Tag Archives: estill voice model

End of 2016 Wrap Up!

To all my students (and parents) from 2016:

I just want to say thankyou so much to all my students this year.  You’ve worked hard, and when I talk to my friends who are instrumental music teachers complaining about how their students never practice, I always gloat, coz mine DO!  Mwhahaha.  And you are all sounding awesome and making great progress on all your very different vocal & musical journeys.

As a teacher  & musician I have also learnt & grown this year.  In January I took my second 5-day Level 1 & 2 Course in Estill Voice Training, and passed my written exam towards becoming an Estill Certified Master Teacher.  I then put my preparations for the practical exam somewhat on hold, when I decided to make my own music and creativity my number one priority for this year (and probably for all years to come)!  I finished a group of 12 new songs, recorded home demos, and am currently in discussion with a few different producers, to find a person or people to work on what will probably be 3 new EPs released under my solo stagename.  I’ve resumed practice of my jazz repertoire, with intention to start doing jazz gigs again after a long break, and began working on some funk material with a friend with view to starting a new band next year!

Now that I’ve gotten my creativity & own musical practice firmly back into my routine, I can put some focus back on my Estill practice.  I’m hoping that with regular practice I’ll be able to be ready for the practical Estill CMT exam by halfway through or the end of next year (it involves some very challenging fine isolated control of the vocal mechanisms, some of which are going to take a while) after which I’ll become a CMT “candidate” and then have to have my teaching observed on each mechanism & section of the work twice each by two different teachers before I finally qualify!  Phew!  It’s a long process, and I’m not in any rush, and prioritising my own creative work over my vocal coaching qualification has improved my quality of life & mental health out of sight.  

Sometimes it’s important to check your priorities!

That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped studying & learning about the voice and how best to serve my students.  I’ve had some one on one and group sessions with my mentors Steph and Gerald at The Voice Gym; and have taken or referred a few of my lucky students to sessions at The Voice Gym too. I’ve learnt a lot from sitting in on or listening to recordings of my students’ sessions with my mentors and in discussion with them afterwards.  I’ve accompanied one or two students on a trip to visit otolaryngologist (ENT) Dr Amanda Richards at Pinnacle Surgery for a vocal health checkup, which is always fun, to get to see the vocal mechanism in action on camera!

Through these things and also just the practice that comes with teaching the mechanisms over and over with each new person, I have felt my understanding of these exercises & mechanisms become much deeper during 2016.

Which brings me to my new focus for 2017 as a teacher:  to go more deep and work with everyone a little more slow & focused.  

In the past, I’ve often had a subconscious fear of my students getting bored – as the anatomy-based approach can sometimes be quite involved and although it can elicit exciting changes quite fast, it is really a “long distance” run rather than a sprint, requiring dedicated work to make small changes to your vocal habits in order to arrive at the sound you are wanting. 

And there is so much to get through, and so much to learn!  A one hour session often hardly seems like enough!

So in the past I have perhaps burned through the different techniques & mechanisms quite fast with everyone, instead of taking a long time on each one, in an effort to make sure everyone stays interested.  It’s a great thing to have a general overview awareness of all the different mechanisms and what they do and are useful for, especially as they are all obviously connected and affect each other!  But it’s also important to do slow, focused work on the areas which are most important to you and your goals, and for some of you (especially those at a more professional level), this is where I’m going to focus in 2017.  The plan will vary greatly from person to person of course, relating to their individual goals and needs, but I will be for everyone, as a teacher, consciously taking things a little slower and working a little deeper on each mechanism, working on the important exercises with you until you have really got them under control.

Of course I still want it to be fun!  That’s always been my M.O. as a teacher, having heard so many horror stories of people giving up singing or music because they were made to sing songs they didn’t enjoy and do pointless exercises that made no sense. 

I will still be making sure we sing actual songs, and songs that you enjoy!  And linking the exercises as always back to their relevance in the song you are wanting to sing.  And as always, you are the client, and I am here to serve you.  If you feel that how I am structuring the lessons is not working for you in any way, you can always bring this up with me, and we will adjust to suit your needs.

Phew!  Okay, thanks for reading this far!  Here’s some quick important stuff:

Three things for my students to do:

1.  If anyone hasn’t yet joined the Facebook group I run for all my current & past students, feel free to do so at the below link!  Mostly I use it to occasionally post some interesting video of someone using their voice in an interesting way so we can analyse it together, and you’re welcome to share anything else you like there too, or discuss anything relating to singing & your practice:


2.  If I haven’t yet given you a copy of my first album (recorded back in 2012, pre-Estill!) remind me next time you come in, as I give a free copy to all my voice students, just for fun.

3.  Plan for your singing journey in 2017!  We will have already gone over this a bit in our final sessions of this year, but it’s important that you in yourself have a good strong idea of what direction you want to go in, what you want to achieve, and have a reasonably clear plan (this is the main part I can help you with) of what steps will get you to your goals.  

Set aside 15min to sit down with a notebook, and ask yourself:

a.  Do I want to perform in 2017?  Where and when, to whom, and how often?
b.  Do I want to do any recordings?
c.  What’s something I haven’t done with my singing yet that I’d like to?
d.  What am I proud of from my work in 2016, or what am I really enjoying about my voice right now?
e.  What about my vocal technique could use some improvement, what do I want to work on more in 2017?

My Main Practice Tip For The Holidays is:


The way our brains work, it is much better to do 3 minutes of practice, 5 times a day, than it is to do 5 hours of practice once a week!

I’m constantly thinking about how I’m using my voice while i’m speaking, I practice my onsets while I’m cooking, I do sirens while brushing my teeth, I practice FVF retraction at traffic lights.  This is the best way to develop your control, rather than blocking out some huge amount of time only once a week.  

Keep singing your songs for fun as well as doing serious practice, PLAY with your voice, and get curious!  

Finally, don’t forget to make sure we have sorted out when we are starting up again, how often and how long your lessons are going to be, and what payment plan you’re going with.

I hope you have a restful, fun, musical and safe festive period, and I look forward to seeing you in 2017!

Much love and keep singing!


Joyful Singing – Strong Speech – Vocal Health
0408 504 599

Vocal pain gone = Definitely a good thing!

I took this screenshot of an email I got a while back from a new student after her first lesson.  This kind of message makes me really happy!  If I can save just one person from vocal pain or potential damage, that makes it all worth it… (Luckily I get to help many more than one!)


Singing Chords with Lalah Hathaway & Bobby McFerrin

So this video has been making the rounds, and I figure it really needs to be on this blog.

It’s a great video of a live performance by Lalah Hathaway and Snarky Puppy.  Featuring some incredible musicianship all round, and a very groovy song (this is definitely one of my favourite styles of music) this is worth listening to all the way through.

While I’m not usually a fan of excessively long virtuosic or “show-off-y” vocal solos, this is pretty tight and delicious.  Not to mention she sings chords.

…Yep, you read right.  Lalah manages to sing two notes at once.
Start watching at around 6:00 

My favourite part about this is that the band FREAKS OUT, haha.  It’s super cute… but they keep their heads and manage to come in again with the groove super heavy and funky.  Professional musicians at their best.

The best theory for this I’ve seen going around is that she has learnt how to shape her vocal tract to bring out the harmonic overtones in the note she is singing.  Whenever you sing a note (or play it on the guitar, or piano, etc.) there is the “fundamental frequency” – which is the note you intended (hopefully) to sing… and above it are the harmonic overtones which are part of that sound.  I am capable of bringing out harmonic overtones in my voice when singing lower notes, starting with a perfect fifth above the note, then an octave, then a third above that octave, then the next fifth, and so on.  I adjust these by changing the shape of my mouth and the position of my tongue. But when I do it, it almost sounds like… a whistle?  Or it just sounds like a harmonic overtone, but it doesn’t sound like I am actually singing two notes with my true vocal folds, which is the impression that Lalah’s awesome party trick here gives!

As far as I can tell, true vocal fold body/cover condition wise, she is singing in Stiff folds (that airy, breathy tone).  But that’s about all I can really gather about what she’s doing!  This is some next-level stuff.

I have seen someone else do this kind of thing before (though using a different technique) and that of course would be the true vocal master, the incredible Bobby McFerrin.  If you only know Bobby for “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”… prepare to have your mind blown.
If you watch from about 2:00, you will hear him create two notes at once.  He does it again at the end of the song… but the whole thing is amazing and worth a watch!

Again, there’s a lot going on here (and he has the mic to his neck, and his lips are buzzing too) so it’s hard to tell exactly what he’s doing, but I’m guessing it is a similar bringing out of the harmonic overtone by shaping of the vocal tract.  It also reminds me a bit of the overtone singing or “throat singing” one often hears of being practiced by Tibetan monks.  I did wonder when listening to Lalah and Bobby, and also to various cultures’ overtone singing, if the false vocal folds come into play at all – if constriction is used as a technique to create extra sounds.  According to the wikipedia page on the larynx,  “The false vocal folds are not responsible for sound production, but rather for resonance. The exceptions to this are found in Tibetan Chant and Kargyraa, a style of Tuvan throat singing.”  So perhaps it is possible McFerrin has mastered a similar false fold control!

Fascinating stuff!  If anyone has any more examples of singing two notes or more, please feel free to share!