Finding Helen’s Chest Voice (Episode 1)


Me and Helen, the student in this clip, are on our fourth or fifth lesson. She’s a natural soprano, comfortable with the high ranges and with a sweeping, effortless mezzo-soprano range.

However, there’s a problem. To her, the lower sections of her voice (sometimes termed ‘chest voice’, or ‘Mode One’) feel completely alien. She speaks of her chest voice as though it is utterly separate from the rest of her voice.

It calls to mind the mental illness called BIID, Body Integrity Identity Disorder, in which a person is convinced that a part of their body, such as their hand or leg, does not belong to them. The sufferer will go to great lengths to remove or disassociate themselves from this phantom limb, even undergoing surgery to remove it. After the amputation, they feel much happier.

Helen has successfully amputated her chest voice. Her idea of ‘singing’ is completely in head voice – in its wide-open vowels and wonderful free vibrato.

In this clip, we work on re-attaching the chest voice. You will hear that I do so not by trying to convince her that her chest voice should sound like singing, but by telling her to co-exist with the non-singing feeling. The ‘mnah, mnah, mnah’ sound we work on is designed to be anathema to beautiful singing – yet the thyroid tilt, induced by the ‘puppy’ exercise, brings in a lovely resonant quality to the voice.

Chords for Reflection – first chord F Major.
Chords for Hallelujah – first chord Eb Major.

Check out the next episode in this series for more scales, as well as muppet references.

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The Singing Flowchart: How Anyone Can Learn To Sing


This flowchart took 3 years, 2,500 hours and a Masters to write. Every singing technique I teach is on there, from breathing and support (top left), tuning and resonance (bottom left) to posture and anchoring (top right). Every bit of it has been researched, recalibrated, turned into analogy and delineated into little circles.

Every arrow shows us the interdependencies of each technique. Singing relies on dozens of muscular activities working together in unison. If one is faulty, the house of cards tumbles. For instance, a poor neck position engages tongue tension, flattening the tone and dismantling the tuning. A tense rectus abdominis engages the false vocal folds, inviting tension and vocal injury.

The act of singing is complicated. Even more so because we cannot, like a guitar, physically hold our instrument as we learn it. Singers have to be trained obliquely: through metaphor, imagery and conceptual understanding instead of rote-learning fingerwork. I have had students stuck on one of these arrows for six months at a time as they battle to make their body understand what their mind is telling it.

But when I look at this flowchart, I see hope. Singing is, in the end, mechanical. I am not a believer in supernatural things – and certainly not in supernatural gifts. Anyone can learn to sing – and sing well – if they are rigorous, imaginative and playful enough.

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An Untidy Beginning


The beginnings and endings of all human undertakings are untidy.
– John Galsworthy

I write a lot for my job. But a lot of this is quite dull writing. It’s seducing search engines with keyword-friendly blogs, cranking out code for the web app, and jittery CV-tweaking for the next job.

But one day, I’d love to write something bigger. Something to help out my students with their voices, their accents, their singing.

So welcome to my patch: a little place where my untidy thoughts on the quiet miracle in our throats can come together.

Let’s see how it goes.