Why can't I reach that note? – The Voice Club

Naomi Bignell is The Voice Club’s European Managing Instructor. She specialises in pop, classical, broadway, standards and contemporary worship. Naomi teaches on the Basic and Advanced training programs and offers sessions in the Vocal Repair Clinic. In addition to teaching at The Voice Club, Naomi is a professional voice talent and singer/songwriter.

 
You’re singing your favourite song or classical aria. It’s going fine, until you reach that tricky part – you know, the part with the high power note. You know it’s coming, so you try to prepare for it. So you tense up, eyebrows knitted, butt squeezed, white knuckles… you open your mouth and…. well, it’s not pretty. So what went wrong?
 
The problem is that when you sing a song, whether you’re reading from sheet music or not,  your brain tells you to visualise where the notes are – so you get used to thinking of notes as hard (high or low) or easy (mid range). This is especially problematic if you read music, as it’s likely you’re running through the staves in your head as you sing.
 
But the thing is… high notes aren’t really high. Let me explain. Your vocal cords, those tiny pieces of tissue inside your larynx, are controlled by 6 groups of muscles which move and interchange in order to resist the air flowing up your windpipe, which then resonates in your head and chest to create sound. Your voice does this naturally all the time during speech, without you once thinking “I wonder how I’ll ever be able to speak that high?”. The trouble is, your brain has you convinced that speaking and singing are different processes, when they’re really the same. Because your brain tells you that singing is “hard”, it tries to help you reach certain notes by adding physical tension habits. This contributes to your feeling that the note is “hard”, so your brain adds more physical tension habits, and the cycle continues…
 
The reality is that the only muscles which need to be involved for you to create sound in speech or song are the muscles within your larynx – not your neck, back, shoulders, or butt!
 
So what’s the solution? In order to really tackle your tension habits, you need to get with a qualified vocal instructor. In the meantime, why not start taking notice of how you use your voice in speech – how many times you hit notes in speech which you’d think were impossible in song. For more tips on reaching the high note, check out our ‘How to Sing’ series on YouTube, and email us if you have a song you’d like us to feature!
 
To check out our training options click here or email Naomi to ask a specific question about your voice.

Breaking out of the classical box – Podcast

Let’s take a trip down memory lane for a moment.
You’re back in school, you’ve discovered you love to sing, so you ask your parents for singing lessons.
After some delay (could be weeks, months or years, depending on the parents!) they find a local singing teacher in the Yellow Pages and you turn up eagerly for your first lesson, all ready to be molded into the next Whitney/Celine/Michael Jackson.
Your new singing teacher digs out their favorite classical aria and tells you it would be perfect for your voice. Thus your classical training begins.
You assume at some point you will start learning the songs you want to sing, but your teacher is so enthusiastic about your beautiful classical voice that you assume they know best and keep learning the repertoire they select for you.
You try to apply what you’ve learned in your singing lessons to some of your favorite pop, soul or musical theater songs, but somehow it all comes out sounding like a classical aria.
What’s wrong?
The problem is that you have learned how to STYLE a classical song, without the solid vocal technique which allows you to sing any song, any style, with ease and magnificent diva flair.
TECHNIQUE VS. STYLING
Styling is how we dress up a song with vocal tools so that the ear identifies your unique style and the genre of the song.  Technique is the building of the machine that gets the song up and running so you can dress it up and take it out for people to hear.
The problem is that few singing teachers know much about really building the machine, opting instead for a long list of repetitive list of vocal exercises before they launch you into styling a song.  And, in their defense, most of them don’t know that they’re locking you in that box because they don’t really understand the difference for themselves.
True vocal technique training it is the education of the mind and the voice based on the anatomy of the voice.  It includes careful crafting of exercises to develop the muscles that work the vocal chords.
The problem is that not all ‘exercises’ are created equal.
You can drive your car around in a circles until you run out of gas.  Your speedometer will tell you you’ve covered quite a bit of ground even though you haven’t really gotten anywhere.  Unfortunately many of the singers we meet feel like that’s what their singing lessons have done for them.
It takes the right approach to the right problem to gain ground.  Knowing what to do with your voice when, and most importantly WHY, is the process that’s missing in the wide majority of vocal instruction.
WILL I EVER GET OUT OF THIS BOX?
If the way you’re approaching singing hasn’t gotten you much closer to your goals, it’s time to take a new approach.
At The Voice Club we train your voice so that it can sing ANY style you choose, even if you change your style more often than Pandora adds channels.
A well trained, balanced voice is like a well trained athlete who can play several sports.  The basis of The Voice Club’s ‘Better, FASTER’ method is to get you trained fast to develop your own unique style of singing, underpinned by solid, healthy technique.
In a day of teaching, we could be working on a classical aria, Broadway song, pop power ballad and keynote speech, and that’s just before lunch.
You CAN break out of that classical box. And come back and visit it anytime you like.  We help singers do it every day.
To check out our training options click here or email Naomi to ask a specific question about your voice.

The breath support myth – The Voice Club

Naomi Bignell is The Voice Club’s European Managing Instructor. She specialises in pop, classical, broadway, standards and contemporary worship. Naomi teaches on the Basic and Advanced training programs and offers sessions in the Vocal Repair Clinic. In addition to teaching at The Voice Club, Naomi is a professional voice talent and singer/songwriter.

If you’ve ever had singing lessons, or even if you haven’t, you’ve probably heard an awful lot about breath support. Some teachers will devote your whole first lesson – or more – to breathing, before you even sing a note.  You may hear about the diaphragm, abdominal breathing, and be given many exercises to help you expel more air. I’ve been pulled by my arms, pushed against walls and laid flat on the floor, among others.
 
The truth is, it’s all nonsense. No… don’t stop reading. I can prove it!
 
The vocal cords are tiny. They’re about the size of your thumb nail bed, and they’re only very delicate tissues. If you employ all the breathing techniques advocated by the average singing teacher, squeezing your butt and expelling air from your lungs by pushing with all your abdominal and lower back muscles, your vocal cords will not be able to cope with all that air. Result? Instead of resisting the air and enabling you to sing a note, they’ll blow right open and all you’ll expel is air. If you’re trying to sing a note, it will crack.
 
All told, you can expel 2000 watts of air if you try really hard. Your vocal cords can withstand 2 watts. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is overkill!
 
Here’s the bottom line. If you can breathe well enough to talk (and stay alive) you can breathe well enough to sing. Speaking and singing are essentially the same anatomical process – when you speak you are hitting multiple notes, but at such a high speed that your ear doesn’t register them as musical tones – and it’s very rare to run out of breath while speaking, unless you’re getting very excited about something!
 
At The Voice Club, we never teach breath support because it simply isn’t necessary for training voices. Moreover, we find that singers who have been trained in breath support have more physical tension issues (which stand in the way of a healthy, balanced voice) than other singers who haven’t.
 
If your voice is well-trained and in balance, your body knows exactly how much air it needs to send up the windpipe for each note you sing. It’s a simple case of muscle memory – the more you sing in a balanced way, the more familiar your body is with the sequence of events needed to create sound in singing.
If you’re ready to start finding your vocal potential, come and train with me at The Voice Club. We offer private coaching and group classes to singers of all ages and abilities. Or, if you have a specific question about your voice, email me directly.

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