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Why You Have Tension & Strain When You Sing (and other reasons high notes are hard)

The Holy Grail for singers is the ability to sing without strain and tension throughout the entire expanse of your range while finding a free, powerful, resonant and vulnerable sound. Simple right???? I’m rolling my eyes right now – you probably are too. I feel you. I mean, if singing like that were simple, you’d be doing it by now. You would never strain going for high notes, you would never tense up at the end of a long phrase, you’d never feel anxious about what sound was going to come out – it would be amazing! The thing is, there’s a really good reason you’re frustrated, and guess what? It’s not your fault. Odds are, nobody ever told you about The Negative Feedback Loop Of Tension! I was reminded of The Negative Feedback Loop Of Tension recently when I got this message from a member of my virtual voice studio named Frankie. He writes:  “Just found your Chanel and I am hooked so far. I do need help with one thing. I have so much strain and tension and it will not go. I have watched hundreds of videos, honestly if not near thousands. When I push more and

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How To Find Your Most True And Organic Sound

I often hear from singers who say “I am having trouble finding my own sound”. Have you ever felt that way? For commercial singers (recording artists and musical theater singers) it can feel like you don’t quite know what lane your voice fits into, or what kind of singing or genre is the most organic for your voice. If you’re an opera singer, it can feel like being unsure of what fach you are in or what repertoire you should be singing at this stage of your artistic development. It’s an interesting concept, the idea of finding your own sound. It’s an exploration that involves discovering and accepting the true nature of our singing voice, which is no small feat. When we are younger, most of us grow up emulating the sounds our favorite singers make. When I was a kid (and I’m about to date myself here) I wanted to sound like Whitney Houston. I don’t have to tell you. . . . there’s no way a 10yr old white girl from Florida is gonna sound like Whitney Houston. But damn if I tried! Oh, I manipulated my voice, I pushed, I darkened it and in my head it sounded

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Tools For Healthy Belting

Do you ever get confused and frustrated by all the conflicting information out there around the idea of healthy belting? Some voice teachers shun the fact that there is even such a thing as healthy belting and they steer singers away from belting entirely. Others teach a technique that doesn’t address the tensions that inefficient belting creates, and unknowingly lead their singers down a dangerous path towards possible vocal injury. I recently heard from a member of my virtual voice studio named Donna asking these very questions. She writes: There is so much information nowadays about singing technique and I am very passionate about it. The thing is, I read a lot of books about vocal technique and met a lot of teachers in order to improve my knowledge (and singing of course) and let’s just say the information gathered was sometimes so confusing and tension friendly. So thank you for sharing your wisdom with everyone! I have a question about those really high belting notes for females (d-d#-e-f): do you have some pieces of advice in order to help one access those notes in a powerful way (with that edge quality)? Is it enough to think about lower support

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Business Advice For Singers

I want to share a little piece of business advice for singers I learned later in my career that I WISH I’d learned from the very start. It’s not the kind of business advice that has to do with managing your dollars and cents. Rather it’s a foundational concept to managing your mindset around the business of your career as a singer. It is this: I am not just a performing artist, I am a business. Tattoo this on your forehead so that you see it every time you look into the mirror, it’s that important! Say it out loud: I AM A BUSINESS I’ve noticed that the mindset most of us start out our singing career with is not a business mindset, it is a “starving artist” mindset. It is a mindset of lack. It is a mindset that doesn’t generally take risks or invest in growth, and those are two of the most important predictors of success in any field. My own experience as a young singer and my experience working with all of you has taught me this: When we are in the “starving artist” mindset, we have a really hard time taking risks and investing in

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How To Transition From Chest Voice To Head Voice Smoothly

Does switching back and forth from chest voice to head voice give you anxiety? Want to know how to transition from chest voice to head voice smoothly and reliably EVERY SINGLE TIME?  If your answer is “Yes!”read on . . . . First off, you are totally not alone. The ability to transition from chest voice to head voice smoothly is the source of SO much insecurity for so many singers. And second, I don’t blame you! The middle voice can be a tricky part of the voice to negotiate and downright scary without good tools. Today I have some insights that will help. Many singers and voice teachers call this part of the voice “the break” because that’s exactly how it sounds and feels to so many of you. . . . like a fissure in your mechanism preventing you from moving fluidly from one register to another. And boy can it feel scary. . . . . like trying to cross the Grand Canyon without a bridge! Personally, I hate the term “the break”. I don’t use it to describe this part of the voice and I encourage you to toss it out too. You see, the words

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My Best Advice For Singers

Every so often I am asked what my best advice for singers is, and I always find the answer hard to articulate  – as if one sentiment could possibly encapsulate all that I want to say! The question came up again recently and has been on my mind.  And then it came to me. . . . . The best advice for singers I can possibly give is SO macro. It’s not about the specifics of breath support or finding resonance. It’s not about learning the right repertoire or understanding your voice type. It has to do with perseverance and dedication. The art and craft of singing, whether you are doing it at the professional level or as a passionate recreational singer, is a process that is and will always be evolving within you. To be a great singer and a great artist is to embrace that process. Become a lifelong learner of your craft.  That, my lovelies, is my best advice for singers. So as summer comes to an end and we’re all back from our lazy summer days (hopefully a little rejuvenated from any travel or vacation time we took), it’s the PERFECT time to get rededicated and

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A Tip To Find Effortless Singing

It’s so awkward being at a show and watching a singer work really, really hard. You see their neck veins pop out, their breaths are gasping and labored as they push and squeeze the phrases out. They have no idea how to sing without strain and it’s exhausting to watch. Have you seen a singer like this? Nothing is worse. Well, I take that back. . . .there is something worse. . . . . BEING that singer who’s pushing, squeezing and otherwise working  waaaaaay too hard. Not only does it alienate your audience, it just doesn’t feel good to sing that way. The truth is, your body wants to sing without strain. If singing doesn’t feel good, that’s your body telling you that you’re not doing it right.  With efficient technique, singing feels effortless. It doesn’t feel like work. In fact, it hardly feels like anything at all . . . . except really, really great! If it feels like a whole lot of work, your body is signaling that you haven’t quite found the sweet spot of efficiency yet. But have no fear! Finding the sweet spot of efficiency is not as elusive as it sounds. One of

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What To Do If You Are Running Out Of Breath When Singing A Long Phrase

Running out of breath when singing a long phrase is SO frustrating! No matter what genre you sing, I think most of us have had the experience. There’s always that one phrase in that one song that gets you every time. I remember a specific piece that used to give me so much anxiety because there was one long phrase I could never make it through no matter how hard I tried. Do you relate? I wish I knew then what I know now. I’ve come to understand that if I’m running out of breath when singing a long phrase, the issue is not what’s happening during the actual phrase.   The problem usually lays in what’s happening with my breath and support BEFORE that phrase – often many, many bars before it. When I’m so laser focused on the actual long phrase, I fail to notice how my singing and breathing in the bars prior to it might be sabotaging my ability to sustain it once I get there. In today’s video, I work with a singer on getting present to why she’s running out of breath when singing a long phrase. Watch the transformation as she backs up, understands

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How To Sing Without Tension & Why “Why” Matters

Have you ever noticed that so many of the tools and ideas I give you to help you sing without tension have a component of mindfulness in them?  I realized recently that I don’t always explain why I do that, or why mindfulness plays such a big part in reducing tension and the way that I teach. So today I really want to circle back to the “why” of it all and also give you an exercise for how to sing without tension in your own practice. So why is mindfulness so important to help you sing without tension so you can sound better and feel better singing? As singers, our body is our instrument. You’ve heard me say that about a million times, right? And just like a trombone player or a cello player makes sure that their instrument is in good working order, we too need to make sure our instrument (our body) is set up to work our technique as efficiently as possible. For singers, the main thing that compromises our instrument and our technique is tension. I know so many of you deal first hand with the discomforts of tension in your singing and would do

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The Secret To Great Singing – An Interview

Do you ever notice how easy it is to get caught up in the minutia of your singing technique? We spend so much time and energy perfecting and polishing every little thing, seeking out technique tips and testing out performance hacks in hopes of finding the secret to great singing. But in doing so, we can so easily loose sight of what the purpose of it all is. Above all else, we are artists. We are creators seeking to share our experience of the world with others through our voice. “To be an artist is to witness the world. Open your ears, open your eyes. Notice the gifts around you.” That’s a wonderful quote from bestselling author, Dani Shapiro on maximizing the creative process. When we become so consumed with the physical practice of our technique, it can be like walking through a landscape with blinders on. We only see the 10% of the landscape we are focused on, and we miss everything else around us that could be informing our journey. When we take in the world and witness it with an open heart, we reconnect with the creative artists that we are. In doing so, we are much more