Tag Archives: voice lessons

BAM!! POW!! HI!! : The Singing/Speech Connection- Part 2

Hello….and Happy Spring!!!

Here is the video with demonstrations and further explanations of the exercises I introduced in my last post. Remember to warm up before trying them out. ENJOY!!!

Be on the lookout for my “UNLEASH YOUR VOICE” vocal exercise series coming very soon.

BAM!! POW!! HI!! : The Singing/Speech Connection- Part 1

We all know that balance is the name of the game when it comes to good vocal production. We are aware that yelling is not optimal to the health of the instrument. Neither is an anemic, unenergized way of singing. Both can lead to undue tensions in the throat and be evidenced by a high larynx. I find that clients can achieve a good sense of vocal equilibrium by becoming more aware of how they use their voices when they speak or call out (not yelling) and how healthy chest voice is important for the voice as a whole. Let’s face it- when people think about singing, they often screw things up by trying too hard to make it sound one way or another. Approaching vocalizing from a place of just making sound can keep the student from overthinking and, perhaps, let their production become more reflexive.

Here are some exercises that I am using more often to help students make the mental and physical connections between speech and singing functions. I find them helpful for pullers and timid singers alike.

1) ‘POW’- It’s very natural for a student to make a very energized, physically engaged sound with this one. I have the singer to speak the word several times as if they were mimicking the sound of an explosion or a punch (think the old “Batman” TV series). I find it helpful to have the client place their fists in their sides or two fingers at the solar plexus to get an awareness of how the body supports itself naturally when making an energetic declamatory sound. After saying the word a few times, we move on to singing it in a comfortable pitch range. I tell them not to actually think singing at this point, however, because it tends to take them out of a strong but unforced sound. I want them to focus on ‘sounding’ and not ‘singing’ yet. Depending on the singer’s tendencies, I either take them up in range by half steps on single notes with a short sustain, or go with either a 1-3-5-3-1 pattern or a five note scale. They are not allowed to increase volume as they ascend. I remind them that the sound will thin a bit as they travel from chest into middle voice. For the hard core pullers, I have them to monitor the movement of the larynx and the base of the tongue with their thumbs.

2) ‘BAM’- The approach with this one is largely the same as the previous word. I will sometimes start the singer in middle or head voice, with a child-like pharyngeal production (think Bam Bam Rubble from “The Flintstones”). We then work downwards towards chest voice then ascend again. When I ask students to rate the difficulty of this sound ( On the ‘Dial of Difficulty, 1 is super easy and 5 is ‘call an ambulance- I think I tore something), they seem surprised that they don’t have to go past a ‘3’ for a very solid but free sound.

3) ‘HI’- I user single tones almost exclusively with this sound. I have the client to speak ‘HI!’ then immediately sing it on an assigned pitch. Again, I like for them to think that even the sung tone is really just elongated speech. I take them up by whole or half steps from near the top of their speaking range through their middle voice, at least. They are reminded to let the pitch of the spoken ‘HI!’ start to rise as if they are increasingly excited. For some, it helps to have them think child-like if they feel like effort is increasing. Some of my strongest chest pullers are noticing less strain getting through the first bridge.

I will be posting a video soon to share demonstrations of these exercises.


Agility and Style 4: Descending Minor Pattern with Fall-off and Added Fifth Jump

HAPPY 2017!!!

I now bring to you the more advanced version of an exercise I shared a couple months ago. It marries technical work (register balance, legato, resonance) with style elements, namely developing the flexibility and aural awareness needed to do runs, riffs, and licks successfully. I have added a jump of a perfect fifth to the beginning of the scale run which increases the difficulty level a bit. Make sure to spend some time with the previous version in the “Agility and Style 3” post before undertaking this exercise. Be careful of not locking the jaw muscles or the tongue as you execute the fifth jump. Start slowly then work up to a faster tempo.

This exercise is very effective and a lot of fun…so have a good ol’ time with it.

Happy singing!!!


Agility and Style 3: Descending Minor Pattern with Fall-off

Over the past four years, I have been intentional about finding or creating exercises that are technically and stylistically appropriate to my clientele, which is comprised of mostly non-classical singers. We want to develop register balance and connection, good legato, and good projection while also addressing some of the style elements as well.

The exercise featured in this clip is a fun and effective tool to train the ear and the voice. I use it with my students to prepare them for tackling riffs and runs as well as to work on smooth register transitions. This is the first level of the exercise – Level 2 follows in an upcoming video. Try it out- you’ll have a ball!!

Happy crooning!!

To schedule lessons or a FREE 15 minute consultation, call (562)387-8025 (leave voicemail) or email earlharvillevox@gmail.com.



The Puffy ‘Oh’ Exercise

Happy autumn to all!! It’s been a little while since my last post. I hope all is well.

I have discussed the use of semi-occluded vocal tract exercises in several posts on this blog because of their great efficiency as warmups and cooldowns. They reduce the amount of lung pressure used to produce sound and help us find good closure of the vocal folds. We can generally access a rather large pitch range without stress or strain. They are also helpful in re-balancing the voice if it tires during a period of a lot of speaking or singing. Lip trills, tongue trills, hums, the ‘ng’, and fricative ‘v’ and ‘z’ are commonly used by singers.

Right now, there is a huge focus on the use of the straw exercise in many vocal studios around the world. Science has shown it to be an extremely effective tool in balancing the voice. I use it a lot in my own teaching. Today, I want to emphasize the exercise that I consider to be its fraternal twin- the puffy ‘oh’. They both benefit from a positive back pressure that aids in the previously mentioned vocal cord closure. I have found the latter exercise to be as efficient or maybe even more so than the straw.

Check out the video below to gain more insight and try out the exercise for yourself.




Training The Child’s Voice In The Private Studio

Singing is one of the most important means of communication that we are blessed to experience. It is the means by which we express our innermost thoughts and feelings in a language shared by the whole world. We sing songs as worship…as symbols of patriotism…as words to inspire change…to amuse…to romance….to uplift. Often, it is forgotten how integral singing is to our existence. When at play, children seem to almost instinctively sing as part of their games. These same young voices are instruments capable of producing a wide array of tones and timbres. In order to access this wide range of sounds, though, the sounds produced at play are not enough. Proper training in healthy vocal production is needed.

Recently, I have been asked quite a bit about the appropriate age to begin voice lessons for children. Parents realize that their kids have either an overwhelming enthusiasm for singing or some substantial native talent that they want to properly nurture. They just wonder if formal lessons are safe for the youngster to undertake and worth the financial investment. First of all, I stress that the most important issue with kids is their attention span and not the perceived talent level. I’ve had some clearly gifted 7 year olds come in but they did not have the focus and maturity that is needed. Once that is explained, I relay that I believe lessons can successfully begin at age 8. I have trained a couple of 7 year olds, though, because they had the requisite focus, attention span, and teachability in addition to natural musical instincts. As long as the training is based in healthy technical habits and applied correctly to songs, there are no inherent dangers.

Many people wonder what young singers can actually learn in private voice lessons. Some have believed that their physically immature instruments cannot acquire any real technical skills until their voices fully develop at puberty. But I am one of many who work with kids on a regular basis who believe that these voices can develop quite a lot of facility if guided correctly. We must remember that singing is an intricate psychomotor skill, not so different from the learning of piano, dance, or athletic moves. It’s all about the systematic training of correct muscle memory which builds healthy technique that will strengthen and protect the voice. And if the goal of vocal study is establishment of good vocal habits that will carry over into adulthood, vocal technique has to be of primary importance! Of course, this must be balanced with singing good songs, but it will be difficult to expand repertoire if the instrument is limited in the sounds it can produce.

The very same technical issues that need to be taught to adult singers need to be taught to kids. The building of tone production practices is essential. Child singers need to develop the ability to produce tones without undue tension and restriction. They must be taught proper breathing techniques and good body posture and alignment. Range extension is still important for kids, even though it must be applied relative to their still-growing voices. Many of the exercises that I use with my adult clients are used in the sessions with my youngsters, though sometimes with modifications. I also make sure that I introduce them to correct terminology concerning how the voice is put together and how it works. They learn about head and chest voice, the larynx, vocal folds, diaphragm, and resonance. They need to start learning a singer’s vocabulary from the start of their study.

We are seeing some fine examples of superstar singers who have become elite vocal athletes because of some fantastic vocal training starting at a young age- Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland, Adam Lambert among others. It is a worthwhile investment to begin lessons with a child who has the love for singing coupled with a sense of focus and discipline. The teacher must have a great knowledge of vocal pedagogy and a personality that can provide a safe, nurturing environment for the young singer to embark on this great journey of singing study.