Tag Archives: support

5 Tips for Learning to Belt

5 Tips For Learning to Belt

Belt technique is controversial in the voice world. I grew up with the belief that if I did anything other than sing in head voice that I *would* destroy my voice, and even in 2018, I meet students and voice teachers all the time who share that sentiment. The truth is, belting can be dangerous for your voice if you do it with bad technique or if you force yourself to do it when your voice isn’t in shape for it. But if you learn how to do it in a healthy way and listen to your body when your voice isn’t up for it, all will be well. For better or for worse, belting is an indispensable skill in most commercial styles of music, and there’s really no substitute. If you’re ready to take your singing to the next level, here are some important tips for learning to belt in a sustainable, healthy way.

1. Set the Foundation

Great support is absolutely crucial for healthy belting. Think of it this way. When you’re backpacking, you strap your pack on with a variety of straps to distribute the pressure around your body. That way the full force of the backpack isn’t crushing your shoulders. When you belt, you don’t want those tiny laryngeal muscles doing all the work.

Stand up straight. Your back should feel wide and long, and if someone were to try to push you over, you should be so stable that you could weather it. Your spine should be stacked vertically, and your sternocleidomastoids, that pair of muscles that extend from your chest to the base of your skull, should be at work keeping your neck in line with your torso.

When you have a stable base, everything from your breath control muscles (the diaphragm and external intercostals in particular) to the small muscles in your vocal tract can work more efficiently.

2. Use Very Little Air

One of the biggest mistakes newbie belters make is using more air than they need. When you hear a big voice, it may sound like the way to recreate it is to take a giant breath and shove all that air out at once. What this actually does though is force your vocal folds to work significantly harder. Part of the chesty sound belters achieve is created by a longer closed phase. This means that your vocal folds stay together longer during each cycle of vibration. If you use too much air, your vocal folds will have to work very hard to stay shut.

When you belt, don’t take in too much air. Use a relaxed inhalation, and then hold most of the air back when you create your sound. Keep your ribcage expanded so that your diaphragm stays in a low position instead of rising quickly and crowding your lungs. Your exhalation as you sing should be extremely slow and controlled, even more so than in classical singing.

3. Crush the Constriction

One of the biggest culprits in injuring your voice when you belt is the constriction of your false vocal folds, the muscular folds that sit above your vocal folds in your larynx. Your false vocal folds have a tendency to constrict when your body thinks it’s under duress. Constriction is triggered by a variety of things, from heavy labor to anxiety. When your false vocal folds are constricted, you’ll feel your throat get tight and close up.

To retract your false vocal folds, in other words, to open your throat, you can use a variety of visual cues. Visualize inhaling and smelling a rose; laugh silently and hold the position; or pull your ears apart. You can test whether your folds are retracted by covering your ears and breathing. When you can no longer hear your breath, your false vocal folds are retracted.

Keeping your throat open like this is by far the safest way to belt.

4. Learn to Twang

You know that hooty, woofy sound you hear when someone does a bad imitation of an opera singer? Well that ain’t gonna do it. You need a boat-load of forward resonance to make this happen. Try cackling like a witch, quacking like a duck, or saying “nya nya nya” like a bratty kid. You don’t have to be belting yet, but you should feel an extreme narrow, pointed quality to your sound. This is often called twang and is the result of your aryepiglottic sphincter (a tube above your true and false vocal folds) narrowing.

5. Don’t Be Afraid

It may seem contradictory, but the less afraid of belting you are when you do it, the healthier it’ll be. Fear causes tension and constriction, when what you want is freedom. Try fearlessly yelling, “yay!” With a lot of excitement in your voice. Not a trebly, tepid “yay!” A “yay” that someone could hear across a crowded room that’d cause them to smile. There shouldn’t be any real pushing, and it’ll quickly become clear how easy this can be if you let it.

Should You Use a Microphone for Vocal Practice

Should You Use a Microphone for Vocal Practice

Voice teachers often have strong feelings about whether or not you should use a microphone for vocal practice. In other words, when you sing with a voice teacher or go through your practice sessions at home, should you amplify yourself or just sing acoustically? One camp, often made up classically trained singers and teachers, tends to almost never use amplification for practice sessions. Another camp tends to use amplification for practice whenever possible, particularly during voice lessons. So where is each group coming from, and what’s my stance on it? If you’ve worked with me or read any of my other articles, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I’m a proponent of practicing both ways.

The Case for No Amplification

The case for practicing without mics is that amplification can give you a false sense of how much power you’re using. Important vocal techniques, like support and frontal resonance can be falsely replaced with cranking up the volume on the mixing board or getting closer to the mic. It’s important to have an adequate sense of what your voice sounds like acoustically so that you don’t get a false impression of how much your voice will carry over a piano or orchestra.

In the case of classical training, rehearsing acoustically is even more imperative. Opera performances tend to be acoustic, with the vocalists being expected to make their voices carry over an orchestra or, at the very least, piano. Voice lessons and practice sessions should prepare you for this challenge.

The case for Amplification

Voice teachers, especially ones focused on CCM styles, often like using mics at their lessons for a variety of reasons. First, it can make recording the lesson easier, and it’s important that students have lesson recordings as practice tools. Secondly, it makes it easier to hear a student and pinpoint nuances that they can work on that might be less obvious without amplification. Thirdly, using a mic can help beginning vocal students avoid the tendency to over-push. Often, when your tendency as a singer is to get shouty in order to be heard instead of using breath support, the initial stages of working on support can actually cause you to sing more softly at first (I’m sure you’ve all heard the adage about getting worse before you get better). Working with a microphone can help combat the natural inclination to start pushing harder when you’re having a hard time hearing yourself.

For more advanced vocalists, especially in the pop and rock world, practicing with amplification is absolutely imperative because you’ll usually be performing with amplification. You don’t want the first time you’ve worked with a mic to be at your rock performance. Certain techniques, like indie-pop breathiness are also much safer to practice with a microphone, because if you’re using a lot of air, you don’t want to couple that with pushing hard to be heard.

So Should You Use a Mic For Vocal Practice?

Yes. And also no. Regardless of style, it’s important to practice singing in a variety of ways. If you’re a classical singer, by all means, spend most of your practice sessions singing acoustically, but grab a mic once in a while as well. There will probably come a time when you’re performing in concert and are expected to use amplification. Or you may be interested in one day crossing over into performing other genres, or even into recording, in which case, you’ll most definitely use a mic at some point. I don’t necessarily think your practice sessions should be 50/50, but you should once in a while work with amplification.

If you aren’t a classical singer, I encourage you to be even more balanced in your practice sessions. It’s very likely that there’ll come a time that you need to at least audition without a mic, and you should be prepared to make your voice carry without the use of amplification. I was one of those singers who always took my voice lessons as a teenager with a microphone, and I remember finding it constantly jarring when I’d attend an audition, realize I wasn’t as loud as I remembered, and start pushing too hard and losing control of my voice. I promised myself I wouldn’t let that happen to my own students. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also practice with a mic. Not only will you get used to performing with one, you’ll also learn what nuances your voice is capable of when turned way up.

Happy practicing!

breath control problems in singing

What Do Breath Control Problems in Singing Sound Like?

You hear all the time that to sing well you need to learn breath control. But what do breath control problems actually sound and feel like in singing? Here are 7 common vocal issues that are related to breath control.

1. Unwanted Breathiness

If you’re having a hard time getting a solid tone when you sing, it’s because you’re exhaling too quickly through your notes. In you exhale too fast, you won’t build up as much subglottal pressure (that is, pressure underneath your vocal folds), and your vocal folds will just blow open instead of getting full closure as they vibrate. This is not to say that all breathiness is bad. It’s often very useful for stylistic ends.

2. Lack of Control

If you’re experiencing control issues, like going flat a lot or missing notes even when you can usually match pitch easily, it’s very likely that your breath control could be better. Try these support exercises to make managing your air easier.

3. Weak-Sounding Voice

As with unwanted breathiness, having a weak voice is often directly related to breath control. Breath is one of the main power sources behind the voice, and without enough subglottal pressure built up, your voice will most likely sound fairly weak.

4. Limited Vocal Range or Weak Head Voice

If your range caps out early on or gets weaker and weaker, you might not be getting the breath support to make it to those higher frequencies.

5. Sounding Shouty

It may sound like the total opposite of everything else we’ve discussed, but shoutiness can also be a breath control issue. Your power source should come from holding back air, not from forcing a bunch of air out of your lungs. Not only is that not good for your vocal folds, but you probably won’t get the tone you’re hoping for.

6. Extreme Register Breaks

This is an offshoot of some of the other ones we’ve discussed. Extreme register breaks often happen when people are pushing out too much air in their lower range, hit a wall, and then break into a breathy falsetto when they can’t tense their thyroarytenoid muscle (the muscle in your larynx responsible for shortening your vocal folds) any longer.

7. Vibrato Problems

If you’re experiencing a machine gun vibrato, a slow wobbly vibrato, an uneven vibrato, or an unwanted lack of vibrato, you’re likely also experiencing breath control problems. If you aren’t supporting well, you might find yourself with a vocal wobble. The lack of support may also result in some unwanted tension that can also lead to an overly fast vibrato. If you aren’t letting air out at a consistent rate, you may find yourself with an uneven vibrato. An even vibrato is the combination of a number factors falling into place, including a particular balance of breath support, freedom in your throat (retraction of your false vocal folds, to be precise), and a tilted thyroid cartilage.

Knowing vocal issues that are caused by breath control is just the first step. To begin to learn breath control, check out this post on how to find your support muscles.

A Million Dreams - The Greatest Showman: Hard Songs to Sing

Hard Songs to Sing: A Million Dreams, from The Greatest Showman

By far, my most requested song to learn in voice lessons from both boys and girls right now is “A Million Dreams,” from the film The Greatest Showman. It may not be as tough to sing as “This is Me,” from the same movie, but it poses a unique set of challenges that singers new to belting sometimes struggle with. We thought it would be the perfect addition to our Hard Songs to Sing collection.

Why Is This Song Hard

1. The choruses start low and then quickly build to higher notes, leading some singers to tense up, get shouty, or flip into falsetto and drop out at the top.
2. The bridge has some sustained B4’s that can get tough.
3. The last “A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make” in the song will test your breath control. Seriously.

Instant Gratification

The Main Choruses

The problem with these choruses that move from low to high is that singers will have a tendency to start at an easy speech tone and then try to yank that speech tone higher and higher until they’re just shouting.

Try not to visualize the vocal line in the chorus as an upward diagonal line.


Instead, think of a series of waves that slowly drift upward.

This visual will do a number of wonderful things: your larynx won’t have a tendency to go higher and higher, the up-and-over visual will help your soft palate lift and your thyroid cartilage tilt (creating a warmer, more open sound), and the downward motion will help prompt you to use good breath support.

In addition to this visual, there are also some vowel and consonant modifications to try. On the word million, the “l” sound will cut you off prematurely, so just swallow it. It should almost come out “mi-eu-yen,” but maybe not quite that far.

Slightly open the “ee” vowels, like be and see. Your tongue should stay in the “ee” position, but your jaw should release in a way it normally wouldn’t on such a thin vowel.

The Bridge

It’s easy to want to shout up to the high notes in the bridge. Since they aren’t crazy high, it feels like you shouldn’t have to set up for them. But don’t be fooled. You still want to keep that up-and-over feeling we discussed in the chorus section.

When you sing eyes at “close my eyes to see,” visualize that up-and-over feeling and sigh down onto it on an “ah,” keeping your soft palate lifted, your face energized and your breath well supported.

The Final Chorus

The arc of the pitches in the “A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make” line in the final chorus is illustrated by the turquoise curves below.

It requires a significant amount of breath support to go up and down like that and tends to lead singers to run out of breath, go flat by the end, or sometimes just get very tense. However, you can mitigate these difficulties by visualizing the arc differently. Instead of thinking of the line as something that goes up and down, have your body in place for the high part the entire time. Visualize the vocal line as if it were more like the dark black diagonal line that moves downward over the top of the curves instead of the curvy turquoise line.

If you’re set up for the high notes before you get to them, instead of trying to readjust every time you feel one coming, you’ll probably use way less air and sing more comfortably and efficiently.

Not-So-Instant Gratification

Unlike some of the songs we’ve worked on in our Hard Songs collection, this one probably won’t be out of reach for that long. Whether or not you want to belt most of it, you’ll need a lot of twang in your voice to keep a consistent sound from the lows to the highs. Try this “na na” exercise. For now, just be kind of bratty or witch-like with it.

What have been your challenges with “A Million Dreams”? Let us know in the comments section below, and as always, if you have a song you’d like us to write a Hard Songs tutorial about, make sure to mention it!

Hard Songs to Sing: Praying, by Kesha

Hard Songs to Sing: Praying, by Kesha

Close to a decade ago, when Kesha (then Ke$ha) was out there performing “Tik Tok,” it didn’t feel likely that one of her songs would eventually make it into our Hard Songs to Sing collection. But “Praying” is a whole different beast. If you’ve tried it, you may have found that it begins lower than you can sing and/or ends the bridge higher than you can sing. You may also notice that the belt notes (if you even opt to belt them) in the chorus are high and wearing. Luckily, some of this can be worked on and improved over time, and the rest can be modified. Before you know it, you’ll be able to use technique to make it through this song instead of, you know, just praying.

Why Is This Song Hard

I think the better question is why isn’t this song hard? Here are a few of the many reasons this is a monster.

The Low Notes

Let’s start off at the very beginning. Those notes are low for most women! The word “fool” is on a D3, the D below middle C. Most of the female singers I work with have low ranges that stop around F3 or G3 at the lowest.

The High Note at the End of the Bridge

The note that Kesha slides up to on “forgive” is an F6, 3 F’s above Middle C. So just to be clear, the song sits in over a 3-octave range if you don’t plan to make any melodic or stylistic adjustments. For your own peace of mind though, Kesha neither hit the lowest, nor the highest notes in her live Grammys performance, so there’s no shame shortening the range.

The Chorus is a High Belt

The syllable “pray” in the second chorus’s “praying,” along with many of the other words, is belted on a D5. To top that off, it’s a sustained belt, one that you need a high degree of breath support to conquer.

The Upward Runs

Upward runs (i.e. vocal flourishes that go from low to high) tend to be more difficult than downward ones. With upward runs, the tendency is to not set up for the high note and to clench more and more to get up there when your body realizes it isn’t prepared. In “Praying,” Kesha uses both runs that move from low to high in a belt, and ones that transition from a belt into head tones at the top. Both types take a ton of control.

How to Sing Low Notes

Let’s get the ball rollin’ by discussing how to sing low notes. First thing’s first. There are anatomical limitations here. If your vocal folds can’t achieve a certain level of thickness, there are just some low note that are going to be out of reach for you. That doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to gain a few notes at the low end. First off, stop trying to push them out. The more you push at the very bottom of your range, the less of a shot you’ll have at hitting these notes (at least in any way you’d want to hear them). Try lowering your larynx by slightly yawning into the note (a lower larynx can help you grab a few notes at the bottom of your range); as you do this, hold back air and just sing quietly. You may not hit every note you’re hoping for, but you’ll probably get closer. Read some older posts for a more in depth look at how to hit low notes.

How to Sing Whistle Tones

While whistle tones might be a little more achievable as a long-term goal than extreme low notes, there are also anatomical limitations. The two key ingredients to work at are support and extreme lightness and agility. Create the smallest sound you can muster (i.e. don’t push out a lot of air), aim it for the top of your head, and allow your larynx (located in your neck where your Adam’s Apple is) to gently rise without constricting.

How to Belt High Notes

The second chorus and bridge have some high belt notes, but they do have one thing going for them: the belt happens on a lot of “ay” sounds—something fairly conducive to a belt.

Support

To get a healthy belt, first start with those support muscles we talked about earlier. Stand with a stable stance–with a straight spine all the way up through your neck. If someone were to try to push you over, they shouldn’t be able to. You can try bending your knees, scrunching your nose, and gently lifting your chin (without jutting it out). You should feel muscles throughout your torso working all the way down to your pelvic floor, but be careful not to suck in your stomach and ribcage in the process.

Use Vowels and Mouth Shape to Your Advantage

On the word “praying,” pretend you’re biting into a big apple. The vowel should start off in a big open “a” (as in cat) at the front of your mouth and an “eh” (as in sweat) at the back of your mouth to lift your soft palate. The same goes for the “change” syllable in “changing.”

Don’t pronounce the “ing” sounds. The “ng” will force your soft palate to drop when you need it to stay lifted the most. Instead, sing “prah-ehhhn.”

On the word, “I,” as in, “I pray for you at night,” modify it to an “ah” verging on “a” (like cat).

Open the word “peace” way up. Keep your tongue in an “i” (as in “feet”) position, but make your mouth large and rectangular. It won’t quite be an “i” vowel anymore and may be closer to an “ay” or “ih” (as in “kick”), but no one will be able to tell when you’re that high up.

On the bridge, try modifying the word “sometimes,” to “zahm-dahms” and “someday” to “zahm-dah.”

How to Sing Upward Runs

Upward Runs on a Belt

For upward runs that remain belted, the number one thing to do is set up for the high note before you get there. Take the word, “give,” in the bridge, for example. If you just sing that word as if you’re only ever going to hit the Bb4, you’ll have next to no shot at sounding good on the D5 the word slides up to. You probably won’t have enough support, your soft palate won’t be lifted enough, and your vowel will be too closed. Try hitting that D5 first. Figure out how open your mouth needs to be. Figure out how much support you need. Figure out exactly what your body is doing to make it work. Then be there before you even sing the word instead of trying to do a rapid adjustment when you realize the high note is coming.

Upward Runs on That Switch Registers

For upward runs that start in a belt and then flip into a head voice or falsetto, start by taking it apart. Practice the belt note separate from the head voice part, and make sure all the elements are there. When you start to put them together, the tendency when you switch registers will be to back off your breath control and just let a bunch of air stream out at once. Instead of doing that, keep the same stable stance from bottom to top and continue to hold back air as you transition. As with the fully belted upward runs, make sure your soft palate is lifted before you even get to the head voice part so that you aren’t having to make such a quick modification.

Melody Modifications

So you’ve gone through all these tips, but you’re just not getting those low notes at the beginning or that whistle tone in the bridge. Don’t despair! You can still sing this song like a pro. In fact, you can sing it like Kesha did at the Grammys!

Here’s some of what she did so that you can do it too! For “Well you almost had me fooled,” try the melody line: C# C# C# B D C# C#. For “After everything you’ve done,” modify to C# C# C# B B A A. For “I’m proud of who I am,” modify to C# C# B D C# C# again.

At the end of the bridge, you can easily just skip the slide up to your whistle register and either just hold out “forgive” or pick any other note that fits into the chord to slide to–maybe a Bb5 if you’re feeling ambitious!

Vocal Exercises

If you aren’t currently able to pull this song off the way you’d like, you can work on your vocal strength and range over time by running through some targeted vocal exercises. Try to do a little a day. Even 5 minutes a day to build muscle memory and strength tends to be more effective than doing one long session a week.

Na Na Octave Jump

Start with this one to learn how to belt higher without tension. Keep a very stable stance, and pretend you’re just throwing that top note like you’d throw a ball instead of clenching or jamming into it.

Na Na Sustain

Before you know it, you’ll be solid on those belt notes, but now it’s time to work on sustaining them the way you’ll need to in “Praying.” Try the exercise again, this time sustaining the top note. Instead of visualizing it as a horizontal attack, imagine that you’re falling onto the note and that it continues to move in a relaxed downward motion as you hold onto it.

Ooh Descending

Along with a great belt, you’ll also want to be able to shift seamlessly into head voice for this one. If you’re having a hard time finding this register, try this exercise on an “ooh,” making sure to keep it light.

We love to hear from our readers, so let us know how “Praying” is going for you! If you have any songs you’d like to see featured in our Hard Songs collection, mention them in the comments section below!

5 Ways to Find Your Support Muscles

You constantly hear voice teachers telling their students to “use [their] support muscles” or “support [their] tone,” or even just “support!” But what does that mean exactly, and how do you find your support muscles? Support in singing means that you need to stabilize your body in such a way that you can control your airflow, along with your small vocal muscles, without deflating or over-pushing.

What Does Support Even Mean?

As an experiment, try writing your name on a piece of paper with your elbow propped on the table. Easy, right? Now try writing it with your entire arm suspended, so only the tip of the pencil is touching the piece of paper. What do you notice? If you’re like most people, the writing is sloppier, lighter, and larger. Why is this? It’s because you need to stabilize large muscles in order to have better control of the smaller ones. It’s the same with vocal support. If you create stability using some of those larger muscles, like the ones surrounding your spine (all the way through your neck) and ribcage, it’ll allow more control of everything, from your breath to your inner-workings of your larynx.

5 Ways to Find Your Support Muscles

Now that we’ve briefly discussed what support is, let’s look at some easy way find your support muscles. For all of these, make sure to not suck in your stomach, because keeping your ribcage open is important for a free tone.

1. Sit Against a Wall


Sit against a wall in an imaginary chair. Not only will your spine be straight and stable, allowing your ribcage to easily expand, but your abdominopelvic muscles will kick into gear.

2. Do a Plank

Photo credit: Rance Costa

This one is best if you’re in pretty good shape, because otherwise the difficulty of the maneuver will most likely cause tension in unwanted areas, like your face and throat. But if you’re comfortable in this position, the stability you create will make breath control fairly natural.

3. Do a Squat

Make sure your feet are wide enough so that you’re in a stable stance. Keep your arms outstretched in front of you to facilitate rib expansion.

4. Lie on Your Back

Lie on your back with your feet planted on the floor, and put some sort of object that’s easy to balance, like a book, on your abdomen. Inhale and allow the object to move upward, toward the ceiling (being careful to not force in too much air, because that will just create tension). As you sing or do a slow exhale, keep the book up and don’t let it drop.

5. Put Your Hands on your Ribcage

Image result for hands on hips

Put your hands on your ribcage, and let everything expand outward. Keeping your ribs expanded and your stomach unclenched, hiss, “ssss, ssss, ssss” not allowing yourself to deflate.

Once you find the right muscles, the trick is continuing to use them while you’re singing. I know that can feel a little like rubbing your stomach and patting your head, but I promise, everything will feel a little easier and freer over time if you do this correctly. Have any of your own tricks for finding your support muscles? Let us know in the comments section below!

Hard Songs to Sing: Issues, by Julia Michaels

Hard Songs to Sing: Issues, by Julia Michaels

On the surface, “Issues,” by Julia Michaels, may not seem like a tough a song. It doesn’t go that high, and when it does, Michaels transitions into a light head voice. But you’d be surprised at how many problems those little note jumps can cause you if you aren’t prepared for them. The result I often see with students trying it for the first time is a lot of unnecessary vocal tension or some shoutiness on the higher parts. If these sound like, well, issues you’re having, take a look through our latest Hard Songs to Sing tutorial.

Why Is This Song Hard?

1. The Ab’s in the Verses

The beginning of the first verse sits in a very easy area for female chest voice, but then on the line, “When I’m down I get real down” leaps up to an Ab4 (a place many singers no longer feel that chest tones are effortless).

2. The C’s in the Pre-Choruses

The line, “baby I would judge you, too” moves from an Ab4, a note many singers are tempted to belt, to a C5 on the word I, which probably shouldn’t stylistically be belted for this song.

3. The C#5’s in the Choruses

It’s not that C#5 is crazy high. But the whole chorus sits in a fairly high, uncomfortable area for many singers, and it’s worth discussing.

Instant Gratification

Figure the High Notes Out First

Whether you lighten up and move into a headier spot for the note jumps (“down I get real down,” etc.) or stay a little chestier, you’ll want to make sure your body is set up for the higher notes before you attack them. The beginning of the verse doesn’t require much in the way of breath support, but if you don’t put in a little work and thought early, the higher notes will feel like you need to make a sudden adjustment–causing many people to just slam into them. Start with the highest notes first (down, I, etc.) If they’re feeling throaty, make sure you distribute that work to your torso through good breath support.

How to Support Your High Notes

1. Stay wide across your back and broad in your shoulders
2. Keep your spine long.
3. Use your external intercostal muscles (the ones between your ribs) to keep your ribs open instead of sucked in like you’re doing crunches.
4. You should feel so stable that if I came and tried to push you over (don’t worry! I’m not that strong or intimidating!) I wouldn’t be able to.

How to Relax Your Throat

While you do all this (as if this breath support didn’t take enough concentration) work on relaxing your throat. Here are some tips if it’s causing you trouble.
1. Pretend you’re about to laugh or sigh
2. Visualize pulling your ears apart.
3. For something more tangible, rock your head back and forth to keep from clenching.

All that was in the service of getting those higher notes down first. The next step is to add the lower ones; but get your body set up the way it needs to be while you’re singing the low ones, so you aren’t making quick adjustments when you maneuver into the higher ones.

Easy Modifications

Lose the Diphthongs

1. The word down has both the “ah” and the “ooh” vowels in them. That can be a little unwieldy, especially given how fast the verses move. Just go for the “ah” sound like you’re saying “Don.”
2. The I in the chorus can be modified to an “ah” as well, as if you’re just letting out a big sigh.

Modify the “a” (as in cat) sound to an “eh.”

If you’ve read my Hard Songs blogs before, you might be surprised to hear me say this, since I’m often a big fan of modifying everything to the bright, twangy “a” sound. But for this, you want something to help you lift your soft palate and lighten up a little bit. “Eh” is perfect for that, so try making your that and fast in the verses “thet” and “fest.”

Not-So-Instant Gratification

Vowel modifications, coupled with some quick tips to help with support and relaxation, are great, but there’s nothing quite like building up long-term muscle memory through some vocal exercises.

Humming Up a 5th

This is a great one for figuring out how to support high notes (see Instant Gratification section). Sing a 5-note scale on a hum, and end it by jumping up the 5th and back down. The first pass will help you figure out how to gradually get to that high note, while the second pass will force you to prepare for the high note without any gradual build.

Na to Nah Belt

Belting is often easier for people on the “a” (as in cat) sound than on the “ah” (as in fox), so to work on your belt, let’s start with a Na and then move to a Nah. Try to keep the same narrow twang on the “ah” as on the “a.” C#5 is the note you’re aiming for in “Issues.” If you can’t quite get there right now, just work on this exercise, and over time your belting range should increase. Don’t forget to use the same support we talked about earlier to get that pressure out of your throat, and most importantly, if you feel a lot of tension in your throat, it might be time to take a break from this exercise. You can always come back to it when you’re fresh on another day.

Have a song you’d like to see a Hard Songs Tutorial on? Let us know in the comments section below!