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Hi, I was wondering if I could ask for your help here... Last year, my voice broke, and it was really strange for me. The day before I was singing really high notes and was a pretty good singer, however,  now I can't even sing confidently above an E above middle C in my chest voice! I'm in musical theatre, and all the other boys around me are singing up to A/B's above middle C in their chest voices, and I feel embarrassed and upset cause I can't get anywhere near that... If I want a career in musical theatre, (which I do, Badly!) then I must be able to reach these same notes, (A/B's). Also, the group I'm in are performing the phantom of the Opera in April and auditions are approaching, and as you know you need MANY tenors for this show, and I'd love the chance to get a part, but sadly I know it won't be because of my voice... Are there any exercises I can perform to make my range increase, and I'm open to any tips, advice or information you can give me! Everytime I try to go high, it goes out of tune! Please help!
Replies (15): Threaded | Chronological
on August 13, 2013 5:53am
Elliott, patience is the key for you right now. After the voice breaks, it usually takes months, occasionally years, for the male voice to settle to the point that is dependable. You are undoubtedly experiencing a growth spurt. Your larynx is likely to grow a whole bunch now and your vocal cords will grow to fit. This situation will likely make it difficult to sing consistently well, and your range will likely be small for now. As a voice teacher, this is the time when I tell a student to take a semester off of lessons. You can still sing, but it will likely be frustrating. Don't be discouraged: When your voice settles, that is the time to start singing lots again.  You can't avoid the voice change, so I would encourage you to use this time to hone some other skills. For now, I would get to work practicing my music reading skills or learn to play the piano. If you want to be a singer, those skills are invaluable.
Patience is the key.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on August 13, 2013 7:47am
There are many different things that could be causing the problem you describe, including the situation that Thom is assuming.  But the key is to have someone who is well qualified listen to your voice before making a diagnosis.  So I would suggest that you find a very good voice teacher in your area.  And while I don't mean for this to seem as prejudiced as it sounds, ask for recommendations from good classical singers, not just your musical theater friends.  (I say this because there is no way a classically trained singer would suggest that a male sing A's above middle C in chest voice, and that might be part of the problem.  But again, someone would have to hear you sing to understand what you mean by "chest voice," because maybe you were singing in head voice before and not realizing it.  Though not everyone agrees on terminology, head voice and falsetto are not synonymous, and maybe you have that impression.)  So find a really good vocal pedagogue in your area and go in for a couple of lessons.  That person may also recommend that you go to a good EENT specialist to have your throat scoped.   You want to make sure that the cause isn't due to damage that you have done to your vocal folds.  (And don't worry TOO much about that -- usually if caught in the early stages, vocal damage can be cured with vocal rest.)
If you want to have a career in musical theater, you have to take care of your voice so that it will last.  This may mean you might have to make some changes in the way that you sing, and what has happened to you might be a warning sign of this.  "Broadway belting" needs to be approached carefully, and the singer needs to make sure he (she) is using the correct approach to it so that the voice will last through years of work.  But here again, I may be making assumptions as to what the problem is just as Thom has.  So find that good teacher in your area and take it from there.
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on August 13, 2013 8:52am
  We have all been there as will every male singer (as well as females).  You cannot hurry the process. Trying to "sing" through this time of maturation will not help hurry the process. Indeed, it may hurt. Some of my guys voices did not settle down until they were Juniors in High School.
  As Thom rightly suggests, this is a great time to become a much better musician to prepare you for you solid future as a singer. That said, you can at least keep track of the maturation. You can also learn about the basics of vocal production: breathing, focus and resonance. Of these, resonance might be the most frustrating as your voice matures. But you can practice correct breathing now! In fact, if you sleep, you are already working on your breathing. When you sing, you just make this process more active and controlled--not manufactured--controlled.  When you breathe, your abdominal muscles relax and pop out, creating a vacuum and pulling air into you lungs.Your shoulders stay where they are. They do not move!
  I am hoping that you already know this, but I will remind you. Now that you have got the air in, your abdomen has popped out and now comes the time you must USE your air, no LOSE your air. Simply, your abdomen controls the amount of air you allow from your lungs and through your vocal cords which are set into motion, vibrate and create sound.
  Now, you must realize that undue tension can happen at anytime in this process. Tension is the great danger and can impede your progress. Don't lose your breath, use your breath to produce beautiful tone appropriate to the style of the music.
  At NO time should you force your voice to change. You cannot make the process faster! But you can be ready when your voice is ready. 
  Here are some simple, no stress vocalizes you may choose:
     With no tone or pitch and LOTS of breath, whisper HHHHHA, HHHHHHAY, HHHHHHEEEEE, HHHHHHOOOO, HHHHHHUUUUU.
         Be certain that your abdomen comes in on each of these and that you are forming each vowel correctly. Let your jaw swing                gently down comfortably (no extremes) on each repetition. Repeat this with other initial voiced consonants: M, N, L, Z, R. LOTS          of Air!  Get a hand mirror and look that your tongue is relaxed and fairly low through each of these excercises. The tongue                  should NEVER be tight.
  Whine like a puppy.  Feel the tone in your mask with your mouth both opening and closed. Again, set the tone gently on the pull-    in of the abdomen.  If there is tension...your are doing too much.
Count backwards from 20 enough times that you settle on a comfortable, natural pitch. This is not designed to produce a singing tone! Only to establish your Chanting tone (where your voice naturally goes...maybe it will feel like falsetto. Let it!)
AT NO TIME SHOULD YOU BE FORCING YOUR VOICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
If you choose, write back and tell me on which note your voice naturally falls. It will probably be between e-g below middle c.
I know this feels like a disaster. It is not!!!  Now is the time to gain real knowledge of your voice as it evolves and changes which it will continue to do over the course of your professional or amateur career, or you have a cold or anything life thows at you.  I'll offer any help you desire. I have gotten hundreds of guys through this but only G-D can make a singer. You can only go on for the ride.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on August 13, 2013 9:06am
Hi Elliott,
I understand about that E, and what a barrier it seems like right now.  I felt just the same when I was a teenager!  It certainly wouldn't hurt to get scoped, just to make sure everything is OK.  But my suspicion is that everything is normal.  I'm guessing that Thom is right and you will just have a period of time when singing will seem frustrating because things will not be working the way you expect.
Here's what I believe: figuring out how to use your "new" voice, and how to sing comfortably over a wide range, is a LONG TERM PROJECT, and it's not something that's going to happen for most people in a few months.  I know this can be a frustrating thought--but look at it this way: if you want a singing career, it really doesn't matter whether you're in Phantom right now.  And the last thing you want to do is hurt your voice now.  What DOES matter is that you end up with a voice that works well for many years, so you can HAVE that career.  So you might want to try this (maybe now, maybe six months from now): learn good basic vocal technique with a teacher you trust, who can train you in good postural and breathing habits, and not try to make you an instant star.  When your basic vocal technique is under control--and when your larynx has finished its period of rapid growth and change--then it will be time to work out the top of your voice. 
I'm fairly sure that trying to make big impressive sounds right now is the wrong idea.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on August 14, 2013 7:09am
Elliot -- when you say your voice "broke," does that mean you are a teenager whose voice is starting to change?  Your original post doesn't make that clear, and most of the responses have assumed that's the case.  It would help other responders if you would clear that up.  If that IS the case, you can ignore most of what I said in my response (except maybe the last paragraph), because I assumed you were already past the teenage voice change.
on August 14, 2013 10:13am
Yes, I'm a teenager, and it's been a year since my voice started to change
on August 15, 2013 5:54am
Your background shows much experience and training.  I recall a post a few months ago where you mentioned how you generally recommend that young men whose voices are changing should stop lessons/singing [ I discourage the "b" -word ;/  ... also in register shifts,  "passagio/passage" is more accurate and less tension-producing ] .  While I respect your professionalism, and I'm sure you have good reasons for this based on your training/experience, I have concerns about this "blanket" recommendation for  all situations - especially young men that none of us have personally met, heard, or worked with.
As you know, voice study is very individual.  There is really no way we can tell for sure, based solely on an electronic post, what is happening with Elliot. I agree with the posters who've suggested that he do a careful search for a very qualified teacher.  I recommend searching for one who has not only classical training in their background, but has awareness/savvy about musical theatre techniques, and is currently studying with a classic teacher.
I do applaud your recommendations for patience and piano skills; all singers need these for life! :)   I also think that sight-singing/aural skills will be valuable for Elliot, and any singer.  It is not uncommon for singers to develop vocal tension due to confusion as they try to "find" the note by ear.
   Elliot, don't let the differences of opinion in these posts upset you!  :) (While singing and voice study are not exact sciences; and voice teachers, just like doctors, may differ slightly in their diagnosis,  there are basic common threads: 1. Learn good breath support.  2. Acquire understanding of vocal registers and placement (where you send your air.)  3. Learn to sing without significant vocal tension.   You need the type of teacher I described above to work with you on these things - where you are both present in his/her studio (not SKYPE, or online "tutorials" that are not respoinding to what your are doing.)  You will find the right path - one that is healthy for you, your voice, and your future in musical theatre.  You are obviously motivated ! :)  Just remain committed to what is good for you long-term, and you will be fine.  The search for the right teacher for you may take some time - even some soul-searching for you - but it will be well worth it.  You may wish to Google some artists you admire and see who they study with.  I highly recommend contacting a local college/university voice dept. and getting their recommendations.   Music stores and recording studios do not always screen their teachers thoroughly.   If finances are a concern, some good teachers will let you make part of the payment by assisting with organizational duties.
I know there is a certain popular mystique about tenors.  But remember, the world needs good baritones and basses as well!  You may find that, as you mature toward a professional career, you could actually end up with more roles and money as a baritone or bass.
Best Wishes on your search for an instructor and with your career! :)
on August 15, 2013 6:05am
Good points, and good recommendations!
I believe that any one who is serious about singing needs more than just a "couple of lessons".  Imagine an athlete who exercized and attended coach's practice once or twice and then expected to continue playing.  "Singing is an athletic event!"  -Barbara Harlow, Author of "You, the Singer", and Vocal Faculty at Santa Barbara, California.
Voice study comes in the form of an educational cumulative spiral - as we study, we often come back around to  the same concepts, but at increasingly advanced/deeper/more effective levels.
on August 15, 2013 6:26am
As I responded to Thom above, I respect, appreciate and applaud your professional background and many things in your post, especially the statement about tension/forcing.
However, when we recommend specific techniques without observing how the student interprets them, we may be causing confusion .... possibly worsening the situation.  There are many teachers who would disagree with "popping" the  abdomen.  I am particularly concerned about the whispering of "hee" "haw", etc.  If Elliot has any vocal damage, or even temporary laryngitis, this forced air could be drying the vocal folds, and causing him to force unnecessarily.
I, too, would love to be Elliot's teacher, just as some posters here have demonstrated. I have ideas/techniques that could help him.  But he lives in Wales.  We must accept/respect the fact that he needs a teacher in his geographic area who can work directly with him.  We must trust that teacher's knowledge and Elliot's savvy to eventually understand healthy and beautiful tecnique.
Again, I appreciate your willingness to share your hard-earned knowledge with Elliot.  But voice study is a physical process where the student's responses need to be observed - individuals respond in so many different ways.
on August 15, 2013 6:27am
That helps to know, Elliot.  What you are experiencing is normal.  Your voice will likely go through a stage (or maybe already has been in a stage) where you can only sing a narrow range of pitches.  E above middle C will be about as far as you can go, and that too is normal.  Don't push it, and sing gently until your voice settles into it's lower range.  It will likely be baritone at first, and then will go where it's destined to go.  You may never sing those high A's and B's again in full voice, so don't try to push yourself into doing it.  And if those pitches do come back into your range, it should be with freedom and good support.  Take lessons with a good teacher, and he/she will guide you through the process.  Good luck.
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on August 15, 2013 6:29am
Amen, Jay! :)
on August 16, 2013 1:49pm
Elliot does not appear to be upset. Did I miss a post? Ms. Hudson Stembridge, for the last lovely fourteen years, my life has been intricately allied with that of a veterinarian. I have adopted their first rule: DO NO HARM.
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on August 16, 2013 1:53pm
 I would offer that when criticizing someone's advice, especially when it has been solicited and offered by a qualified person, that it be done privately and not in public view.
on August 18, 2013 8:59pm
No, I don't think you missed a post.  :)
I applaud the "do no harm" philosophy.  Thank you for taking the time to share that.
I was only slightly concerned that Elliot might react as I have seen many young students [as well as some adults! :) ] react: 'There are all these varied answers; who is correct/whom do I believe!?"
I have become increasingly aware/concerned about the amount of confusion/myth about vocal study in our [pop, but other genres, too] culture.
(I will respond to your other comment below.)
on August 18, 2013 9:34pm
Stephen and Thom,
Please forgive me if my responses seemed professionally insensitive or too direct.
( I did begin each post with a sentence affirming your professional status and how I respect it; that stance has not changed.)
I think Choralnet is a place to discuss professional opinions, and share experience.   I have had posters question, or differ with, my postings.  Generally, I welcome it.  This is how we learn and grow.
I speak from a perspective of general concern - increased over recent years - that we, as choral directors/voice teachers, too-often tend to apply the same remedy to varied situations, and to sometimes overlook the phenomenon of how each student may interpret our remedies differently - not always with the desired result.
Perhaps my general concern fed into my responses to each of you gentlemen in a way that was unfair or inappropriate.  If that is the case, please accept my apologies.
I did not choose to respond privately, because I feel that it is just as appropriate for Choralnet readers [ including Elliot] to read my concerns about the possible effect of your advice, or anyone's,  as it is for them to read your advice, or any one's advice who may post here.
All advice, given in a spirit of helpfulness, is valuable.  I certainly did not mean to imply otherwise.
Toward cooperative, respectful, and enjoyable learning,
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