When I first began my professional
singing career, still in my teens, I was extremely dissatisfied with the
explanations I had been given for how and why the singing voice works. I just
couldn't make my voice do the things I wanted it to. Admittedly, I had pretty
Fortunately, I went to my public
library and happened on a copy of "Science and Singing" by the late,
great Ernest George White of London, England. After decades of scientific research,
White discovered how the voice and vocal tone actually originate in the four
sets of sinus cavities in the head, not in the throat/vocal cords, as was
previously believed. White taught people to speak who had had their vocal cords
surgically removed – just by training them in controlling the air in their
He explains in his book that the air
vibrating in an enclosed space (the head) acts as a musical instrument, similar
to a flute or a recorder or even air moving through a keyhole and producing
sound. He felt that the vocal cords, or vocal folds as he preferred to call
them, merely aided in regulating the flow of breath from the lungs up to the
head, where the sound was actually produced.
Unfortunately for me, White had
already passed away in 1940, so I began my own attempts at playing with the air
in my sinus cavities. After many months of study, pretty much by trial and
error, I found that I was actually a first soprano, not a second soprano, as I
had thought. I found that it took much less air – and a lot of control – to
maintain my high notes, but that I now HAD control. And I really began to
develop my own unique singing voice, after years of trying to sound like
everyone else that I admired. Wow – even my high expectations had been reached.
When I moved to Austin a few years
later, I began teaching singing (and piano) as my day job. I taught all kinds
of people how to sing and speak, from age 8 to age 72. Many of my students
found great success with playing with the air in their sinuses – remarking
that, although they hadn't had success with traditional exercises, they could
now make their voices sound clearer and they could control the voice. There is
a lot of joy in learning that what was once a mystery can be placed under control
in a fun and musical way.
But what actually ended up putting the
true icing on the cake for what I now call "Yoga For the Voice"
technique was my study of kundalini yoga, and subsequent training as a
kundalini yoga instructor. I found that by incorporating yogic breathing and
exercises, and sometimes even chanting yoga mantras, my students and I were
able to make even more progress in controlling our vocal instruments. Not to
mention the improvements in health, speaking voice, keeping the sinuses free and
clear, and gains in personal confidence.
Some of the benefits we discovered:
* You learn exactly what your vocal
range is and why – your vocal range is determined by the shape, number and
quality of the sinus cavities in your head.
* You discover how to create the very
best tone your voice is capable of making – when you can keep as many muscles
as possible out of the way of creating a pure tone in the head, you have the
basis of beautiful, unencumbered musical sound
* You feel the difference in your own
body – singing feels healthy, beautiful and under your control. If it feels
right, it actually is right. The reverse is true as well – if it feels wrong,
then there is some work to be done, usually in releasing some tension and
muscular effort that is getting in the way of the tone.
* A side benefit includes keeping the
sinuses free and clear – it actually helps your overall health in addition to
your vocal health. Ernest G. White's sinus exercises have been used solely for
the purpose of keeping the head cavities clear, and can be helpful for people
with allergies and other problems which create mucus in the sinuses.
* White's exercises can be used to
improve your speaking voice and your vocal projection – they are excellent for
actors, teachers and public speakers as well as for singers. In general, if one
is just using the exercises for speaking purposes, the vocal range is more
limited and focused on the actual speaking voice than in singing training.
* For children, I tend to break it
down to very basic, easy-to-understand exercises. I think the sinus concepts
are too difficult for most children to grasp, so I try to give them exercises
they can easily understand and have fun with.
In the beginning stages of vocal
training, a typical "Yoga For the Voice" lesson will consist of three
parts. First I teach the student two different kundalini breathing techniques
that have proven useful to the singing student. We next begin the sinus
exercises from Ernest George White's teachings, starting to find what I like to
term the "musical architecture" inside the voice student's head, i.e.
her/his particular set of sinus cavities. The last part consists of integrating
what we have learned into "full body" exercises, which enable the
student to start to experience her/his full vocal instrument, from the solar
plexus to the top of the head. I sometimes use traditional vocal exercises for
this step or, depending on the student, chanting exercises.
If you are interested in exploring
"Yoga For the Voice" further, my voice lessons are available
privately at my music studio in Austin, Texas. In addition, I offer lessons
over the phone and over the Internet as well (using Skype), making myself
available to you wherever you are in the world.
gfire is a professional
singer-songwriter, DJ, voice and piano teacher and Kundalini yoga instructor
based in Austin, Texas. She has taught literally hundreds of students how to
use their voices more effectively. For more information, please visit