The psychology of singing

Singing is a highly athletic coordinated activity. 

Good singing is being able to sing seamlessly on pitch throughout the various registers of your voice with a consistent vocal tone and quality (while being able to choose the appropriate form of vocal expression and delivery style).  Good singing technique can be described as learning how to produce your singing voice with optimum efficiency and experiencing the least amount of tension and strain on your vocal cords and reducing demand on your singer’s breathing. 

Learning to sing correctly erases vocal cracks, wobbles or breaks in your sound. It requires the development of multiple fine motor skills that are capable of coordinating and operating smoothly at the same time, with minimal physical tampering or interference from the singer. 

Loosely explained, these fine motor skills include:

1. Diaphragmatic breathing coordination (RVR singer’s breathing)

2. Vocal coordination

3. Anatomic coordination to provide correct singers breathing and airway support 

4. Auditory coordination (ear training to be able to follow melodies and sing on pitch)

5. Balance (singer’s anatomical support to offset rising stress and resolve escalating body tensions).

These fine motor skills are developed through the act of building new neural skill pathways in the brain. The rapid development of these fine motor skills is achieved by programming the new preferred physical coordination in your body and requires a great deal of effective rewiring your brain to make the new coordination feel comfortable and like second nature. You need to be able to bypass the old neural highway of unhealthy singing habits and connect to fresh, new neural highways in the brain that store the preferred healthy coordination that makes singing feel free and easy.

There is an art and a science to successfully building new neural skill highways in your brain. I have developed my own complete RVR NLP system of brain reprogramming with lots of cool RVR “Jedi Mind Tricks” that is designed to ensure that we accomplish the goal of reducing the time it takes you to develop your confident, natural performing voice.

That’s the physical part of singing covered. Then there is the mental side of aligning your mind’s focus to deliver an optimum performance from your vocal cords and your body.

The psychology of singing is a fascinating subject and plays a critical role in the ability to consistently perform at peak levels during your vocal performances. Henry Ford, widely credited with being the father of the modern automobile industry, was fond of saying, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you cant, you’re both right”. Meaning if you’re about to sing a high note and your thinking is not positively aligned with your desired vocal action, your body will say “Yes!” but your brain will say “No!”

The resulting messaging conflict will cause a crash in the chain of fine motor skill co-ordinations and will result in a vocal note that sounds choked off or will produce a wobble in your singing or screaming voice.

Any significant event in your life that caused you prolonged psychological or emotional discomfort can end up having a profound, negative effect on your central nervous system.  Trauma events are very powerful emotional or physical experiences where we might be too terrified to speak or take action, or feel that our life is at risk, and the resulting trauma has a powerful, lasting effect on our body’s physiology.

While receiving counseling for these types of trauma events can be very beneficial, the actual muscle memory of the trauma event can be stored in our body’s cells. We can still be carrying that trauma around with us. If that trauma is affecting our personal happiness or our ability to freely express our voice in song or speech, or makes us feel uncomfortable sharing our emotions with the people that we love the most then there are great benefits to taking further action to resolve the effect that the trauma is having on our body’s operating system.

Put simply, the memory of the trauma is literally burned into the lining of your cellular make up. The memories of powerful Trauma events get stored in the  Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is the main source of energy for most cellular processes in the human body. The muscle memory of intense traumas can be stored in the ATP of your cells.

The muscle memories of intensive traumas need to be addressed and cleaned out if you expect your mind and body to feel comfortable about singing or screaming freely and reaching new heights of vocal freedom. Physical or emotional trauma that relates to negative associations that we might have experienced in the formative years of our childhood development often creates psychological barriers or mental handbrakes that prevent us from been able to connect freely and easily to the full power and tonal qualities of our natural singing voice.

This is where you will need the expertise of an experienced vocal performance coach who understands how to effectively rewire your brain to create new positive, healthy associations in your mind that will result in higher levels of vocal performance and free you from the shackles of past trauma events.

These historic trauma events can create severe discomfort and impair your ability to feel good about singing with a wide open, free voice. Chances are if you cant use your voice freely or you feel that you are severely restricted with how your body lets you use or express your voice, then you are operating under the restrictive limitations of unresolved trauma.

Get in touch with me and let’s have a conversation about how we can help you to move forward and finally remove these shackles and performance handbrakes from your life.

Better singing everyone,

Paule, the RVR vocal performance coach.

AJ – Singer, Songwriter, Independent Artist

I started vocal coaching with Paule mid 2013 with the goal of being able to trust my voice enough so that I could sing confidently in front of friends, family and familiar faces whilst jamming along with my guitar.

However once I began taking vocal lessons, Paul soon helped me realise that I had a lot more potential than singing for small crowds and consistently encouraged me to strive for more.

A year later, I am making Youtube covers which are starting to attract a lot of attention, collaborating with some of the finest artists in Auckland and I have also been singing live at open mic nights in bars and performed at shows.

A big thank you to Paul for helping me stick through the initial stages, without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today. I encourage anyone out there thinking about singing to give him a go!

Check out my videos

Parabola West – Touring and Recording Artist

I have been working with Paule for just under a year, mostly via Skype lessons, and I have found his method of teaching to be efficient and effective, providing immediate and lasting improvements to my singing and breathing techniques. 

Paule is able to identify and provide techniques to correct strain and resistance in my voice, as well as provide information and context around the mechanics of how it all works. 

His commitment to providing excellent value and measurable results was obvious from our first lesson, and I certainly recommend booking a lesson to see for yourself how much you can get out of an hour!

Parabola West.

Kara James Gordon – Touring Artist

Paule from RVR has helped me immensely with my vocals.

I have been a professional musician for years thought i was doing alright with my singing, but Paule showed me the real deal way to sing by using my diaphragm breathing and taught me facial and lung strengthening exercises that have helped take me to the next level of vocal performance.

People who have come to my gigs for years have noticed improvements in my power, tone and pitch. The improvements have happened since i started going to Paule for coaching.

This guy knows his stuff!

Kara’s performance credits:

  • Opened for Slash, Ozzy Osbourne, Joe Satriani and Elton John
  • Performed with Glen Hughes (Deep Purple)
  • Toured internationally  throughout New Zealand, Australia and Europe with Alabama 3
  • Toured New Zealand and Australia as part of the “Fly My Pretties” tour

​P.S. The video below was recorded before I started taking singing lessons with Paule. I will post a video soon to show you a difference that coaching has made to my voice!

Fraser Coombes – Lead Vocalist, Checaine

I began vocal training session with Paule with the goal of bridging a mid range gap in my vocal range.

Although I had sung for a number of years and would consider myself an experienced performer in the genre of rock/metal, I was at a stage where I was simply not making the connections and progress I wanted on my own.

My original rock band Checaine were in the midst of recording our debut album when I felt the use of a professional vocal coach may just help me sound smoother and more connected with my voice and the listener. 

After an initial diagnostics session, in which Paule gave his professional audit on the condition of my voice and potential, he created a tailored vocal training programme. Although Paule encouraged me to identify the areas of my voice I’d like to work on I found his programme and content during lessons specifically targeted the areas I needed to work on without even realising myself. Paule has worldwide connections with some of the globe’s most renowned vocal coaches. 

His information is current and his ability to get results out of his students by using the latest tricks of the trade is second-to-none. 

It’s worth me mentioning that Paule is the fourth vocal coach I have used. I wish I had saved my time and money and gone straight to Paule.

A key area of learning for myself was around vocal health. Paule taught me the importance of treating your voice like a highly sensitive instrument. I was intrigued to learn about foods that should be avoided as a vocalist, dietary habits and the power of water.

If you are looking for that little bit of help to speed up your learning progress and are interested in any of the following I can confidently recommend Paule as the vocal coach to deliver the results you are striving for.

Weekly practice routines, how to train the voice safely, vocal health, pre-show warm ups, post-show warm down, how to perform when you have a cold, healthy/safe voice distortion, the power of blurb exercises, blend and vowel pronunciation, vowel modification, range extension, performance techniques, marketing advice and much much more.

Since having vocal training with Paule, my band has gone on to play gigs with Devilskin, I Am Giant, Setting Fire To Stacey, Ekko Park and many more.

Paule is a big believer in using analogies during his training sessions to ensure the student has a true understanding of the technique or pivotal learning moment in a lesson.

If you are looking to improve your voice then look no further than Paule. If his sheer enthusiasm for singing and your progress don’t motivate you on their own I’ll eat my hat! 

Every time I take the stage now I do so with the confidence that I have the right tools and techniques to deliver a great performance.

Thanks Paule! You Rock!

Filip Egnell – Stockholme, Sweden (Online Coaching)

Through out my life I’ve always loved to sing. But in recent years I’ve started to notice how extremely exhausted my voice got after much less than an hour of singing. 

My vocal challenge that I wanted to over come was the inefficient singing. It felt like I was pushing and staining all the time when I sang. I thought that I was already at the end of my range and volume of my voice, but I thought I’d give Paule a try anyway. During my RVR vocal diagnostic session I tried to sing Piano man and Dream on both went pretty shit. Paule said that he could help me, so I came back for the first actual coaching session. He brought out the first RVR exercises for opening the throat, showed me some strange mouth shapes and let me sing a song at the end. That was the first time ever my voice did not even feel a little exhausted after singing. So I continued the lessons for about 7-8 months  and i ve recently resumed the Skype, coaching sessions again, because I had started to loose some of the new improved vocal and breathing co-ordinations, that literally made it easier to sing high screaming rock songs!. I wanted that freedom back and new who to call to help me get back on track! In the end Paule helped me fix problems I didn’t even know I had.

I had a vocal coach prior to Paule and his methods were completely different to what I was used to. But already in the second lesson I could feel a difference. Of course I took some time to actually learn to sing like that all the time and not go back to my old ways in between the lessons. But the fact that I could already feel the difference was astonishing to me so I kept on going.

The personalized vocal coaching, was extremely helpful for me. In the coaching sessions I always trusted Paule 100% and his methods too. But at the same time I always felt like I had a say in my coaching if there was something that I wanted to work more on for example or if there was something I wanted to change. Paule always made the coaching fun and interesting with a lot of mind movies to make things easier to understand and remember.

Did Paule’s methods, exercises and coaching work for me? Not only YES, but HELL YES!! After the 7-8 months of coaching with Paule I am literally a whole new singer. I can sing things that I was only able to dream about singing before. When I started the RVR I was straining a lot while singing, I had a hard time singing loud without killing my voice after about 10 min. I couldn’t really take any notes in the 5th octave, an A4-B4 was a pretty damn high note for me. Now a high note for me is a D5-E5 and a D6 in falsetto. Because of RVR not only my chest voice and head voice got stronger, but also my falsetto. I don’t strain a lot when I sing anymore. I recently recorded some demo’s in Sweden with a progressive rock band for about 4h without even being close to blowing out my voice.

I don’t have a lot to compare Paule’s coaching to but can definitely say that every session is really, really fun! Even the ones where I thought the exercises were really tricky or the ones where something was really hard to understand for me. I knew that in the end I would get a lot out of it and man was I right. The way I would describe the coaching style is that it’s really varied and dynamic. If there is one thing in particular you want to work on Paule finds ten different ways for you to work on it and then selects the best few for you.

Sarah Spicer – Recording & Touring Artist, X-Factor Finalist

I’m 43 yrs old and quite frankly I thought, that I had my voice all worked out by now! But after spending some quality time working with Paule and his rapid vocal results methods. I definitely noticed improvments in my tone and vocal strength etc. Learning how to use my voice more efficently has  measurably improved the stamina of my singing voice.

Paule  helped me gain a deeper understanding of how the voice works in a holistic way. I have now learnt practical vocal techniques that help me to maintain my voice at its best. 

Paule helped me out recently while I was on tour. Due to my performance schedule. I had been singing daily for weeks in a row and was suffering from fatigue and lack of energy.

The RVR techniques, really work and are easy to learn! I will continue to use them in the future both on the road and in the studio.

Paule is very professional, flexible and reliable and I can’t recommend him highly enough. The Skype calls work really well and allow me to practice from home or while I’m on the road.

Many Thanks Paule,
Sarah Sassy Spicer


Six steps to develop a positive mindset and achieve your vocal goals

I have been coaching & mentoring and developing singers and professional public speakers now, for over twenty years. I couldn’t begin to count the times, over those years when aspiring singers and professional speakers have walked through my doorway and immediately, started pouring their hearts out to me about how much they love to sing, or speak and how they want to make a living through their respective crafts. These people are full of desire to make significant vocal improvements, in respect to the way that there voice currently sounds and performs. Music to my ears right? I mean I love everything to do with vocal development and especially the part about helping my clients achieve their vocal goals!

These same clients speak to me with great conviction about their willingness, to move heaven and earth, to overcome their current vocal challenges and achieve their voice goals etc. In other-words they are saying all the right things, on day one of their Rapid Vocal Results, Vocal Diagnostic Session  i.e.  there’s a visible fire in their eyes and they carry themselves with purpose in both their manner and in their body language etc.

So why do 70% of my clients go on to achieve their vocal goals and usually exceed their own initial vocal growth expectations? Why do 30% of my clients start off with great enthusiasm and quickly loose interest in achieving their vocal development goals and drop out long before they have exhausted their true vocal potential?

In both cases it’s the same answer 70% of my singers and professional voice clients understand the importance of working closely with me to help them develop rock solid positive mindsets, that enthusiastically support achieving their vocal development and musical career goals. As a result these clients are now primed to soak up each and every vocal and diaphragmatic breathing co-ordination insight and instruction that i can share with them, and they go on to experience rapid vocal results!

30% of my singers and professional voice clients, are not willing to change or strengthen their mental out look! See they are happy to perform the physical vocal and breathing exercises and co-ordinations for a short time. But sadly they neglect to take the time to work with me to develop a rock solid positive mindset. Positive supportive mindsets would have helped them to stay the course, and would have significantly reduced the time it takes for these people, to achieve their vocal development and musical career goals. Instead they quit early and never discover their true performer voice.

Let me start off by saying that, the quitting epidemic in our society is wide spread it’s even an acceptable part of our culture.

Why do so many people quit or throw in the towel before they achieve their goals in life?

The answer is that we live in an age of instant gratification i.e. we want results and measurable improvements immediately, but many people aren’t prepared to work to get the outcomes they desire!

Successful people know that the 1st step to achieving any goal you set for yourself is to create the right positive supportive mindset (or state of mind). Its vitally important to get your mind on board before you can hope to achieve any significant goals and make dramatic improvements in your life.

Suppose your friend dared you to jump over a narrow creek. So you accept the dare and immediately create a short term goal for yourself to jump over a creek or river bed and land safely on the other-side. The distance you need to jump is a challenge, if you underestimate how much energy and vertical height you need when you make the leap you can wind up short and land in the river and get wet! Most people would take a moment before they jump to visually measure the distance with their eyes (that’s called calculating the odds for success) and give themselves some kind of quick momentary pep talk to convince themselves that they can indeed, take the necessary actions to make the jump and land safely on the other-side (that’s a example of mental priming) i.e. preparing your mind to achieve success. That’s stage one of building a supportive mindset to generate the right kind of mental and physical energy that’s required to help you achieve your short or long term goals!

Next they would make a mental note to themselves, about the physical actions they need to take in-order to execute the jump properly, (that’s called preparation & strategy ) It might go something like this you’d need to back up a few paces remove any debris or fallen branches out of your way and give yourself, a good run up in-order to be able to get up enough speed to make your jump and easily cross over the water and land safely on the other side.

The last step is the most critical factor in determining a successful outcome for our river jump.

Visualization is (the tool that all successful athletes and business people/ and movie and music stars, use to create a supportive mindset to reduce the time it takes them to achieve their life goals).  The act of seeing yourself achieve goals by using your imagination to create powerful mind movies see yourself in-advance already having achieved the goal your working on! I use various visualization exercises with my students to help them to immediately over come existing vocal challenges, the coaching results are outstanding.

In this example lets visualize ourselves making the river jump etc before we physically do it, see it going smoothly in our minds eye. We might repeat this visualization five or six times until our body, feels physically comfortable with the physical activity we are about to perform.

Visualization exercises will prime our body and mind to achieve our personal best!  Here’s how visualization works…When you learn how to make the visualization real enough (i.e. employ all of your natural senses during the activity or goal you want to see yourself achieving. imagine every sound every sensation of what your body would experience, hear see, and feel as you achieve your goal etc Because when you use all your senses during the visualization your brain can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s been visualized)! If you close your eyes when doing this exercise the visualization will be that much more effective and powerful. Visualize often enough and with a high level of emotional intensity your brain will think you can already achieve the things you set out to do)! (That’s stage two of creating a supportive mindset to generate the right kind of physical and mental energy and focus needed to achieve your goals).

Without a supportive mindset it’s much more difficult to align all your bodies’ senses and energies to achieve your most important goals.
There’s an old saying that where your mind goes your energy flows.

Henry Ford, (credited as been the father of the modern motor car industry) is famous for saying “whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t your right”!

Basically too many beginner and intermediate level singers or aspiring public speakers allow their minds to entertain negative thoughts that create self doubt. That’s why, before we go to learn any new skill including singing or professional speaking. We need to create a positive mindset, that will literally support higher levels of achievement! Work on strengthening your mind at the same time as you work on improving your vocal and breathing co-ordinations and singing muscles etc and your vocal progress will be much faster and smoother.

Creating a supportive state of mind is the key to experiencing higher levels of  performance.
So before you throw in the towel and give up on your dreams if you find it hard to stay motivated to achieve your voice goals.

Try these great exercises to build a positive state of mind that will help keep you fizzed up and excited and on track to unlocking your performer voice. 

If you’re like the 70% of my successful singers and aspiring professional speaking clients, that are already committed to achieving their voice goals and career ambitions. These same exercises will give you a massive shot in the arm of additional energy and motivation to dramatically increase your vocal growth and performer potential!

If you’re like the 30% of my clients that start off with great intentions and have a history of giving up before you reach your goals, the exercises below can develop the staying power you need to realise your vocal goals and ambitions.

1.    When you wake up in the morning the first thing you say in your mind is that “I am a good person I deserve to achieve my voice goals.  Now repeat that same sentence out loud  at least five times with enthusiasm and excitement!

2.    Write down your vocal development goals on a piece of paper or on your phone, tablet etc and speak each desired goal out loud each day in a clear positive enthusiastic voice. (Seeing and hearing your vocal goals on a daily basis creates a massive amount of emotional excitement and internal energy) Let’s use that to our advantage.

3.    Talk to your vocal coach and share any negative thoughts that might be impacting on your singing…. that way your coach can help you get over your case of “stinking thinking”. If your coaches response is “suck it up buddy” or similar line of advice then you need a new coach!

4.    If you struggle to get excited at the idea of doing vocal practice change your vocabulary! I.e. the phrases “home work” or “practice time” sound boring so instead make up your own unique name for your practice time. For example it’s time for me to get going with Paule’s vocal gym. (I’ve always loved the discipline of establishing daily practice routines). My personal best is 36 days in a row of “Paule’s vocal gym”! This included some marathon three hour vocal gym exercise sessions, ( don’t try that at home!) unless you really know what you’re doing! But that’s just my idea of a good time. Those marathon vocal gym sessions helped me to obtain a wealth of valuable insights, regarding innovative ideas and concepts to improve the effectiveness of both my coaching and development services and also provided me with a wealth of valuable insights about how the human voice functions, and how our central nervous system, diaphragm and vocal and breathing co-ordinations are naturally designed to work in harmony with each other to reach your full vocal potential! These incredible insights ive gained over the years from completing  these marathon vocal gym sessions became the basis for my unique Rapid Vocal Results coaching method.

5.    Diary your practice times…… it’s easy to skip anything that’s not scheduled into your calendar or diary….. Laptops phones and tablets are great because you can even set reminders to help you stay on track with practice.

6. Visualize your self achieving your goals. Use this exercise on a daily basis for a month to see how powerful this tool really is for fast tracking your vocal progress or career goals.

I can teach anyone to sing and significantly reduce the time it takes a singer or public speaker to achieve their true vocal potential. The unique coaching insights to dramatically transform your voice come from me …..

The desire the passion and commitment to experience Rapid Vocal Results, has to come from you! Your rate of vocal achievement is driven by your emotional energy and intensity levels. Your emotional energy can run low especially if you lead a busy life style (who doesn’t right)? So make sure to top up your emotional energy levels on a daily basis by following your six step plan (as out lined above) to create a positive mindset that supports top performance.

I work with all of my clients young and old to help them set realistic vocal development goals (i.e. to achieve anywhere from 50% of their natural vocal growth potential  (for casual singers)  through to a 100% of their natural vocal growth potential (for singers aspiring to make music a full time career, and or established touring artists that need to perform at their very best vocally night after night on the road or in the recording studio).

Regardless of the singers level of ambition. I work tirelessly, to help all of my clients achieve their vocal development and career goals, by providing ongoing performance and success mentoring. I share with each of my singers the power of goal setting, and visualization exercises and various other techniques that the world’s most successful athletes and business people/ and famous musicians and actors use on a daily basis to achieve unbelievable commercial and personal success.  

The simple six step programme I’ve shared with you,  will help you to develop a positive supportive mind set, this will pave the way for you to experience higher levels of vocal performance and improvement, the mindset programme can be applied to any kind of worthy goal or ambition that you want to achieve in life. Theirs no substitute for hard work in the vocal gym but if your mind and your body are aligned and working together on the same goal you will achieve Rapid Vocal Results in half the time!

The power of goal setting and developing a positive supported mind set is not for everyone …because it takes regular effort and a willingness to prepare for greatness.. But it can work wonders for anyone that is willing to make it a daily practice and that’s the no “Bull Shit” for this blog post.

Better singing everyone!

How to transition from a theatrical singer to an authentic pop rock voice

As a vocal conditioning and performance coach. I regularly receive inquiries from singers that have found that the theatrical vocal style they have developed is now restricting  their ability to sing other styles of music with full confidence.  

Many of these singers have become frustrated or concerned at been type cast ie as been only suited for musical theatre type rolls. Which is fine if you aspire to performing in Broadway type musicals.

But what many of these singers want to know is how to reduce the time it takes to learn how to transition a theatrical dramatic voice to become an all round singer capable of singing pop/ rock/ and beyond!

The question is a good one, and I will do my best to provide some tips and free advice to help you learn how to make the smooth transition from a theatrical dramatic voice to been capable of authentically singing other styles of popular music.

First lets understand the general differences of the three main vocal styles, ie Opera, Musical theatre and Popular music (Country-pop rock,blues, heavy metal metal) etc

Operatic voices:

Desirable operatic vocal characteristics differ greatly between male and female singers.

Typically to be a successful male opera singer requires a broad deep resonating voice capable of extending the chest voice into the upper register with a minimum of mix or head voice added to the sound. The desirable characteristics for a female opera singer on the other hand is to develop a voice with bell like clarity where the high notes are mainly produced with maximum head resonance, primarily designed to ensure that the frequency range of both the male and female singers carries above  the orchestra to the back of the opera house accapela, (without microphones).

Musical theatre singers, are known for the dramatic often exaggerated manor in which they deliver a vocal line. There vocal delivery is adapted to match the broadway esque style of the music arrangement.

Typically Broadway songs are structured, written and arranged in a less than conversational style and the larger than life arrangements resemble a more modernised  version of an operatic performance.

Alternatively Pop, rock, blues, country singers etc tend to adopt a more laid back casual approach to their vocal delivery due to the more conversational song writing styles in these genres of music.

In essence there vocal styling is based on a conversational approach to singing, this style approach can be used to create raw, in your face vocal deliveries and performances  that allow the individual character of each singers voice to be easily heard and developed.

In popular music styles its the individual character of the singers voice that the audience is drawn towards and identify with. This is why we can have a number of personal fave singers in our record collections, because each singers voice has its own individual charm, from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen- to Michael Jackson – Billy Joel or Elton John or Dave Grohl or from Whitney Houston to Mariah Carey, to Amy Winehouse to Beyonce etc these singers all understand how to make the most of their conversational singing style.

Vowel styling:

Another big difference between theatrical singing and conversational pop-rock vocal styles is how the singers in each genre approach there vowel shapes.

Opera singers tend to utilise the widest broadest purest vowel sounds and while they do employ subtle vowel modification to allow the voice to change registers the objective of a male opera singer is to retain a manly voice throughout his range. That’s why a male tenor opera singer dose not normally sing higher than a c5, because in order to sing higher they would have to modify the vowel sound further and in the process they would be forced to reduce the width and girth of their manly voice on the highest notes.

IE “Nessun dorma” performed by Luciano Pavarotti

In performance, the final “Vincerò!” features a sustained B4, followed by the final note, a sustained A4. One main difference between opera singers and musical theatre singers and of course pop singers is that typically a tenor opera singer is never required to sing anything higher than a mens high C (C5).

For female opera singers, the desired voice type is the soprano in particular the highest soprano voice is known as the coloratura soprano. Coloratura sopranos are capable of amazing superhuman feats. The voice is extremely agile, singing short passages that ascend as high as the 3rd F above middle C (and in a few cases even higher). A particularly fine example is Lucia in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. 

Theatrical singers employ a broad vowel sound (closely mirroring operatic vowel sounds) in order to produce a larger more dramatic vocal tone. How-ever the larger and broader your vowel shapes become the more difficult it becomes to sing in an extended chest voice, ( ie refer back to  the previous Luciano Pavarotti example)
When a theatrical singer is required to sing higher notes up around mens a#4 or ladies C5 etc typically the singer will start to employ a lighter voice and utilise a combination of head voice or even falsetto to further extend their vocal range. This produces a vocal tone that is softer and while it is a desirable effect for musical theatre it typically sounds very out of place in a pop or rock performance etc.

Pop singers tend to approach there vowel sounds as though they were using there every day speaking voice, and only tend to broaden the vowel shape when they require a larger sound ie holding a power note. Pop/ rock/ country/blues/metal  singers enjoy all-most total freedom in regards as to how they approach there vocal production. The only standard rule of thumb been that regradless of how you approach your vocal production  remember to ensure that your extended voice ie your high notes need to retain a solid connected sound to your chest voice.

The vocal requirements for popular music singers can often be more challenging ie a rock or pop singer maybe called upon to scream or sing full vocal passages above a mens c5 or C6  for women.

How you go about forming your vowel sounds and where you choose to place or position your sounds in your throat (vocal placement), are largely down to what works best for the singer, and best compliments there natural vocal style.

Here is the two biggest challenges that most theatrical singers face when learning how to make the transition from musical theatre to singing pop or rock, country etc.

A. Learning how to approach singing in a more conversational style. This means that particular emphasis needs to be placed on how they form there vowels and consonant sounds. If the vowel sounds are pronounced to broadly the sound will end up splating as the singer ascends higher into his or her range. While this condition is true for every singing genre generally popular music arrangements span the largest vocal ranges of any singing genre. So its very important that pop rock and metal singers learn how to modify there vowels properly to maintain a connected tone over music that spans a vocal range sometimes as wide as 3 and 1/2 octaves.

B. Learning how to smoothly extend their upper register by using  vowel modifications to retain a conversational quality to their voice, while maintaining a solid connection or mix with their chest voice. The latter requires regular strengthening and conditioning of the vocal chords to safely load the desired amount of healthy tension to the chord so that the voice doesn’t flip over into a light theatrical heady voice.

Both skills can be learnt given enough time and patience.

Here’s an exercise that will help you make the transition from theatrical singing to pop singing much easier.

Learning how to develop these new kinds of vocal co-ordinations will not only improve your ability to authentically sing in popular music styles but also provide your theatrical voice with greater power and provide you with additional options and choices to improve your vocal dynamics.

1. Starting on a comfortable note closest to your speaking voice. Vocalise on a “hey”  sound  using your chest voice and progressively increase the pitch of the start note until you are just below the point in your voice where the voice wants to break or flip over into falsetto. Don’t yell aim to perform the exercise on 60% of your full volume potential. Remember to avoid sounding overly dramatic or stiff, keep the tone and style of your voice relaxed and conversational!

2. Cut back on the air that is passing over your vocal chords and aim to reduce the size and the width and the weight of the sound until you can comfortably extend your “hey” sound one or two notes past your previous break area. When you’ve sang as high as you can comfortably without straining then go down the scale again until you reach your start pitch and relax and try to sing one or two notes lower than your starting  pitch. Repeat the exercise again as often as appropriate and rest for twenty minutes in between practises.

This exercise will teach you how to safely extend your chest voice range over time without straining. A strong chest voice is very important if you want to sing popular music and is the required foundation for acquiring the vocal strength and flexibility to produce enough mass in the vocal chords so that your higher notes (in head voice have a mix of chest and head and sound fully formed).

As always if you think you would benefit from one on one coaching to help make this transition easier then get in touch via phone, email, carrier pigeon etc.

Better singing everyone.

Constrictor Muscles, The benefits of learning to sing without waking up your neighbours

Constrictor Muscles, The Benefits of learning to sing without waking up your neighbours.

This Rapid Vocal Results, blog addresses, the mechanics of how constrictor muscles work and how they can negatively impact on our vocal production. Very fitting for my first post for 2016, as it’s a big subject lots to tackle and its vital need to know info for every singer!

Regardless of your current level of singing ability, I am sure you will have experienced the frustration of going all out to sing a middle or high note with power and as you begin to produce the note or the scream you notice a feeling of tightness or squeezing in the back of the throat and correspondingly your voice simultaneously looses much of its dynamics, volume, tone etc and begins to sound small and choked off? If it has happened to you before on stage, or during a performance you will know exactly what I am describing and the negative effects it can have on your confidence as a performer.

That’s what happens when you use the big bulky muscles of the throat to support your vocal production. When you incorrectly sing this way , you’re going to automatically wake up the neighbours i.e. the “Constrictor muscles”.

Waking up the constrictor muscles is not the best idea when you sing, because it automatically reduces the internal diameter of our throat and significantly reduces the size of the resonating spaces (think, various mini amphitheatres or sound board areas) inside our throat whose job it is to naturally amplify and add rich over tones  to our sounds when ever we vocalize.

Put simply; Incorrectly engaging the Constrictor muscles when we sing sets up a vicious circle where the outcomes are always going to be the same:

A. Decreased volume.  

B. Severely impaired or muted tone. The poor singer sounds like he is been strangled.

C. The brain will recognise this restriction as a blockage in our throat and will automatically send the singer a message to push more air to remove the blockage and that unwanted excess air has to be held back by the vocal chords who will forget immediately about their singing duties and instead will tense up to withstand a barrage of hurricane like wind blasting at our vocal cords.

I am sure that you will agree, that any or all of the above aggravating conditions are less than ideal for melodic vocal production! When any one or all of these conditions is present in a singers voice, it’s a sure sign that the constrictors muscles are been incorrectly engaged in the job of vocal production.

If your reading this post and find yourself identifying with this unhealthy vocal pattern, don’t worry it can be resolved and remedied with some simple exercises to retrain these pesky constrictors muscles to remain switched off while we sing.

Before we go any further and suggest a remedy to the above vocal problem. Lets first understand what the constrictor muscles are and more importantly the vital role they play in our everyday lives to ensure our survival.

What are constrictor muscles? Where are they located? Why do we have them?

In simplified terms the constrictor muscles can be found inside our pharynx. Because these constrictor muscles are much larger than the micro muscle groups that are responsible for producing all aspects of our pitch, tone, volume and vocal effects ie grit rasp etc. Singers often make the mistake of feeling a strong connection to these big muscles when they sing.

The pharynx is, one of the major components of the anatomy that makes up our neck. Best described as a fibro-muscular tube forming part of both the digestive and respiratory systems and also plays a major role in our speech and singing production.  The pharynx is divided into three major sections extending from the base of the skull to the cricoid cartilage of the oesophagus.

The nasopharynx, the oropharynx, and the hypopharynx (also known as the laryngopharynx) lie behind the cavities of the nasal passages, mouth, and larynx respectively. Various micro muscles support the function of the pharynx, and these muscles and nerves are continually sending tiny electrical impulses (communication signals) via both sensory and motor nerves connecting to our cervical spine.

Singers that have experienced problems with compression in the cervical vertebrae brought on through previous blunt force trauma episodes i.e. sports, car accidents, falls etc. Can find these blunt force traumas have negatively affected the healthy function of the nerve roots and the various blood vessels involved in regulating pharyngeal function this can have a big impact on the mechanics of a singers healthy vocal production. As both respiration and digestion are served by this area, serious problems can arise as a result of trauma to the neck, or degeneration and chronic dysfunction in the cervical spinal region. So if you’re a singer it’s really important to maintain your overall body health but especially back and neck function, and I definitely recommend that you include back and neck and laraynx stretches as part of your vocal warm up routine or back stage warm up pre gig.

The constrictor muscles and their location.

There are six muscles which play a significant role in the function of the pharynx three of these muscles are circular and are constrictors, and three of these muscles are longitudinal (run lengthwise) in orientation and form an inner muscular ring. The three major muscles which constrict the pharynx are the superior pharyngeal constrictor (SC), the middle pharyngeal constrictor (MC), and the inferior pharyngeal constrictor (IC). The arrangement and position of these muscles has been compared to three stacked pots as they form a circular pattern one on top of the other.

Constrictor muscles are largely responsible for changing the shape and position of our throat to ensure food is correctly guided and moved to our oesophagus and later down to the stomach. In simple terms constrictor muscles ensure that,  food ends up in our stomach as opposed to in our wind pipe! The problem is these same muscles can wreak havoc on our singing voice if they are incorrectly used to support our vocal production.

The SC (superior pharyngeal constrictor) connects the lingula of the mandible (lower jaw bone) to the hamulus (hook-like end) of the medial pterygoid plate. The MC originates from the hyoid bone’s greater horn. The IC (inferior pharyngeal constrictor) is connected to the thyroid gland and nearby cartilage and continues along with the oesophagus. All three constrictors join in the middle to form the seam known as the pharyngeal raphe. There are gaps formed by these three muscles to allow for certain structures to pass through.

When we sing, we need to know that if we incorrectly squeeze on the big bulky muscles in our throat in an effort to falsely support our vocal production, we will automatically switch on and engage the series of constrictor muscles and it will be virtually impossible to maintain our desired and coveted open throat position for singing.

Please note creating and maintaining an open throat when we sing is the absolute key and cornerstone foundation to allow the voice to smoothly connect up between our chest and head voice etc. A closed throat chokes off our available vocal tone as well as our range.

Pharynx Muscles can Effect Nerve Function.

This is important, if we incorrectly squeeze and rely on the big bulky muscles in our throat to reach higher pitches or to artificially increase the volume or tone of our voice we run the risk of squeezing or compressing our laryngeal nerves.

The internal laryngeal branch of the superior laryngeal nerve passes through a gap between the MC and IC (inferior pharyngeal constrictor) along with the superior laryngeal artery from the superior thyroid artery. Finally, below the IC, the inferior laryngeal nerve and the inferior laryngeal artery are granted passage through the muscle. Excessive stresses, strains, create inflammation, and can lead to dysfunction of the muscles in this region. This can have significant ramifications for nerve function and circulation both to the pharynx itself but also the larynx and the thyroid. Conversely, inflammation or dysfunction in either of the latter two structures can greatly affect pharyngeal function and severely restrict the healthy closures of our vocal chords.

There is never a good reason to apply excessive force or tension to your vocal chords because you run the risk of not only damaging the vocal chords themselves but also the nerves that carry out the communication signals to the chords, this can result in a number of extensive vocal ailments, that i won’t go into detail on right now but one of the worst is a partial vocal paralysis of the chord its self. This can be brought on by a number of conditions, including a trapped laryngeal nerve etc.

Tom Keifer from the eighties Rock Band Cinderella experienced a similar vocal condition to the one I have out lined here its can have a debilitating effect on the singing especially in the upper register, it can require expert surgery to remedy and can take years to recover even then most ear nose and throat surgeons will agree that a singer that has experienced a partial paralysis of the vocal cord will never regain 100% of their original vocal cord function.

While there are multiple contributors that can cause partial paraylis of the vocal cords, including viral damage, etc. Singers need to understand that we can help maintain the health of our voice and lessen the risk of experiencing a partial cord paraylis by ensuring that we learn to sing in a healthy way that dose not place excessive pressure on our laranygeal nerves.

Worst case scenario. A Partial paralysis of the vocal cord means that the micro muscles that are responsible for producing vocal cord mass and vocal cord closure are weakened and one side of the vocal chords operates less efficiently than the other and due to the partial paralysis one side of the cord is unable to handle the same work load as before, leaving the voice unbalanced and prone to vocal wobbles and speed bumps cracks in the note etc.

Vocal exercise to re-train the constrictors muscles to switch off.

If you think that your incorrectly engaging your constrictor muscles when you sing and its preventing you from reaching the full potential of your singing voice try this simple exercise to turn them off.

 A. Starting on a low note four or five notes above your normal speaking voice vocalise on a lar sound, make sure you have  a wide smile and 3/4 dropped jaw and yawn into the sound.

Then while maintaining all three actions simultaneously ie the smile and the yawn and the lar sound simply let your voice slide down again back to the original pitch of your speaking voice.

Observe as you descend in pitch were you able to maintain your lar sound with your 3/4 dropped jaw yawn? If you found that the back of your throat was closing as you slid down in pitch. Simply add more yawn and combine it with your lar sound until you can complete the exercise while maintaining your open throat position.

Then proceed to start on the next highest comfortable pitch and repeat the exercise over again. It takes time to retrain the constrictor muscles to remain switched off when we sing. Be patient it takes time to re train this type of unhealthy vocal habit.

For best results i recommend that you use a piano or guitar or similar musical instrument to accurately produce your starting pitch for each vocal slide. If you don’t have access to a music instrument like the above, there are lots of free software piano programmes online that you can use to help to make these exercises fun and enjoyable.

If you are having difficulty getting your constrictor muscles to behave and think you would benefit from one on coaching to reduce the time it takes to train the correct habits and vocal co-ordinations your welcome to contact me, via phone or email.

Better singing everyone.

Paule,Rapid Vocal Results,

Conditioning and Performance Coach.