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Top 10 Exercises for Your Vocal Health

By John Henny

As a voice teacher, I've found certain exercises that work well for most singers and help get fast results. Unless noted, they can be used with any
scale. But a word of caution: Don't take any of these exercises higher than is comfortable. You can listen to my podcasts at for some examples.

1. Glides Through a Straw

Blow air through a small stirring straw while phonating glides up and down through your range. The backpressure created by the resistance of the
straw presses down on the vocal cords and helps decrease puffiness, a major source of vocal trouble.

2. Lip Trills

This is a variation of the straw exercise. Gently blow air through closed lips, keeping them relaxed, and sing an uh vowel underneath. Your lips
should start to trill. The resistance of the bubbling lips helps maintain cord closure, an important element of good singing.

3. Creaky Doors

This is a great exercise to help build the coordination needed to maintain proper cord closure. Make a little edgy sound, like a creaky door or a
rusty gate opening. Do a scale on this sound using very little air. The idea is to not let the sound get breathy or squeezed.

4. Ngs

Make the ng sound from the word hung. This sound is produced with the tongue and soft palate together. This again provides backpressure, while
also making the transition between the lower and upper registers (chest voice and head voice) easier.

5. Nasty Nays

This is done using the word nay on a bratty or Wicked Witchtype sound. This exercise also assists in cord closure, while the exaggerated sound
makes it easier to ascend into the upper register without cracking or flipping.

6. Hooty Gees

This is the opposite of the previous exercise, and it's quite useful for a singer experiencing excess tension. Using a dopey cartoon voice (think
Yogi Bear), say the word gee. You should feel your larynx drop. The g consonant should also help with cord closure due to the backpressure it
creates, so you can experience accessing the upper register with a stable larynx and closed cords. This coordination is extremely important in
good, healthy singing. Once this exercise is comfortable, you can drop the dopey imposition and sing on a more natural sound.

7. Coo Coos

This exercise is great for working the upper register. The coo can be made to sound hooty, like an owl, for extra ease in working high notes.

8. Aahs

This is very useful for singers who are weak or breathy in their lower register. The sound is on theaah of cat and can be exaggerated by sticking
the tongue out slightly. Do this in your lower register in a five-tone scale (12345 to 54321 of the major scale). Use very little air, as you
don't want any breathiness in the sound.

9. Googs and Mums

These are best used once the voice is experiencing proper cord closure and ease of production. The word goog (the vowel sounds like
the oo in good) has both a hard consonant for cord closure and a vowel that will help stabilize the larynx. Be sure to maintain the vowel in the
upper register, as vowel widening (gaag) can cause tension. The vowel and consonant of mum provide a bit less help than goog, making this a
slightly more advanced exercise.

10. Ooh-Oh-Uh-Ahs

Going from a more closed or narrow vowel to a wider one on a sustain is a great way to balance resonance. The more closed vowel will help you
get into your upper register. Gradually open to the wider vowel while keeping the resonance in the same place. If the tone gets shouty or strained,
go back to the narrow vowel to get the voice balanced again.

Annie Star Lilla Crawfords Voice Coach Gives Advice for Young Singers
By Kelly Crisp

When it comes to understanding the fundamentals of voice lessons for children, who better to ask than the voice teacher of Broadways new It
Girl? Lilla Crawford, star of the upcoming production of Annie, works with Badiene Magaziner. Crawford, who made her Broadway debut as
Debbie in the closing cast of Billy Elliot, beat out 5000 girls to win the lead role after a highly publicized nationwide casting.

An accomplished singer with credits in opera and on Broadway, Magaziner holds a Masters Degree of Music in Voice from The Juilliard School of
Music and has been a voice teacher for more than ten years. Her students have appeared in a long list of Broadway shows including Billy Elliot,
Mary Poppins, Rent and Miss Saigon as well as on American Idol. She also coached Americas Got Talents first $1,000,000 winner.

Magaziner, who teaches speech level singing, notes a slight shift away from beginning formal lessons after puberty. With so many more
opportunities for children to perform professionally, Magaziner has seen kids as young as 9 and 10 who already have vocal damage including
polyps. I now take students as young as 5 to prevent vocal damage and health issues, explains Magaziner.

Still, Magaziner cautions parents to make sure they have a teacher that knows what they are doing if a child is going to begin lessons before
puberty. Some teachers may be tempted to let students bring chest voice much too high and that can be extremely dangerous, warns
Magaziner. You cannot just pull chest and hope for the best. It has to be the proper chest."

Magaziner believes that protecting Crawfords voice from damage throughout her demanding schedule as the lead in Annie will be a big
challenge. Avoiding damage is about protecting the voice in any setting, she says. Using proper technique with the understanding that the
minute you start to get vocal or physical fatigue in any way, stop. Dont sing. If you are sick, dont sing on sick cords. Never scream.

Magaziner shows her students pictures of what vocal chords look like in chest voice, head voice and whistle. She then gives them specific
exercises to build each type of voice. I show them how to go through those bridges seamlessly so that it sounds like it is just one voice, she

Magazine recommends students to take weekly lessons, but recognizes not everybody can afford it. Every other week would be the mi nimum as
muscle memory doesnt last, she adds. It would be like trying to play tennis and saying Ill just go for a lesson once a month.

For international students and students with scheduling conflicts, Magaziner uses Skype for the appointments. Karaoke tracks for songs can be
found on YouTube or on iTunes. Most students now record lessons on their phone, digital recording device or a CD in order to practice. Some
teachers even post vocal exercises on a private YouTube account for their students.

Magaziner recommends that parents spend time shopping for a voice teacher. You wouldnt marry the first person you dated, she explains.
Although cost is a factor, it should not be the overriding factor. Ive had students from teachers that charge $250 that cant sing and have no
technique, cautions Magaziner. I would rather have somebody come to me for half and hour every two weeks and learn the proper technique,
than go to somebody that is going to teach them the wrong technique but is less expensive.

Magaziners Guidelines For Choosing A Voice Teacher are available on her website. Go and click on the Articles link.

How to Handle Vocal Breaks
By John Henny

One of the more vexing technical challenges for any singer is the dreaded vocal break, that area where notes suddenly become more difficult as
the voice tries to transition from the lower to the upper registers. Singers have developed various ways of dealing with this issue, often to the
detriment of their vocal performances. In this area singers often have to choose between yelling a note or going light and breathy. It takes a
particular level of skill to sing through this area seamlessly.

What Are They and Why Do They Happen?

Vocal breaks are caused by the voice's need to make a shift in resonance as it ascends in pitch. Resonance is the way the body amplifies the
relatively weak sound waves sent up by the vocal cords. The sound waves enter the areas of the throat, mouth, and nasal cavities and pick up
energy by vibrating in these acoustic spaces. Depending on the pitch and the vowel, different areas will vibrate more intensely. This is what gives
the singer the differing sensations of chest and head voice.

When you are in chest, the dominant resonator is the throat, even though we may feel the sympathetic vibrations more intensely in the chest
(hence the name chest voice). As you ascend, the throat area becomes a less efficient resonator; think of it as a bass amplifier. If you attempt to
stay in this resonatoror chest voiceon too high of a pitch the larynx will begin to rise to keep the throat area aligned with the ascending pitch.
Soon there will be a greater degree of tension as this resonator is pushed beyond its natural acoustic role. This condition is often called "pulled

The singer is now left with a difficult decision: continue to push this straining tone or "flip" or let go suddenly, causing the voice to weaken
instantly. Often the voice will do this for you, producing the dreaded "crack."

What to Do

There is a better way for the singer. Rather than struggle with taking the chest voice too high, the singer can allow the sound waves to use a new
primary resonator. This area of the mouth can amplify high pitches and overtones much more efficiently. This will produce the sensation of head
voice. Please note that these resonance strategies will be slightly different for the female classical singer. We are focusing on the contemporary
singer here.

The handing over of these resonators is a skill that takes a great deal of practice to do smoothly, but the good news is it can be done. The main
way a singer will control this shift is through a system of vowel adjustments or modification.

Vowels directly influence the shape of these resonators. One can easily see the difference in lip position between an "ah" and an "oo." However,
what we don't often notice is that the throat area also changes between the two vowel sounds. The "ah" will require a higher larynx and the "oo" a
lower one. The changing of the size of these resonance areas is what causes the ear to discern these vowels as different.

The different resonances created by these and other vowel shapes become a strong tool in the singer's arsenal. In general the more open or wide
vowels (such as "ah") favor the chest resonance, and the more closed (such as "oo") favor the headier resonance.

The singer can use these acoustic laws to great advantage. As the pitch ascends, vowels need to modify slightly to be more closed or narrow.
This adjustment will allow the mouth area to take over from the throat, or chest voice. The smooth transition is often called mix, bridging, middle
voice, or even the classical term "passaggio."

The ability to blend these registers is a powerful one. Now the voice will gain in acoustic power with less effort as the correct resonator is used.
Also the access to higher registers is much easier. With the effort load on the vocal cords being drastically reduced, the singer will also be able to
sing longer without fatiguing and will experience far fewer vocal issues.

In Practice

A great way to begin to train is with sounds that will naturally encourage the hand-over of resonance. Narrow vowels such as "oo" work well. Do
your vocal scales on an "oo" sound, or if you have any problem, make it "koo" or "boo." The consonants will add stability.

Once you are able to go back and forth across the registers, you can work on more open vowels. These require more attention, as they will need
to modify to transition smoothly.

An "ah" vowel will naturally pull chest through the transition unless it is modified to the friendlier vowel sound "uh." Work on making this vowel
change as you feel the break area approaching. This should reduce strain and allow the hand-over of resonance to occur smoothly.

Adding Words

Since songs are rarely composed of only "oo" vowels, we need to work these vowel strategies into the text. For example: on a "break note" the
word "what" becomes "whut." The "ah-ee" of the word "I" becomes "uh-ee."

Although a full breakdown of vowel substitutions is beyond the scope here, you can listen to some of your favorite singers and try to hear how
they use these vowel adjustments