Author Archives: Sing With Power Blog

About Sing With Power Blog

My name is Eric Bruner and I've been a voice teacher for 30 years. I teach a singing technique that applies to every musical style, giving you the vocal freedom to sing through your entire range, high and low, loud and soft, without strain, without breaks or cracks, and no running out of air. Your singing should feel as easy as your speech.

Again, Learning to Sing “Classically”Does Not Mean You’ve Learned to Sing Well! I can’t believe I have to write this article again…

I just completely lambasted another voice teacher (and I believe it to be called for). She vehemently disagreed with my assertion that learning to sing “classically” is NOT technically superior than learning through other styles…

I was going to shoot back a very terse two-sentenced reprimand… yeah, well, my two sentences pretty much turned into this article. To be clear: I have no problem with disagreement, or having back and forth discussions about vocal topics. If it is in the spirit of mutual understanding, great, if not, well… professionalism be damned! Here it goes…

(The article she refers to is this one, if you care to read it: Is “Classical” Voice Training Best?”)

I disallowed her comments to post in the replies to the article because I was not going to be nice, and more specifically, I did it so I could reply without having to reveal her name. I’ve encountered the “type” many times, and they tend to be the ones who only discouraged their students from the music they like to sing. Her reply to the article:

“Much obliged to you for your post!Bunches of magnificent data including, yet Classical strategy is significantly less convoluted than other singing technique.To take in this system, a couple of things must happen. In the first place, we should inhale and bolster low on our bodies – this is combined with appropriate adjust and stance. Next, we should sing clear, round vowels with an open throat. These are the standards I was most centered around as a youthful traditional artist, handling tunes from the greats like Puccini, Schubert, Barber, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.” (I removed her name)

My reply:


Classical music is a music style of singing. Classical singing is not a technique.

Let’s say that again to be clear, and to be sure that my premise is rightly understuood: Classical music is a music style of singing. Classical singing is not a technique.

If classical singing is a technique, then I would argue that, on the whole, it is a poor technique. Within classical music, there are actually many dozens of different vocal techniques taught, though they are all applied to one style… the general category of classical music.

Classical music does not dictate proper technique, nor does singing with a precise, controlled technique necessitate have ever sung one note of classical music. Were that not the case, there would be no good singers with great technique outside of those who have sung songs primarily in opera or the classical genre in general.

In fact, I would go a step further and argue that most classical singers sing poorly, with an out-of-control vibrato, a pressed, driven or covered tone, or they have chest and head registers that are utterly disconnected. One might retort that statement by declaring, “Good opera singers don’t do those things!” The same, however, is true of pop, jazz, rock, country, musical theater, etc.

If a solid vocal technique principle is also solid physical principle, then no style owns it! Classical singers need to be taught the same, natural feeling and sounding technique that everyone should be taught as well. A physical principle IS NOT tethered to a particular style of music.

I studied and sang classical music and many other styles. I was an instrumentalist who studied and played classical and many other styles. I learned EVERY BIT AS MUCH about the voice and the instruments from playing and singing other styles. Maintaining good technique is equally challenging, depending on the songs attempted (true of classical as well), in every musical style.

To put it like a friend of mine use to say to people, “It ain’t as easy as it looks, sister!”

I DO believe and fully admit (as it would be hard to argue otherwise) that the traditional discipline and organized approach to learning technique (good or bad technique!) is found more often in classical regimens. While I believe that to be true in general, when the same regimen of practice (not a regimen of style, but one of an organized approach and application of sound vocal pedagogy) is applied with sound vocal principles to any style (evidenced by a voice with no breaks throughout the ENTIRE vocal range, which stems from a relaxed connection of chest and head voices with NO shift in tone or production… ANYWHERE in the voice), then style is utterly inconsequential.

There are enough terrible singers out there in every style, including classical and opera, to go around. One of my top three favorite male singers, Pavarotti, was a great singer, but so are many other singers who haven’t sung a lick of classical music.

I’ve seen the love of singing crushed right out of students by teachers who force their students to sing a style they dislike (usually classical) and then tell them they can’t do it right so they’ll never be able to sing other styles right, discouraging the student… when all the while it was the teacher’s lack of ability to understand the difference between a style of music and vocal production that, in my opinion, utterly disqualifies those instructors as voice teachers. These teachers’ lack of ability to teach is usually accompanied by an ego the size of Texas (for those outside the USA who don’t know… Texas is big!)

I would put up the majority of my students against the average professional opera singer, and I fear the opera singers would be put to shame.

Though almost done, my rant continues…! I love classical singing styles of all kinds, when performed well. I love teaching classical music, and I’ve worked with many fine opera singers, but if I can’t teach a technique that can just as easily apply to any other style, then I have no business teaching, or even discussing vocal technique. Instead, I should just stick to coaching a confined style of music…. or golf.

That all being said… Happy Singing!!

Eric Bruner

Don’t Skip the Vocal Warm-up

(The topic of the 3 essential elements to a complete vocal warm-up is also addressed in a video I created HERE.)


We all know that a vocal warm-up prior to singing is a good idea. We also know that NOT eating at McDonald’s is a good idea. We tend to ignore both good ideas. (Ok, maybe I’m projecting concerning the McDonald’s thing.)

It is not only crucial to do a vocal warm-up, it is imperative that it is a complete vocal warm-up.  What do I mean by “complete”? I’m glad I asked!

Vocal warm-up exercises for singers must contain 3 elements to be a complete warm-up. Without ALL 3 elements, then it isn’t a completely effective vocal warm-up. A good warm-up enables singers to sing more comfortably throughout their vocal ranges, prevents strain, and allows their voices to remain free for a longer singing session.

What are these three elements, and what are their importance?

Before answering that question, I’d like to explain what warming up isn’t. It isn’t just singing an easy song or two. It isn’t singing low so you don’t sing into your upper notes too soon. It isn’t something that will wear your voice out because you weren’t saving enough for the performance. It isn’t consciously working on breathing or breathing exercises.  All of these thought processes are incomplete at best, detrimental at worst.

After introducing the three essential elements of a complete vocal warm-up, I will explain why the above mentioned sub-par vocal warm-up ideas don’t fit our criteria for a good vocal warm-up.

The three essential elements of a complete vocal warm-up are:

  1. starting out by slowly ramping up the blood flow into the muscles involved in the singing process, especially those in and immediately surrounding the vocal folds (vocal cords);
  2. stretching the muscles of the vocal folds;
  3. and coordinating the different range areas of the voice by singing with proper physical form.

Let’s address each of these in turn.

First, slowly ramp up the blood flow in and around the muscles of the vocal cords.

For each of the three warm-up elements, I will make analogies to warm-ups done by runners. If runners run too hard or too fast before they warm-up, they will quickly fatigue. Why?

At rest or while doing little work, muscles are “fed” oxygen and nutrients at a certain rate, and the “waste” is carried away at that same rate, creating a good balance. This rate sustains the health of the muscles. Now, when muscles are exercised, they need more oxygen and nutrients to do their job. If not, a muscle will literally start breaking itself down to feed the rest of the muscle. In a way, it begins to cannibalize itself!

If one starts working muscles faster than the blood flow can keep up, the muscles break down, and fatigue occurs. At this point, time is needed to allow the muscles to rebuild themselves or they will continue to break down. In the meantime, the muscles are weaker and they can’t handle the full workload they might otherwise handle had the blood flow been slowly increased to keep up with the demand of the oxygen and nutrient needs of the muscles.

So how does that translate practically for a singer? Start with low volume or less than medium volume level exercises, and give yourself plenty of breaks between exercises. Don’t plow through a bunch of exercises in a row without breaks. Take at least 20-30 seconds between each exercise, more if you feel even the least bit of fatigue sneaking in. In fact, if fatigue is beginning to show up you should stop for one of these mini-breaks even if in the middle of a warm-up exercise. Ease your way in. Video warm-up example exercises can be found for the male voice and female voice at the Sing With Power YouTube channel.

Second, stretch the vocal cord muscles.

With any athlete, stretching is important to achieve full muscle flexibility and range of motion. Muscles that are comfortably stretched are less likely to get pulled or strained.

So, how does one stretch the vocal cords? Sing high.

When singing high notes the vocal cords stretch in length. The stretched, more taut vocal cords produce a faster “buzz”, and therefore a higher pitch. Flexible vocal cords will vibrate more readily in the upper register, needing less air pressure to respond with a clear tone.

So how does that translate practically for a singer? Use exercises such as lip bubbles, tongue trills or “blowfish” which allow a singer to sing high into his or her upper register without strain. Any air pressure buildup that might happen in the extreme ranges is transferred to the lips or tongue, allowing the cords to freely vibrate with very little air pressure, even at the highest pitches. Again, video warm-up example exercises can be found for the male voice and female voice at the Sing With Power YouTube channel.

Third, get rid of the break!

If there is a “break” or “crack” in the voice at any point in the range, there is an imbalance of some kind. Athletes need to have good form, no matter the skill needed. Without good form, it does no good to add more weight, speed or effort. Weight, speed or effort added to an exercise or activity that is out of balance will simply bring it down faster. For a singer that might manifest itself as quicker fatigue, vocal cracking, unwanted scratchiness, or any number of other undesirable results. First perfect the form in the warm-up, THEN move on to a vocal workout. Don’t sing a lot in an unbalanced voice or you will build a “lopsided”, limited voice.

So how does that translate practically for a singer? There are a variety of exercises that are designed to help smooth out and erase vocal breaks or cracks. These are much more easily demonstrated than written about so I would again refer you to the warm-up exercises for the male voice and female voice at the Sing With Power YouTube channel. That being said, the exercise types for the task of erasing the break are focused on evening out the compression and airflow across the “bridge” or vocal break areas (those areas in the singing voice that have a propensity for airflow imbalance). Vocal frys, breathy vocals, shallow sounds or other “contrived” sounds can also be utilized to even out the air pressure across the bridge areas. “Working out” the voice to achieve strength or stamina is premature until a good balance is achieved.

So, armed with a new understanding of the three critical warm-up elements, let us dismantle the common warm-up mantras.

“You need to start out sing low so you don’t strain your voice by singing into your upper notes too soon.” Wrong. If you don’t sing high, you don’t stretch the vocal cord muscles. Low notes don’t stretch the cords. Without the stretching, the muscles will lack the flexibility needed to easily balance the voice across the bridge areas of the entire vocal range. If you sing high with bubbles, tongue trills or blowfish exercises, there will be zero strain, even in the highest range of your voice, even without any singing prior to beginning those exercises.

“The warm-up could wear out your voice for the performance, so one should be careful to not warm-up too much so you have more for the performance.” Well, almost, but no. A warm-up that fatigues the voice isn’t a warm-up! Too much work is being done too early. Either more breaks should be taken throughout the initial exercises and/or less volume should be used. It is important to not push to work out the voice too early, or it will fatigue too soon.  A proper warm-up will extend the time one can comfortably sing, not shorten it.

“It is important to work on breathing exercise as part of the warm-up.” The vast majority of breathing exercises are a complete waste of time and have no bearing on how the vocal folds naturally balance airflow through the vocal range. While singing isn’t exactly like speech, it ain’t much different!! We should train from the vocal cords out, not the outer muscles in. The breath should tell the vocal cords how much air they need any more than the gas tank should tell the engine how much gas to use. Find a good airflow that the cords can comfortably control (hint: start with your speaking voice) and then go from there. The right vocal exercises will automatically coordinate the airflow to the needs of the vocal cords. There is much, much more to completely address this topic, but that is all I will say for now.


Find a small group of exercises you use consistently as your warm-up exercises. There is no need to be particularly creative here. Just as a runner will pretty much do the same thing to warm up his or her entire running life, a singer should stay fairly consistent with a warm-up so as to quickly gauge the state of his or her singing voice when starting out each day.

A good warm-up will extend the practice or performance time of the voice, and allow for greater range and stronger sounds. Don’t settle for a partial warm-up. Be sure that all three essential elements are there in your warm-up:

  • slowly ramping up the blood flow into the muscles involved in the singing process;
  • stretch the muscles of the vocal folds by singing into the upper register with the appropriate exercises;
  • eliminate vocal breaks by coordinating the different range areas of the voice, singing with proper physical form.

Once more, video warm-up example exercises can be found for the male voice and female voice at the Sing With Power YouTube channel.

Happy Singing!

Eric Bruner








Article: How to Become a Voice Teacher

How to Become a Voice Teacher

article by Eric Bruner

So you’ve been thinking about becoming a voice teacher? Good choice! Becoming a voice teacher, vocal coach or singing teacher is a great career path that offers many rewards and challenges.

So how do you become a voice teacher?

Well, like a teacher of any other discipline, a singing teacher’s focus should be on the student, the singer. Your students will come to you with a wide spectrum of goals and abilities. It is your job to help them toward those goals. For some, becoming an amazing performer worthy of filling a stadium is their goal. A difficult one to be sure, but it’s their goal nonetheless. For others, they may simply want to sing better in the church choir, or on karaoke night, or just have more fun singing in the shower!

As a vocal teacher, you have to have the personal singing skill and training to understand your own voice first, THEN comes the study of the voices of others. Teaching is as much about “getting into the head and emotions” of the student as much as it is understanding the technical aspects of the voice and voice training. How a student feels when singing effects his/her voice dramatically. Understanding this goes a long way in helping that individual conquer their vocal technique issues.

Now, with all that being said, let’s focus on the two primary focuses you must have as a private vocal teacher. First, you have to understand how to train singers, and second, you have to understand business. It’s similar to a self-employed plumber. Not only does he have to be a very good plumber, he also has to have a steady stream of customers to serve, and that’s the business piece of the equation.

An experienced, effective vocal teacher can make a very good living. Even beginning voice teachers typically charge between $30-$50 per hour, depending on the market and their skill level. Experienced teachers can charge $100 per hour and up because of the speed at which they can make changes in a singer’s voice.

The Vocal Expertise
First of all, you have to have your own singing voice together. In other words, you need to be able to sing throughout your entire vocal range without any vocal breaks or shifts in sound or tone quality. You have to have a solid, even voice, everywhere in your range. If not, you can’t expect to be able to teach others.

Second, you’ll need to observe an advanced teacher teaching lessons to many different singers. You should watch a good teacher work with singers of different musical styles, different age groups, different stages of vocal development (not just advanced students or just beginning students), male and female students, etc.

Although the principles of good vocal technique are the same across all styles, ages, and genders, each student is different and comes with a different vocal, emotional, and cognitive approach to the way they sing. As a voice teacher, you need to be able to help a student capitalize on what they already do well and to improve the areas of the voice that can grow. Observing many hours of the teaching of an advanced, successful voice teacher will shave off years of experimentation and trial and error. Such observation will steepen your learning curve dramatically and will help your singing students advance at a much faster rate.

Finally, you need to continue to grow as a singer and as a teacher. To do so, you should continue to take lessons yourself. You need a teacher who will specifically teach you how to teach and how to improve your communication with students. Learning how to sing well doesn’t make you a good teacher any more than knowing any subject matter means you can teach it well. You’ll need a master teacher to help you develop as a singing teacher. You’ll certainly have your own personality and style of teaching, but finding the fastest way to help students improve and enjoy singing more is vitally important, and you want the direction of those who’ve developed some very efficient paths to learning.

Running Your Business
Even a very talented teacher won’t be teaching much if he or she doesn’t know the business of running a teaching studio.

– Certification –
Many people want to know what makes you a voice teacher. What kind of training do you have? What is your performance background? How much teaching have you done? These are legitimate questions. It is helpful to have a degree in vocal performance or to become a certified voice teacher through a comprehensive voice teacher certification program (visit Aside from the fact that you will learn to become a superior vocal teacher / vocal coach, you’ll be able to show potential students that you were and are serious about your profession and about improving your abilities as a voice teacher by pursuing advanced training. People like to know that they aren’t just taking lessons with some guy who can play a little piano and did a bit of singing here or there a long time ago. Be serious about your professional development.

– Professionalism –
If you want to be a professional voice teacher, then it starts with very basic professionalism. Be at your lessons on time. Dress neatly. Your teaching environment should be clean, inviting and without distractions (construction going on outside the windows, pets in the teaching room, etc.). These should be obvious, but I mention them because to some, they aren’t as obvious as they should be!

– Pricing –
One of the first things you need to do is find out what beginning level voice teachers are charging in your area, as well as the most expensive. This will give you a baseline from which to start. You are by no means obligated to start at beginning level prices, but I suggest you start with a lower price until you fill up the number of teaching hours you want to fill. At that point, you start charging a slightly higher price for new students. Continue this and over time, your prices will naturally increase. As soon as you raise your new student prices to a level where you don’t seem to be booking new students, back the price down to the dollar amount that you were charging while remaining fully booked. This is basic supply and demand economics. The better teacher you are, though, the more singers will be willing to pay more to have you work with them. When I raised prices for new students, I didn’t raise the rate for my existing students, I just “grandfathered in” their original rate. Many teachers, however, might choose to raise prices for new and existing students at the same time. You decide what’s best for your situation.

– Finding Students: Advertising and Marketing –
There are many ways that voice teachers get new students, and it varies with every teacher. Online advertising, special promotions (e.g. buy 1 lesson, get 1 free for new students, etc.), networking with local singing groups and directors, print advertising, signage, volunteering your time with vocalists and vocal groups, and the list goes on. You’ll have to experiment to see what works for you in your area. Watch what your more successful competition is doing. You might learn a thing or two about how your market area responds to certain types of advertising/marketing. Also, you need to go with an advertising style that fits your personality as well as your budget. There are also many books written on the subject of small business marketing and advertising. Read up! Of course, doing a great job for your students and getting word of mouth referrals is the best way to get new voice students!

– Location –
You’ll need a location to teach that is convenient for people to get to. If you live out in the middle of nowhere, you may have to rent a space closer in town. Now, you might choose to teach out of your home. Many teachers do this. Just be sure that you have a waiting area separate from the teaching area so that shy students aren’t worried about others listening in on them. Also, the waiting and teaching areas should look neat and clean, and be sure that the members of your family aren’t also using that area of the house when students are there. Again, professionalism.

– Equipment –
There’s no need to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on fancy recording or performance equipment. To start, all you need is a basic keyboard or piano, and something with which to record the lesson for the student. A simple computer with a CD burner is fine. Also, you’ll need the ability to play CDs or mp3s that students may be singing along with. Having basic amplification system would be nice, but not necessary to begin with. When I started teaching 25 years ago, I only had a tape recorder and a small keyboard. Your ability to train the voice is most important. All the fancy equipment in the world won’t make a bad teacher any better (although it might look pretty impressive!). You’ll grow into it.

– Scheduling –
Be aware that private voice teaching will tend to necessitate your teaching in the evenings and on weekends. Although you can choose when you want to teach and when you don’t, the most common time for people to take lessons is weekday evenings and on Saturdays. The more you can carve out those time frames for teaching, the more voice student schedules you’ll be able to accommodate.

– Full-time / Part-time –
You may only wish to teach only part-time. Voice teaching is perfect for you! If you only want to teach Tuesdays between 3-8pm because that is the only time you can commit, that’s fine. If you want to work full-time, then continue to build your number of students to the point that you can quit your current job and only teach voice lessons. This is a career path that allows you a lot of time and income flexibility.

– Vocal Styles –
If you teach a technique that can only be applied to one vocal style, then you need to improve your concept of good vocal technique. Only teaching students the style(s) that you like will limit your number of potential students at best, or even worse, you’ll try to force-feed students music they don’t like. Your job is to help the students meet their goals, not change their goals to meet your own tastes. Expand your own musical and vocal styles horizons. You might actually find that there is good music and some great vocalists in almost every style out there!

– Age Groups, Genders, etc. –
Now, some teachers are going to love working with kids while others really have a difficult time with kids. The same might be true for teaching females instead of males, or vice versa. The more you learn to relate to different people of all ages and genders, though, the more easily you can build your studio and you can help more people. That being said, it doesn’t mean you have to teach everybody, but if you are only teaching certain ages or genders because you don’t know how to teach voices of particular ages or genders, then you need to improve your ability to do so. The principles of vocal technique do not change no matter the age or gender. It can be very enjoyable teaching singers of all ages. You may just need a little practice to get comfortable with it!


Teaching singers has great rewards. You are helping people fulfill some deep desires of expressing themselves through singing. That means allot to allot of people. There are few things in this life as exhilarating as singing really well. Helping others do that can be very rewarding. You can also support yourself and your family very well financially with teaching voice as a career. You can teach full or part-time, depending on your own financial or lifestyle goals.

Learn all you can about both sides of the business of teaching singers: being a great teacher and being a smart small business owner. If you stay focused, work hard, and show real dedication, you’ll be very talented, successful voice teacher.

Happy Singing!!

Eric Bruner


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Want to talk to me about voice lessons, the Voice Teacher Certification Program, or my self-study vocal training products? Click the “Live Chat” button now to talk to myself or my assistant.

I want to hear your ideas on vocal and singing topics for future posts and articles! Leave ideas in the reply box below…


Academic Arrogance – Vocal Instruction

In another article, I debunk the myth that somehow, inherent to the style of music, classical or operatic teaching somehow brings about a better technical ability for the student. This idea typically stems from the insecurity and arrogance of many of those in higher education – WITH or WITHOUT said individuals actually having the education.

I will occasionally receive rebuttals from University voice teachers (or even worse, the students of University voice teachers) who want to get into it with me on some of my posts. I choose not to engage those rebuttals in this forum, nor do I even allow the comments if they are not open to discussion that is helpful to the vast majority of people wanting to become better singers, though I will often speak with them “offline”.

Some might say that I am afraid of debate or to be questioned. Not at all! Actually, I have a ridiculous love of the subject of vocal technique and could talk for hours about the intricacies of vocal balances, the mechanics of singing, vibrato, etc., down to the most minute detail. However… that will rarely help anyone sing better!

My purpose in this blog is, for the most part, to teach the practical. I want to discuss topics in a way that is helpful to 95%+ of readers. They just want to sing better! That is why I assume folks are here. That is how I teach and that is how I write. Theory and detailed academic discussion of singing and the voice is fine, and has its place, but not here.

Teaching someone to sing with more ease, freedom, control, and more range is like teaching someone to drive. All that the vast majority of us need to know about a car is to keep the oil changed, keep the fluid levels high, put gas in it, and be sure the tires have enough air. Beyond that, it’s just learning to drive the car and the rules of the road.

The vast majority of singers don’t need to know much of the impractical stuff, just as a driver doesn’t need to know how the engine is put together or how it runs. They just want to turn the key and go!

I have students come to me all the time who have studied with these insecure (cocky) teachers who felt that they needed to teach in such an “accurate” way that it is no longer even useful! They can tell you all the theory of how the voice works and the names of every muscle and muscular process involved in singing, but they can’t even sing well themselves! In fact, one of the worst singers I have ever heard was a person who had his doctorate degree in vocal performance from a big 10 school. It was painful to listen to.

Listen, I can speak in the fancy-schmancy terms as well, and I do at times. Yes, know the processes, and in fact, I have an almost sick enjoyment discussing such detailed minutia, but that doesn’t necessarily help someone sing better. I admit that teachers need to know a bit of this stuff. Of course they do! But I try not to get so bogged down in the details when teaching that it doesn’t help someone sing better.

I shall dismount my high horse, and get back to teaching folks how to sing better, which is what I love to do!! I finished this post just in time for my next lesson in 2 minutes…

Happy Singing!!

Eric Bruner


Live chat button

Want to talk to me about voice lessons, the Voice Teacher Certification Program, or my self-study vocal training products? Click the “Live Chat” button now to talk to myself or my assistant.

I want to hear your ideas on vocal and singing topics for future posts and articles! Leave ideas in the reply box below…


Can I directly control the vocal cords for an easier, clearer voice? Yes! (and no)

ImageThe following is an article I wrote in response to several bloggers arguing that the vocal cords CANNOT be manually or consciously pulled together, and that it is only the Bernoulli effect that pulls the back of the vocal cords together. Respectfully, I submit that they are wrong. 

“The Bernoulli effect is absolutely what is involved in the production of tone at the vocal cord (or vocal fold) level. In fact, it is the cause of the sound of our speaking and singing voices (also known as phonation). As the air flows (from the lungs) across the cords, the vocal cords are pulled together, then the little bit of pressure built up is released, and the process starts over again.

This releases sound waves (up to hundred of times per second) which we use when speaking or singing.

However, this effect CANNOT happen without the back of the cords FIRST being pulled close together (adduction) so that the cords are close enough to each other for the airflow to “suck” the cords together, beginning the vibration. The Bernoulli effect will not take effect until and unless the back of the cords are somewhat approximated (brought close together via adduction), otherwise we would phonate (make a sound at the vocal cord level such as in speech or singing) EVERY TIME WE ASPIRATE, breathing in or out. We have to bring them together to ALLOW the Bernoulli effect to take effect, creating sound. Usually, we do this without thinking because we do it so often.
Many will say that one cannot consciously or mechanically bring the back of the cords together. They are wrong. We first “stumble” into it immediately after birth when we start screaming, but we can also consciously activate the cords pulling together. Of course, without proper airflow, bringing the cords together does nothing to produce any usable sound.
One such way to pull the vocal cords together in the back is to make a vocal “fry” or creaky or scratchy sound. When making these sounds, however, the airflow across the cords is somewhat constricted because there is typically TOO MUCHpulling of the back of the cords together, and TOO LITTLE air release across the cords, causing the fry or scratchy sound. This technique is typically used when a singer is releasing too much air across the cords, generally caused because the cords are NOT being approximated and then stabilized by the muscles at the cord level.
These sounds are only meant to help a singer get a feel for controlling adduction while singing. When balanced properly, we don’t have to think about it, such as in the case of speech. The problem? We typically start to intrusively upset the balance of air and vocal chord adduction when using our singing voices because we try to make tones our ears like, instead of tones that are natural to our instruments. For instance, we don’t typically try to control the tone quality of our speaking voices. When speaking, we don’t really give it a thought, but when we sing we’ll often try to produce specific tone qualities that aren’t necessarily natural to our own “instruments”.
Bottom line? Yes, the back of the cords can be manually adducted, but this shouldn’t be something we HAVE to think about unless we are doing something funky to mess with the vocal process that we already experience from our speech voices.
There’s much more on this topic that I could address (to the absolute boredom of most, though quite interesting to those of us sharing a sick fascination with such things), but I’ll bore you no further! 🙂

Happy Singing!!

Eric Bruner

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Want to talk to me about voice lessons, the Voice Teacher Certification Program, or my self-study vocal training products? Click the “Live Chat” button now to talk to myself or my assistant.

I want to hear your ideas on vocal and singing topics for future posts and articles! Leave ideas in the reply box below…


Vocal problem: Stuffy nose only when singing high notes

Stuffy nose when singing high notes

Stuffy nose when singing high notes

Here’s part of a question concerning an uncommon vocal problem posted online:

“It’s definitely not a cold. It’s not exactly the same feel of having something physical (for ex. mucus) in the nasal but more like a short duration tense pressure that requires more effort to breathe from the nose after singing high notes. It goes away after a couple of breathes through the nose and comes back right after the high notes again. Of course I don’t breathe from my nose when I sing, but it’s something I notice after I finish a piece or breaks between verses.” 

My answer to this post:

You’re pinching off your nasal passages when singing high (the same muscles you would use to “snort” either in or out). They will tend stay in that contracted, pinched position for a little while after the high note passages, just as you described. Some good warm-up exercises to do should include some scales or arpeggios on a hum, but drop the jaw as you sing higher, keeping the lips still touching. This will help release the muscles under the jaw. Humming necessitates the tone naturally releasing through the nose without pinching. Keep the air coming through the hum unobstructed.

Another good exercise type for your issue is to use an “ng” sound on an arpeggio of your choice with a nguh nguh nguh nguh sound. Again, it will keep the “snorting” muscles from engaging. 

These should work well for you. Happy Singing!!

Eric Bruner

Eric Bruner Vocal Studios

How can I do scream or “screamo” vocals in my singing?


Screaming singing vocals

The user DaDiscoRanger asks: How can I do scream vocals in my singing?

By “screaming” I’m assuming you mean an aggressive, unclear, somewhat raspy distorted tone in the upper or upper-medium vocal range. There are singers of many styles who use vocal screaming either very often, or just occasionally for effect. What I’m not talking about is “grinding” the voice like a growl. I won’t address this because it is the absolute fastest way a singer can destroy his/her voice permanently… period. That being said, let’s turn to a discussion about screaming.

Asking how to scream without hurting your voice is a bit like asking how to punch yourself in the face without bruising it. Screaming is abusive to the vocal cords, plain and simple.

You might ask, “Well how come (insert famous screaming singer name here) can scream and doesn’t lose his/her voice and he/she’s been doing it for years?”

Good question. Here are a few of the realities that explain it.

1. The reality is that the vast majority of screamers trashed their voices a long time ago. Most of them have had multiple surgeries, and many can no longer sing at all.

2. What their voices MIGHT be able to handle in the recording studio once a year isn’t the same as handling that kind of abuse all the time. Many of these “screamers” (the smart ones) sing with softer and clearer voices outside the studio in order to try to save their voices from permanent damage.

3. Did I mention that most of them have had multiple surgeries for serious vocal damage?!? (Just wanted to make sure you got that!)

4. Each person’s tissue has a different reaction to abuse. For instance, you might slap one person across the cheek and 5 minutes later there isn’t even a red mark. Do the same to someone else and they’ll be bruised for a week! Allot of times the singers you hear do this don’t have tissue that irritates as easily as the average person.

5. They aren’t singing as loudly as you think. If you “pretend” to scream loud, but you are actually singing at a soft or normal volume level holding way back, then you can let the microphone (with allot of reverb behind it) make it sound like a huge screaming voice.

6. If they are doing it “right”, they aren’t building up much air pressure. against the vocal cords. They are releasing the air across the cords.

It’s true that most singers, even the very good ones, sing slightly out of balance (not necessarily screaming) sometimes for emotional effect, but their technique is so good that they “snap back to center” after one or two notes. But even this can be dangerous if done too often because singers will start losing their “technical center”, or perfect vocal balance. Center is what we train toward, and what must be our compelling habit.

Ok, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Now, let’s talk about how to scream with the least possible damage:

1. Start in falsetto. The falsetto is the highest, lightest area of your voice. It’s usually a bit weak and somewhat airy sounding, but it is fairly easy to produce high sounds in falsetto with very little pressure, that’s why falsetto is a good starting point.

2. Add a vocal fry or slight scratchy sound. This will start to pull the chords together, giving the illusion of chest resonance (bottom range resonances) up high.

3. Add volume across the scream, little by little, leaning more against the falsetto feeling than the scratchy feeling. Let the falsetto dominate, leaving in only a little bit of the fry/scratchy feeling. You’ll need very little fry to do the job. Also, never push against the throat by bearing-down, causing air pressure build-up.

Final result: It will almost feel like a breathy voice, falsetto voice and scratchy voice all happening at the same time.

If it feels uncomfortable at first (and it will!), take breaks. I wouldn’t recommend experimenting with this more than 5 minutes a day to start, and always warm-up and relax the voice before you start. Cool down the voice afterward with some nice, low, soft, clear humming. Irritated throat? (Gee, I wonder why?) Gargle warm salt water. Also, before during and after your singing use Entertainer’s Secret throat spray. It’s a non-medicinal, non-numbing throat moisturizer spray. It helps allot. (Never use sprays or lozenges that numb the throat. Pain is a good thing if it warns you to stop hurting yourself!)

Now, remember, I am against screaming because of the potential for serious damage. I’m only giving you these instructions so you mitigate whatever stress you were planning to put on your vocals anyway.

I’d rather have you only punch yourself in the face one time, rather than twice!

Happy Singing!!

Eric Bruner



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