Vocal Imbalance, Creating Vibrato…

Here’s a couple question/answers that I hope are helpful to all…

Q: Dear Billy, I have been singing for 10 years now. I have sung in a choir for 4 years, in a theatre group for 3 years and am now singing at weddings and in bands professionally. I have also been taking singing lessons for the past 3 years. I was in Germany for 8 months and sang the lead role in a German production of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. So now you know where I am at. I have a few problems with my voice. Currently i have three registers. A low (alto) register which is very strong and well developed, a middle register which is a bit weaker and then my high register which is very light and airy. I am finding it really hard to sing in my low register as i always strain my throat when doing so. The difference between my high and low register is very dramatic so I continue to sing in my low register and sometimes even push myself to try and sing higher notes in this lower register. I have stopped my singing lessons as the teacher didn’t
understand my problems. Please help… -S.

A: I can’t understand why the teacher doesn’t understand the problem; it sounds like a classic case of vocal imbalance – too much weight from chest voice (which is why it is strained) will always deplete the upper register (which is why it is “airy”) What you need to do is rebalance your voice, and eventually you can apply it to your songs. It will require strengthening your upper register and softening your lower register a bit, especially at first – please note that it will take some patience on your part, and you may find your voice in “limbo” for a short while, where it would be best not to have to sing in public (a month or two) but not necessarily. Strengthening the upper register is 90% of what a teacher like me does, but you can do the work on your own if you understand the concept involved. That’s why I created the Ultimate Voice Training for Singers home study program! I highly recommend that you give my program a try; you’ll be glad you did!  But if you decide to try lessons again, seek out a teacher who truly understands the bridges of the voice, not one who just plays songs a gives tips.  -billy

Q: Hello, I am 35 yr old female and love to sing. Back in February of this year, I started voice lessons. Both my breath support and projection are doing very well for only having 6 months of lessons but unfortunately, right now I have a vibratoless voice… meaning I naturally force a straight tone. When we begin to work on vibrato, my teacher says I’m forcing it. She says I need to relax and think vibrato and it will happen but I am having a difficult time with this and it’s beginning to really depress me. I want a natural vibrato but unfortunately, I grew up thinking straight tone was the correct way of singing and now it’s become natural to sing that way. Do you have any opinions on vibrato and how to achieve it? Thanks for your time. – A

A: Sometimes you can’t just relax and let it happen, especially when you’re very experienced singing without it–what you do is “fake it”–practice singing a sustained line of 1/2 steps, for example C-B-C-B-C-B-C-B etc… starting with the vowel sound oooooo….. it will sound totally fake and a bit “wide”, but you can smooth it out with practice-then start doing that with different vowel sounds, and then at the end of your phrases in songs, where you would normally put vibrato. If you’re trying this and that is what your teacher calls “forced” then I disagree. No, it’s not performance ready at first, and it will sound fake, but that is your best procedure for relaxing it into happening on it’s own…and you’ll be surprised how quickly you can make this happen. 6 months is too long to wait, in my opinion, though I know that everyone is different. This is covered in chapter 3 of my program, “The Ultimate Voice Training for Singers” if you’re interested. You can find it at my site. Good luck in everything – billy

An Interview with Billy Purnell…




I’ve always been considered more of a technique teacher, but I definitely appreciate the marriage between good technique and the ability to emote, to create a dynamic stage character. Now I’d say it’s a 60-40 combination of those two. For those who are skilled in the performance area, my focus is mostly on getting the mix-smoothing the transitions, or bridges, of the voice.


The “mix” is a successful transition between registers; between chest voice and head voice. When it’s done according to my technique, the singer can belt a high note without straining, and go from softer, breathier to stronger, more focused without the voice “breaking”… the singer knows where the “break” in the voice is, but the listener can’t tell at all – it appears seamless!


Two things: 1) the breath and 2) the mix. I keep an eye on the chest/diaphragm area to make sure the artist is getting the best breath they can ; the ribs expand as the chest lifts slightly…then I show them how to use as little air as is necessary by keeping their chest comfortably high, and singing with the same basic approach used for speaking. By getting more air and using less, they are guaranteed to get more control, sustain, etc… sometimes I’ll have them sit down or even bend forward during exercises to get more compression temporarily to the diaphragm area. There are lots of tricks.


In over 75 countries around the globe, but we get a lot of orders from the US, UK, Australia, Barbados, China, Japan, Canada, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, India, Brazil, Argentina, Hungary, Israel, Finland, Greece, France, Holland, Ireland, The Philippines, Spain…the list goes on.


The concept can become clear in just one lesson, and I’ve had some clients, particularly pros, who achieve the coordination itself in just a few sessions. Then it’s just a matter of continually working throughout the exercises for a few months. The average singer that is new to training, however, will generally take up to a year, and the application has to be ongoing.


Keeping the voice limber with a daily exercise workout, and remembering how to shape your vowels during performance.

 It’s all in the program.


Yes and no…they need to know their limits and when it’s important to stick to what they know, but they need to be able to “cheat” a little for the sake of performance variety. You can’t let technique become style; technique is a means, not an end. If everyone did the exact same vowels the exact same way all the time, it would get pretty boring. They have to use the guidelines and apply them to their character; that which makes them unique.




Yes, but why are they so terrible? We are all given an apparent level of the “gift” by our Creator, and yes, just like in anything, some people just really seem to have very little of it. But I have seen too many incredible things happen among those very people to be anything but encouraging, particularly among kids and teens. You just have to troubleshoot the problems, break them down and roll up your sleeves. Those who are willing to do the work vocally, spiritually, mentally-these people do incredible things; they make it happen. I’m just a guide.


I’ve been blessed with a good gut feeling, but I can’t always be 100% certain when I first meet someone… however, there are things to look for. First of all, how well they hear pitch. Anyone who can match pitch accurately could (not can, but could) learn to sing for the commercial market, period. Second, what’s their personality like? Their self-image? Can they laugh outloud on command? Can they yell at me on command? Make silly noises? In other words, can they act? If I ask you to yell at me with energy and all you can do is squeak out some little cry or half-hearted yelp because you feel silly, that’s not a vocal problem. That’s a performance problem, and the voice will begin to improve significantly when the performance problem is tackled. It takes time sometimes, but it’s very doable. You have to be patient with a new artist.


Anyone can improve, and everyone who applies these principles of good vocal technique and performance will improve, but to what degree is determined by their savvy, their coach/teacher and by their natural gift. If everyone could learn to sing well enough to land a major record deal, everyone would be doing it!! But there are some who will defy all anticipation and really blow me away. I’ll see it in one lesson…it wasn’t there last week and it’s there this week – a sudden turning point where I know it’s happening again, another potential star is being born, and they know it, too…I praise the Lord for those moments! And I’ve seen the opposite, too…all the talent, all the tools in place, but absolutely no desire; no spark.


I think they’re great for bringing up the performance level of the individual – he has 4 minutes to give the audience everything he’s got. In a perfect world, judging is based on a combination of singing, staging and originality, but it’s not a perfect world…too many judges know nothing about singing; they base everything on showiness…but even then, if it’s your show that holds you back from getting a trophy, that’s a good reason to be in the competition. It’s important for the teacher and the artist to keep the trophy in perspective-the competition is only a means, not an end. It’s a means to improvement, and that’s all. To be your own personal best is the only goal – the trophy is just a frame of reference. A lot of teachers base their business on competitions. The more trophies, the more signups (it’s hard for parents to know exactly what to look for in a teacher), so the teachers get this “win at all cost” attitude, and they put the pressure on the students. It’s sad, because the goal is distorted, and the individual gets the wrong message… the competition becomes more important than the art. I heard one teacher quoted as saying to a student after a heartbreaking loss, “Well, you’ve done it to me again.” The teacher was referring to the fact that the student panicked and lost her vocal balance, but the key word here is “me.” The student didn’t do anything to the teacher, but that was the message…”it’s not just your loss, it’s my loss.” If it’s not about the student, what good is it doing? I won’t use that pressure, and I honestly think that’s part of why my peeps win these things so much.


Those aren’t really competitions; it’s more like casting… the top 10 are never the 10 best that they’ve seen necessarily; there’s alot more involved in the casting of those shows. That being said, mah girl Jessica Sanchez ROCKED American Idol last season; she is a really great singer, technically and otherwise…


Young and old, the advice is the same –

1) Put your students first…stay on top of what’s going on in music, and if you’re not up on popular music pedagogically, don’t take students who want to learn it. If you want to learn about my technique, call me! I’ll get together with you, and then with your students in a workshop format.

2) Dedicate yourself to the task; don’t do it as a fallback to your own performing career. Only with total dedication can you truly devote yourself to the task and get it done. The exception to this is those performer/teachers who are well plugged in to a higher level of singing success, and take on only a few students at a time in hopes of bringing them up. If they’re good teachers, this can be a great situation for the student…remember, your students are the bottom line!

3) Don’t rely on your own voice as your only frame of reference, and don’t try to make your students do things the way you would do them, just because you would do them that way. (I’m talking about phrasing, improv, creative ideas) 
Remember, they are artists; treat them as such. This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen teachers that really crush the soul out of their students’ work by picking on unnecessary things…let them play; let them create, and yes, let them be wrong, too! Then step in and do your stuff; let them see the difference.

Eat a Healthy Diet for Singing!!



The human voice emanates from a very delicate instrument; a finely tuned collection of tissue, cartilage, ligament, bone and mucus, that when operating efficiently can create a beautiful sound via vibration of the vocal folds resonating through the cavities of the throat, mouth, nose and sinuses.  Singing is not only a spiritual and recreational activity, it is also athletic in nature, since it is the physical coordination of all these parts that makes a pleasant voice.

Because of this, it is imperative that a serious singer examine not only their daily practice routine, but also how they are treating their body on a day to day basis.  Proper hydration and nutrition are essential in the serious singer, just as they are essential in the serious athlete.

Some very real tips for singers:

1)      Get the right amount of sleep… Your body functions best when it is rested, as you know.  The sound of your voice is one of the first indicators of fatigue; even a friend miles away can tell you that you “sound tired” on the phone.  Since you’ll refuse to show your fatigue in a performance, (and rightfully so), you’ll have to expend extra energy just to get your “mix” and into your high notes.  You will push your voice harder than you should; it’s inevitable.  Sleep!

2)      Pay attention to your diet… what you eat affects your voice greatly; not just in the short run (right before a gig) but in the long run: vocal production is adversely affected by the thickening of mucus in the laryngeal area, and that can be the direct result of a poor diet.  When mucus is thick and chunky, that’s when we feel we have to clear our throat, and the very act of doing so is hard on the voice.  If the clearing continues, swelling of the vocal folds occurs, and the singer finds himself clearing more and more to get rid of mucus that is no longer there; now what’s there is just the swelling.  Swollen vocal cords sound hoarse and are difficult and sometimes painful to work with.Drinking water, not soda but fresh clean water, will thin the mucus and make it slide down easily, while protecting the delicate tissues of the throat.

As a general rule, fish and chicken, lean foods, vegetables and fruits, herbal teas, grains and whole foods, and lots of water are good for the singing voice…

As a general rule, fatty foods, fast food, spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol, soda, sugar, dairy products can be hard on the singing voice, producing a thicker mucus as described above

3)     Drink plenty of water!!  Good fresh water, not soda… people say “well soda has water in it, doesn’t that count?  No, because there’s too much junk in it as well, and the body is not using it the same way… 8 x 8 ounce glasses per day, not just  when singing… the idea is consistent hydration!!


Acid Reflux, Allergies, Cracking Voice, Clearing Throat?


Here’s a question that came to me whose answer can help everyone who sings;
it is such a common situation…



Dear Billy, I sing soprano, high soprano and have been working on alot of opera songs.
I have a question about my throat. When I sing sometimes and it seems to be alot more offten now, my throat feels like it has junk or something in it. I feel I have to clear my throat alot before I sing and I was wondering if there is a drink or a work out I could do with my voice that helps that? I have heard that its not good to clear your throat before you sing, is that true? I was thinking that the reason my throat gets “clogged” is because I over work it or because I’m nervous before I go on. Also is there something I could do about my voice cracking, its happened alot lately. Thank you for your time. Please help me answer my questions. – M

Billy: It’s true that you should not clear your throat; it’s abrasive to the folds. There is a way of doing it with more air and less pressure (just allow a little air to pass through as you begin the clear, so it’s sort of a “glottal whisper”) in times of emergency, but you have to be careful. The best remedy is to take a drink of water and swallow; the swallowing action will move the cartilage housing and allow the obscuring mucous to slide off on its own…I realize, of course, that this is not always immediate enough for the situation–just don’t get or be in the habit of clearing!

But you need to find out why the mucous is becoming so thick and obstructive – are you drinking enough water? Everyone should drink 8 8-ounce glasses a day (64 ounces; 2 quarts) and singers should drink even more than that–if you’re not in that habit, it is imperative that you start…even when you’re not thirsty, drink water at regular intervals to keep the body fully hydrated and the vocal folds will remain moist.

Also, if you have any allergies that need attention, that would be a cause of increased or thickened mucous. If that is the case, your doctor and possibly a nutritionist can help you immensely.

There is another possibility, too–acid reflux, a condition where your stomach acid seeps through the muscular closure above the stomach when you lay down horizontally, and makes its way up to the vocal area, resulting in irritation, which causes the protective mucous to increase and thicken, and can cause irritation that feels like you constantly need to clear your thoat..

It inevitably will cause the voice to start “cracking” where it did not before… It’s a nightmare for singers, and quite common. (I suffer from it myself). There are things you can do, but you should see a doctor if you suspect it.

Some solutions are the over-the-counter meds like Prilosec and Omezparole, not eating 2 hours before bed, and having your bed “raised” a few inches at the headboard…By the way, it doesn’t always take the form of “heartburn” or “sour stomach” – you can have it and not know it at all. Finally, yes, you could be overworking it, and your technique could be failing you – you’ll need to consult a reputable instructor on that.

Being nervous won’t create phlegm, but it could cause you to nervously clear your throat more, and the resulting swelling of the folds will  definitely affect your technique. Hope this helps; good luck in everything. – billy

Voice Training: How to Fight Phlegm

Phlegm: Creamy Or Extra Chunky??  Ewwwwwww….

As every professional voice training user knows, the presence of phlegm, or mucous, on the vocal folds can be a real pain in the butt when it comes to being your best for the all-important gig.  We guzzle water, we clear our throats repeatedly, we warm up excessively all in an effort to cough up that junk and get our throats clear, but there is a better way to avoid that situation – prevent it!

Prevention, in this case, is all about diet and lifestyle, and it starts with a daily regimen of drinking water.  I recommend getting a large water bottle and filling it every morning, with the goal being to have it finished by the end of the day.

How much water you drink should depend on your size and daily activity; anyone involved in sports obviously needs to hydrate more than the average person, since the activity causes the body to shed water.  Also, anyone who drinks coffee or alcohol needs to drink more water, since these tend to rid the body of water and dry out the delicate lining of the vocal folds called the epithelium.

Many people erroneously believe that the reason we drink water is to ‘wash down” the phlegm prior to singing. Yes, you should have water handy when singing or speaking in quantity, but it is the constant hydration of the body that is important, not just at the gig.

You see, when the body is hydrated, the mucous tends to be thin and watery, and will easily slide down and be much less bothersome; when the body is low on water it will protect that delicate tissue by thickening the mucous so that it protects the lining.  That thick phlegm is what really causes the problems when singing, and trying to clear it the traditional way only grinds the folds together and causes more irritation… and an irritated throat is hard to sing with!

To make matters worse, when the folds are irritated, we tend to start singing harder to get through the register shifts, losing our vocal balance, and even more irritation occurs!  It’s a downward spiral from there….

Solution: have a daily water regimen and stick to it!!

Also, watch your diet… fatty foods, fried foods, fast food, soda, sugar,  high sodium, all tend to push the body into protect mode, whereas green vegetables, fruits, lean meats and fish tend to keep a healthier, more efficient and less obstructive mucous on the folds.  Certain allergies, like allergies to wheat or wheat gluten will also wreak havoc with the production of mucous, so it’s important to understand your own body and what you need and don’t need.

Excessive shouting and vocal horseplay is something else that should be avoided by the serious singer, but I’ll cover that in another session.

Taking care of your voice is a serious matter for the serious vocalist, and so is Intensive and Effective Vocal Training… to find out more about how you can train your voice to be at its best, visit us at www.voicetraining.com and learn about the Ultimate Voice Training for Singers home study program – you’ll be glad you did!

Happy Singing,

billy purnell
The Vocal Troubleshooter™



Voice Training: How to Practice Screwing Up Onstage!

Huh?  Who practices screwing up onstage? Isn’t the point not to screw up onstage?

Well, the fact is, you will mess up, and you will never get to the point where you don’t mess up at times… why?  Because you’re human! There is not a job on the planet where people don’t mess up, and that’s just the way it is – which is why I never really wanted to be a brain surgeon.  But when you mess up onstage, you’re doing so in front of a lot of people, and the thought of it causes some form of stage fright in just about everyone who cares about what they’re doing as an entertainer.

Solution: practice screwing up your vocal training!

The only way you can ever practice becoming “cool” through a mistake is when you actually make one. Take for instance, forgetting the words.  Pretty much everyone’s fear when singing, it causes people to stop, stammer, roll their eyes, sweat, cry, pee, run offstage and more, but being smooth and cool through this dreaded time is what you need as an entertainer, because people don’t really care nearly as much that you forgot the words as they do your reaction to it.

A negative reaction places your audience on edge; they want you to be having fun and in control; when you’re not, they get a weird feeling that can only go away by you taking over the room again with charm and professionalism.

OK, so let me repeat:  The only way you can ever practice becoming “cool” through a mistake is when you actually make one – so when you’re practicing your voice lessons, make sure you’re not just “going over” a song.

After you know the song, you have to get yourself into “performance” mode, singing in the moment.  That means visualizing a crowd, or judges, or record executives, and being accountable to every nuance of your performance as if you were onstage, and not stopping for anything.

Then, if you forget the words, you have to force yourself to smoothly get through it until you find your place again.  You can pause and listen to the music while maintaining your composure until you’re back on track or you can substitute words that make sense in the song.

Believe, me, this takes some real experience to be good at.  I’ve even sung meaningless phrases that sound like words until recovering, but in a slow ballad with piano/vocal only this is not recommended!

So you may be saying: “Dude, I’m not going to freak out onstage when I forget the words; is this really that important?”  I insist that yes, it is, because even though you won’t freak out, you may show a visible negative sign that you’re not even aware of!  A twitch, a look of fear, a change in body motion, it all matters. Besides, practicing your vocal lessons in "performance mode" with full attention is good for you anyway.

Speaking of screwing up, if your voice isn’t giving you everything you want from it and you’d like some help, considering checking out the Ultimate Voice Training for Singers online study program at www.voicetraining.com.

It’s an intensive study into balancing the vocal registers to give you one complete voice from top to bottom and eliminating vocal strain in the high notes!

Happy Singing,

billy purnell
The Vocal Troubleshooter™

P.S. – By the way I just rolled out a way for you to personally train with me – WITHOUT having to drive or fly to see me… I don't have very many spaces available, but if you want customized instruction so you can laser-focus your voice training, check out www.voicetraining.com/onlinevoicetraininglessons

Voice Training Involves Hardware and Software!

I like to break down voice training into two major parts:  the hardware and the software.

The hardware consists of every physical element involved in vocal production; the lungs and diaphragm, the ribs, the throat, the arytenoids and other muscles, the voice box and vocal folds, and the mouth, including teeth, tongue, nasal cavities, etc… Indeed, virtually the entire body is used in some fashion for a true vocal performance.  The training of these physical tools is a coordination of them, just as proper coordination is required to drive a car, hit a golf ball or run very fast.

The software is the musical processing that takes place in the brain.  How the brain interprets songs and song performance, how it interprets pitch and commands the body to respond, how it deciphers what sounds good and what doesn’t; these are functions of the brain.  It is usually these attributes that people are referring to when they say “you either have it or you don’t”, whether they know it or not.

But these people, which include some voice teachers,  can often be wrong about who “has it” and who doesn’t, since the one saying it often doesn’t know the difference between hardware and software the way I just described it to you… in other words, they don’t know how to fix the problem or even what causes it in the first place.

You have to know what is wrong to be able to fix it and you have to know what doesn't need to be fixed!

Years ago one of my clients was working with a very famous producer,  and while in session the producer leaned over to me and said “you can’t teach that, you have to be born with it"; I smiled and nodded, but what I really wanted to do was play for him a live recording of that same client two years prior.

But I’ve always been the nice guy type!  Yes, this person has a natural, God-given talent that was superior to peers, but how this singer was using it two years prior was pretty much as wrong as it gets. Shouting to the point of vocal exhaustion, trying to imitate another artist, pitchy as all heck and singing through the nose to the point where it could be mistaken for a kazoo…HELP NEEDED! And I was glad to provide it.

Singing through nose = hardware.

Imitating another singer = software

Shouting to vocal exhaustion = hardware

Pitchiness = hardware AND software

How do I fix this stuff?  It all starts the same way:  coordination.  Power singing is not loud singing necessarily, it is focused singing… Tongue and neck muscles must be free to do what they're supposed to be doing, not pulling on the larynx to hit the high notes… and that's just what my training program, the Ultimate Voice Training for Singers, will do for you.  Check it out by clicking RIGHT HERE!!

Voice Training: Why reach for the stars??


So let’s ask the question that every artist asks  of themselves on some sort of regular  basis… “Self, what do I really want to do with my talent and what do I think is possible to accomplish?”

If the answer to the first part is “I want to be famous”, then we may need to break it down further.  After all, there are a plethora of ways to get famous.  Heck, if you want to be famous, all you have to do is kill someone that is famous… ok; bad joke, but please get the point… famous?  Why?

Because you’ll be rich and successful and everyone will love you and you’ll have an easy life and be the envy of your friends and blah blah blah?  I hope it’s not that simple.  How about “because I want to do something that will put people in a better place than they were before they found out about me”?

How about “because I want people to know what is possible in their own lives, by listening to my words, hearing my story and knowing that I didn’t start off with a lot of money, backing, and connections…”

How about “because I want to be the best I can possibly be, and inspire others to do the same”?

Ah, so I’m an idealist; that’s ok.  Fact is, all the above possibilities have one thing in common… the desire to be REAL as a person and an entertainer.  To be creative,  different, authentic; to have a purpose and be self-directed in fulfilling it.  And that means being THE BEST YOU CAN BE AT YOUR CRAFT – and that’s just a starting point!

I have a fantastic life, amazing friends, a good relationship with the Creator of the Universe and a love of what I do for a living. I’m not rich, but I’m covered – not sure if I’m the best, but I’m one of the best…

And I had NO IDEA I would ever be a voice teacher for a living.

Of the myriad of successful, happy and fulfilled people that I know in the music industry, the majority of them had no idea they would be doing what they are doing for a living.

Most of them started out wanting to “make it” in the biz (a very specific ambition that meant being a rich and famous recording artist).  But time, circumstance, opportunity, parenthood, and/or the desire to have a “normal” life have worked together to turn them into producers, A&R executives, teachers, managers, agents, songwriters, radio personalities; the list goes on and on – AND THEY LOVE WHAT THEY DO, AS DO I….

Why did we become who we are?  Did we change our minds?  Did we “fall back” to plan B?  No – we became who we are because, by becoming the best we could be at what we do, we opened the doors that it takes to branch out in the music industry; to make a living doing the thing that we love – MUSIC.

And if we hadn’t put all that effort into being the best we can be, those doors would have never opened – period.

You sing because you love it – but remember, so does the guy next door.  When he sings in the shower, the car, or at a karaoke bar, he gets just as much joy as you do, but YOU are training for a career in the industry, whatever that career may be.


Happy Singing,

Billy P:)

P.S. – No matter if you have my course, “The Ultimate Voice Training for Singers” or not, remember this saying; “The Mother of Skill is Repetition; the Father of Skill is Consistency.”

Consistent, focused practice (I recommend 5- 6 days per week) is the key to developing your voice to its fullest potential. The best way would be with a qualified Voice Training Coach.  If you can’t do that, then a course like “The Ultimate Voice Training for Singers” is a great alternative.

Either way, make sure you practice correctly and consistently. Happy Singing!

Voice Training: How to avoid damaging your vocal cords

IMG_0090-300x225What the Heck is a Nodule?

Yeah, so you have been experiencing some difficulties with your voice during singing that you didn’t have a year ago, and you took the time to research the problems that pro singers run into and…ah, you found the word “nodule”. You probably said to yourself, “What the heck is that?”  Well,  a nodule is a callus that forms on the vocal cords.  Just like the calluses that form on your hands if you do yard work for a living, it is a thickening of the tissue that makes it firm and inflexible, and for a singer that is death. By the time you develop a nodule,  the vocal folds refuse to vibrate in the normal way; instead the coordination becomes difficult, too much air is released during phonation, and chronic hoarseness ensues. As a result, the only way to hit the notes you used to be able to hit is to push harder and harder in an effort to make the folds vibrate at the frequency that gives you the high notes. It sounds like shouting, and it will NOT get better until it is dealt with in a professional, therapeutic manner. Answer: proper vocal training!

When you visit the ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) doctor to describe how it “hurts when you sing”,  he will recommend a laryngoscopy; a video observation of the vocal folds using a fiber optic camera on the end of a tube that goes up your nose, through the velopharyngial port and down on top of the vocal folds themselves. By observing from this vantage point, the doctor can determine how the folds are vibrating during phonation, and visually see if a nodule actually exists.  If there is one, the doctor must make a determination on how to deal with it. 90% of the time the doctor will prescribe vocal rest, which means NO TALKING, SINGING, LAUGHING, or other vocal stupidity for a period of 30-40 days. Yeah, how is that going to work for you? ANSWER: It’s not, so DO NOT let this happen to you! And the other 10% of the time he might recommend laser surgery, where he “cuts” the nodule down to a flexible state, which MUST be followed by the same 30-40 day vocal rest period and therapy.  Not looking good so far, right? Answer: proper vocal training!

Ok, just to keep it real, be assured that this will probably not happen to you if you are a casual, once in a while singer… but if you have the talent and determination to be a full time singer, you are at risk to be a victim of this condition IF you are not doing your vocal training singing correctly. I don’t mean singing well, I mean singing correctly.  You’ve seen the headlines; some of our favorite singers of this era are cancelling concerts big time due to vocal problems.  They are amazing, they are selling tons of records, and if you follow the headlines, you know who I’m talking about…. but they are BLOWING IT  by not getting the therapy they need for their instrument. If they’re young and they deal with it professionally, they will be fine.  But if they are set in their ways and unwilling to “compromise their raw talent” by going to a professional trainer, well… there is a list of those who have fallen into this trap. I guarantee you their PR people will not let you know why they have taken an extended vacation from the music scene. Answer: proper vocal training!

So how would you know if you are doing your vocal training improperly and this is happening to you?  Well the first indicator is very simple – if you have to sing LOUDLY to hit the high notes;  if the “break” in your voice forces you to “shout” the high notes to hit them accurately, then you are on your way to trouble. Problem is, in this day and age many amateur singers rely on gigs where they only sing one or two songs, or a very short set that doesn’t really test their vocal stamina.  Yes, vocal stamina.  They shout the high notes and get through the gig, only to find out one day when they have to do an actual concert that their voice will NOT make it to the end. It’s hoarse, sore, and if they’re on the road and have to sing tomorrow night, they’re pretty much up that proverbial creek with no paddle. Answer: proper vocal training!

Again, DO NOT let this happen to you. I have to tell you, I’ve never been much of a salesman; I don’t want to force my thinking on to anyone – but I believe that my purpose in life and my God-given talent is to be a teacher, guiding people like you to realize your dream and full potential when it comes to your vocal training. I’m so passionate about this subject  – because of what I have seen AND EXPERIENCED, that I hired a successful marketing expert to help me get this information to you.  I want you to work your voice the right way; pick songs that YOU CAN OWN and don’t have to compromise your vocal health to perform. And above all, please, listen to the professional trainers that actually care about your vocal health and performance ability and are not just trying to make a buck.  I am one such teacher, and I GUARANTEE that if you study with me and are not getting my concepts, I will keep you on track with email support and access to iChat  or Skype lessons with me.

You can find out more warning signs that you may be damaging your voice, how to avoid them and how you make sure you are training your voice properly by checking out my course, “The Ultimate Voice Training for Singers”, at https://www.voicetraining.com. By practicing your vocal training correctly, and using proper vocal training techniques when you sing, you will enjoy healthy, strain-free singing without damaging your vocal chords. Happy Singing, billy p The Vocal Troubleshooter

PS: to check out the program, go to OUR ORDER PAGE

Why Singing in the Shower is NOT Practicing


Ah, the American shower…. that waterfall of acoustic distraction with a hard tile reverb chamber that sends harmonics into a swirling tornado of ambiguity, neutralizing the need for correct pitch and bringing every serious shower singer front and center in front of Adam, Blake or Simon with the winning performance.  And we get clean to boot!

A great start and a great finish to a long hard day.  But wait – put down the hairbrush microphone and tell me again – did you just say you had a good practice?  HELLO?   Sorry, man – singing in the shower is NOT practicing!

Oh, it’s fun, and sure, it’s better than NOT singing in the shower (maybe) but… practice?  No, I don’t think so, and neither should you.  Practice means being focused; practice is warming up your voice properly; practice is using a track or instrument to keep you in the “pocket”; practice is reviewing runs or riffs and making sure they are being sung accurately; practice is singing “correctly” to the high notes, even if it doesn’t feel like you’re ready to perform those in public yet.

They used to call it “woodshedding”.  You went out back to the woodshed and you didn’t come back until you’d really accomplished something that was going to make you better at your craft.

As a vocalist you’re not that different from an athlete; you are coordinating muscles and learning the tricks of the game to accomplish a goal.  Just as an athlete does warm ups, calisthenics, cardio and prepares mentally for game day, a singer does warm ups or vocal “stretches”, takes care of their voice and goes over phrasing, presentation, riffs and runs, stylizing:  everything that the art demands.

Too many singers nowadays think that you have to be “born with it”, and that hard work is not part of the equation.   Well hey, your neighbor is singing in the shower too; why don’t they have a major record deal? The fact is, I’ve seen it time and again, where the “naturals” are passed up by the workers, and often burn out because they can’t get used to having to work hard to keep up.

Solution:  Set aside time for a great practice, and get all your tools around you.  Use a prerecorded program to work out with; one made by your teacher for you, or one made by me available at www.voicetraining.com.

Stand or sit up tall, have a glass of water handy, and thoroughly work your voice through the routine, paying attention to how your throat feels.  Don’t rush or push your voice too soon; pace yourself! When you’re ready (say, 20 minutes), take a 5 minute break and then prepare your tracks or pick up your instrument and get ready to sing.

If you’re learning a song and don’t really know it yet, don’t sing all out. If you’re learning from sheet music, keep your voice light, or “marked”, like a hum, until you truly know the song and have even memorized the words.  If you’re learning from YouTube or a CD, then LISTEN while following the words.

Take in the subtle nuances of the singer’s voice and decide what you like and what you don’t. Decide what you might want to do to make the song your own. Then you can sing along with a “marked” voice also.  When you truly feel like you know the song thoroughly, even if you’re still reading the words, you can try it at normal volume and start the real craft of shaping the song.

When you get in the habit of practicing this way, you’ll realize you’re not really working hard at all, but actually “working smart” and getting the job done more efficiently!  It’s fun!  It’s what you do!

By the way, if you would like to roll up your sleeves and REALLY work your voice in a way that will get you the high notes without straining, go to https://www.voicetraining.com and get the Ultimate Voice Training for Singers course.

Happy Singing,


Billy Purnell
The Vocal Troubleshooter™