As a vocalist myself, I know that trusting your voice to a teacher is a scary, vulnerable thing to do. I can't imagine how much more that rings true for the voice of your child. Not only do young voices have to navigate growing and developing muscles, cartilage, ligaments, etc. that seem to change on the daily, but they also are still discovering who they are and what they have to say with their voice. In this realm, I look at my scope of practice as more of a guide than a teacher. I consider it my task to aid them on their vocal journey (see my Studio Manual for more on this), not completely uproot and change their sound. Yes, there are certain parts of the voice that will develop naturally over time, but we can lay a foundation of technique that allows that to blossom in the most natural way possible.

I also realize that many of you have probably struggled with voice teachers who don't seem to make substantial progress with your child. While I can't know the specifics of every situation, I would venture to guess that this teacher is likely a good singer and has always been a good singer (or at least had good lessons from a very young age). The logic here is sound: Someone who sings well must know how to use their instrument well and therefore can teach others to do the same. Due to the unseen and kinesthetic nature of the voice, however, simply being able to use your instrument well doesn't guarantee effective teaching. Even if they are using vocal exercises that worked for them, every voice is unique, and a fundamental understanding of vocal function is necessary to tailor these exercises to each individual voice.

Therefore, to address these issues, I have included videos below of my own voice over time. The intent here is to show my own vulnerability - some of these videos are truly cringe worthy - but also, more importantly, to demonstrate my familiarity with vocal progress. I was not someone who woke up one day with a good singing voice. I have first hand experience struggling with basic, basic ideas and have trained my ear to hear subtle changes over time and developed tools to track this progress (see Vocal Track Record). Needless to say, even the most recent videos are not perfect. I myself am on my own vocal journey, but since the the only standard is progress, I have found success.


When Words

Why I chose this video:

:01 You can hear how far back I'm singing right from the beginning, an attempt to sound older which is making it way more difficult to sing than it needs to be.

:30 Reaching for notes/bringing up weight and inevitable voice crack on "petals."

1:15 Getting louder to try to support the same section from earlier, but you can hear a bit of my "real voice" - meaning not manipulated by swallowed vowels - in this section, especially on "personality is bigish" as I tried to speak instead of sing.

2:00 Watch my chest and shoulders through this section. They rise and fall abruptly and more quickly because I know a high part is coming, so I'm trying, unsuccessfully, to get more air.

2:18 You can see my disappointment with myself on this crack. Just wanting this song to be over so badly.

Throughout you can tell that I pay no attention to character or the story of the song because I'm so self conscious of my sound. This is what I mean when I talk about thinking about technique instead of being in the moment.


Make It Here.MOV

Why I chose this video:

:14 I sound much more like myself in this example, finding more speech-like vowels as opposed to swallowed, manipulated ones.

:30 Already able to pay more attention to the action of the song because I'm not judging myself as much.

:50 First big example of bringing up weight. Much better than the last video, but still pinched and unsustainable as we will see.

1:48 Resonance falls back and I have to squeeze to sound consistent and hit these notes, setting me up poorly for the next section.

2:13 "It's a" is completely in my chest register, when it needs to be mixed (light mechanism) for my voice, and I carry this weight all the way until the big "for" - riddled with tension and not able to sustain it for the whole value.

Overall, there is a more speech-like quality to this which makes it sound more natural, but the thyroarytenoid dominance (heavy mechanism) paired with overly dark vowels makes the pitches often fall flat and the climax painful to watch.


Lost in the Wilderness.MOV

Why I chose this video:

:14 even more forward vowels in this example as opposed to the last, more nasality present.

:38 "If anyone's watching" is squeezed out, almost shouted.

:59 Even though in general I have found a more speech-like place, you can hear on "star" how my default is still manipulated vowels in the back on sustained notes.

1:41 Use of physicality to force my voice to ascend. I hit all the notes, which is a type of progress, but it sounds very pressurized and tight. This is exaggerated by the words "in the wilderness" because of their closed vowels [I] and [É›].

2:12 On "finally we'll be" you can hear the vocal fatigue from the rest of the song come out in a sort of rasp. The final note is completely unstable and equally pinched since my voice is unable to support this sound any longer.

2:24 You can see the moment I drop character and the immediate disappointment in myself. I'm coldly met with "Ok, what worked?" instead of a process to improve and recognition of the progress from the previous year.

I remember watching this video back and thinking it was the best I had ever sounded. And at the time it was. Even though there was still immense tension and pressure, I hit the highest notes and at the time that was all that mattered to me.


To Kiss a

Why I chose this video:

:08 This entire opening section sits just above my speaking voice, since I had yet to develop the proper cricothyroid function needed to lighten this, the whole thing sits a little under pitch and ever so slightly pushed.

1:21 The flip into falsetto doesn't sound bad, but it is clear that this register is not properly developed because the sound cuts out before the breath does right at the end.

1:38 The easy, laidback quality of this song has caused me to pull back my breath resulting in a voice crack on "girl," even though this pitch is not particularly high.

2:17 Pinching and closing of pharyngeal space to hit these notes.

3:28 Same as above but exaggerated further as the pitch ascends, resulting in a shrill sound.

I remember filming this a bunch of times because it was a final for class. You can hear the vocal fatigue in my voice throughout that I cover by manufacturing vibrato or getting louder. At this point in my vocal journey, I'm not cracking as often or obviously, and I'm kind of hitting the notes, it's just not in a sustainable way.


Moving Too Fast.MOV

Why I chose this video:

:13 You can see me take a breath with my shoulders before the sound even starts. I had actually started working breath technique into my lessons at this point, so the resultant sound is more supported and has tinges of light mechanism even though it is still fairly heavy for this range in my voice.

:54 Same as before, I hit this note without cracking, however the higher overtones are still being amplified more than I would like making it sound a bit shallow and spread and not exactly on pitch.

1:05 Finally some real cricothyroid activation. However, my resonance is placed in my mouth as opposed to my nasal cavity and this makes the sound a bit unstable, and is also why it goes from very forward sounding on "what else am I" to very back on "supposed to do?"

Overall, I was pleased with this cut. It's not quite as sustainable as it needs to be (the full song is nearly five minutes), but at this point in my journey I was starting to see things as a process, and I felt that this was a solid step in the right direction.



Why I chose this video:

:08 Gotta showcase those guitar skills.

:25 This is very subtle, but see if you can hear the shift I make on "and you play it coy." A light mechanism approach here allows me to easily hit the F#4 on "kinda cute" without pressure, tension or pushing.

:30 From "baby don't pretend" to "you don't know it's true" I successfully switch back to a chest dominant register.

:40 Back again on "Crazy times" to light mechanism.

1:12 I revert back to some old habits on "man." It's a bit pushed/squeezed which makes the whole phrase a little more difficult as it progresses resulting in "our way" becoming almost completely pinched.

1:54 This section again is a bit back to old habits of mouth resonance and pressurizing as I ascend, but since I sang the majority of the rest of the song in a more sustainable light mechanism, I was able to hit these notes without much trouble or worry.

I like to do this with my students as well: Look at what went well from before and what still needs work. For this song, I have made big strides in the breath flow and registration department. Next, I need to refine my resonance so the whole song is free and clear.