Spot Fixing Your Voice

Vocal Coach Residency Week Five: 13 October 2010 – by Jeannie Deva

Wow! This is my fifth week of residency as your vocal coach. I hope you are trying out the tips I’ve provided and are finding them to be of benefit. This past week I enjoyed listening to Alfy, Carrie Johnson and Andy Senko on Peer Review. See my critiques and vocal tips below—after this week’s advice.

How to “spot fix” a problem area in a song

I’m sure most everyone has had a time of singing a song well but has run into a problem with just a certain section or phrase. While I have created a number of possible remedies depending on the exact specifics of the singer and the song, here’s a strategy that can assist all singers.

Isolate the vowel sound (not vowel name, but vowel sound) for the notes and phrase or word that is giving you the problem. Example: “life”: the vowel is “I” but the sound of it (in the context of this song) is a combination of A (apple) and Ah (wand).

To discover the vowel sound, say the word and sustain the vowel for a while before you end the word. Listen to yourself. You want to find the sound you naturally use for the vowel.

The Exercise

1. Say the word: “Fly”. Now sustain it and listen to the sound you are using for the vowel “y.” You will most likely find you are saying it like this: “flah—-ee. When you sing the word “fly” you can sustain the “Ah” or, depending on the style of music you’re singing, change the “ah” to the “ee” and sustain that vowel sound. It’s up to you, but needs to fit stylistically. I’m sure you’ll hear the difference.

2. Sing with any melody you wish: “fly me to the moon.” As you sing the word “fly”, go to the “ee” vowel. How did this sound to you? Now try it again and use an “ah” vowel sound.

3. Try singing this phrase with your own made up melody. “I want to fly”. Sustain the last word. Do it again. On the word “fly” start off with the “Ah” vowel and sustain it. See how you like that compared to quickly going into an “ee” vowel sound.

4. Apply this to your song. When working this out in a specific song, you may want to sing the phrase first with a single vowel such as an “ee” (as in the word “seem”) or and “Ah” (as in “wand”). Then sing the phrase and work out for yourself what the vowel sound is for any word or syllable that is not totally “on” in pitch or ease of delivery. Vowels are the sounds of our voice. It is up to us singers to know the sounds we are using. This helps to marry our efforts with the functions of our instrument and to work better with it. We are painting with sound.

Reactions to This Past Week’s Peer Reviews:

Kudos: Alfy, singing his first recorded original “Medula”: well written song and beautiful, smooth and stylistically “on” vocal. He used TC Helicon’s Voicetone Create XT for the vocals and guitar effects and made excellent decisions on how to mix his voice.

Area for Improvement: Learn to singer higher notes with the same effortlessness as the lower range. The upper range is not yet as developed as his lower range. As a result, the tone was a little shaky and at times slightly strained and pitchy. This also showed itself when doing double octaves (though a great idea for that point in the song). Due to the technical difficulties producing the notes of that area of his range, the upper octave did not blend with his lower, more effortless and “on-intonation” vocal. Work with the tips and exercises I have supplied in these past four weeks of my residency and will continue to add each of the next weeks. They will help you.

Kudos: Carrie Johnson – “Rewind”: very nice spoken intro, lovely voice and really nice personable video performance. Interesting video visually; having the video playing on the TV screen in the background, illustrating the song, was a great idea.

Area for Improvement: Slight off intonation both when singing phrases that went down in melody and on some of the riffs. Gaining complete certainty of the melody notes as separate from the lyrics will handle this. See also my exercise tip above.

Kudos: Andy Senko’s cover of “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey: Andy’s strong powerful vocal from note one made me snap to attention. Great sustain and very characteristic and complimentary vocal tone for this style of Rock – would make Steve Perry of Journey proud.

Area for Improvement: Occasionally some of the top notes were muscularly overpowered and so went sharp. This can easily get under control with the exercise above.

‘Til next week…

—Jeannie Deva

VoiceCouncil’s Interview with Jeannie Deva

Jeannie Deva is a celebrity master voice and performance coach as well as a recording studio vocal specialist. She has worked with and been endorsed by engineers and producers of Aerosmith, Elton John, Bette Midler, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones. Seen on E! Entertainment and TV Guide Channels, Jeannie has been interviewed as a celebrity guest on talk shows internationally. She is the author of the globally acclaimed “Contemporary Vocalist” series and “Deva Method Vocal Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs” CD. Certified Deva Method® teachers are located on east and west coasts of the U.S. and in Sydney, Australia. Deva’s private voice studio is located in Los Angeles where she teaches in-person as well as singers around the world via Internet web cam. Clients include Grammy award winners, American Idol Finalists, singers for Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Celine Dion, Sting, Pink, Christina Aguilera and more.

  • Senkovan

    WOW! Thank you so much for the critique Jeannie. Such positive words from someone who has worked with so many big name stars; I am humbled.

    I will definitely use your exercises to get better control of my notes and if you would be interested, I could send you another video once I complete a month or so of your exercises. Let me know.


  • Svet

    Good points in the article and overlooked a lot. You can just sustain the “ah” into the consonant and automatically you'll close with the “eee”. Also I've recently learned to just concentrate on the vowel sounds and not worry so much about the consonants. Start forming the next vowel when you start the consonant. Late vowels = flat. This has helped me a lot. Singing can be so much fun!

  • Nice, that’s helpful for me!