal or sinus congestion that is producing excess mucous and interfering with your voice. The first thing is to determine what is causing this whether it is allergies, stress or something else. Then you might have to take medication, change your diet, give up your pet or whatever other external changes can be made. If you smoke you absolutely must quit. You can also try using saline rinse for the nose and sinuses. You can gargle with a very lightly salted water. You can also try steaming and yoga cleansing breath exercises. Vocal exercises that use nasal sounds and work the high part of the range can be good to clear the sinuses and nasal passages.

TEACHER OR COACH

Question: What is the difference between a singing teacher and a vocal coach?

Answer: In the classical world, a teacher is someone who teaches vocal technique and makes application to repertoire, although they often do not play the piano. A coach tends to be a pianist who deals primarily with repertoire, helping with musicianship and interpretation. Both deal with phrasing, diction, and performance elements. In the pop, jazz and Broadway world, people tend to use the terms interchangeably or to refer to teachers as coaches too.

PHARYNX

Question: What does a pharynx contribute when a human is singing?

Answer: This is a very simplistic answer; for more detail I refer you to Richard Miller's THE STRUCTURE OF SINGING. Pharynx is another word for opening or space. There is a laryngeal pharynx, or space behind your larynx (also called your voice box which you can find by touching your Adam's Apple). There is also an opening or space behind your mouth and another behind your nose. All three of these contribute to the resonance of your voice by enhancing the vibrations of the vocal cords. You can affect the degree to which they participate by the way you shape your entire oral cavity and face.

DECREASING NASALITY

Question: How do I get rid of my nasal tone when I sing?

Answer: Nasality is usually caused by closing off the back of the mouth: the tongue is raised high in the back and/or the soft palette (the roof of the mouth at the back where it is flexible) is very low and touching the tongue. A quick trick is to plug your nose and move the soft palette as though you are going to yawn or are surprised. Once the nasal sound goes away and you have memorized the feeling you can let go of your nose. Nasal consonants such as "m," "n" and "ng" will always block the nose but the vowels should all be open in the back. "O" and "u" vowels are usually less nasal so you can also use them to establish a more open tone. Switch between the open vowel ("o" or "u") and more nasal sounds ("ee" or "ay") attempting to keep the same openess in all the vowel sounds.

SINGING AND SPEAKING

Question: I have two problems: I need to have a deeper speaking voice for a character I need to play on stage, and second, I have a great singing voice live, but when it is recorded, I sound like I have a clogged nose and my falsetto sounds like Miss Piggy. Any ideas?

Answer: These are issues you should address with a teacher. Lowering the voice can cause damage and you will need to work very intelligently to develop the physical support and resonance rather than pushing the larynx low or digging too deeply into the vocal cords. If you sound like you have a clogged nose you need to check the positions of the tongue and soft palate. Try working with o and u vowels to develop a less nasal tone. Consider staying in your legitimate voice rather than shifting into falsetto.

NOSE PLUGGING

Question: This may sound unusual, but the question I have is about plugging the nose. I have the ability to plug my nose by will alone. I have become accustomed to using this while singing to create different affects. It was quite a surprise to find out that not everyone can do this. The only thing on the net that I've found about this is another person in a chat room basically asking similar questions as I am. If there is anyway you can provide me with the actual term for what I'm doing or a website where I can find more information about this, it would be greatly appreciated. P.S.: This is not to be confused with merely raising the soft palate.

Answer: I know of no term for what you are doing nor of a website that discusses it. Raising the palate would un-plug, rather than plug the nose. However, lowering the soft palate to meet the back of the tongue would plug the nose. Even if it doesn't completely touch the tongue, you can achieve varying degrees of nasal resonance with a somewhat lower palate and very slightly elevated back of the tongue. Remember, you have the entire nasal pharynx (open space behind the nose) to play with as well and miniscule adjustments to the pharyngeal muscles, the tongue and the palate create wildly different effects.

STRENGTHEN SINGING VOICE

Question: How can I strengthen my singing voice?

Answer: By singing in all parts of the range and by working all of the functions: breath management, vocal cord function, resonance and flexibility. Because we speak all the time, the speaking part of the vocal range is usually stronger. Singing can develop the entire vocal range. Like any other muscle, the voice has to be strengthened gradually and carefully over time. It is also important to remember that volume and quality come from resonance rather than force. It is the precise and efficient working of the voice that makes it sound full and rich.


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