Creating Vocal Freedom: Male Version

In this video you'll learn several tips and exercises that will set your voice free.

As a singer it's very important to develop freedom in your voice. This is what will give you more range, better tone, and more control when you sing.

It will also allow you to sing in a variety of styles and situations.

Click the play button and begin practicing the exercises to see improvement in your voice!

Click here for the female version of this lesson.

Becoming Vocally Free 

In the video I’m working with a client called Aaron in a private singing lesson.

Aaron is a talented singer. He told me in an email that he struggles with over extending his voice. 

“I wreck my voice when I sing”, he said to me. 

Often as singers we run into this problem. As you will learn this really comes down to using the wrong muscles. This also occurs when we don’t do the correct adjustments. 

Warming Up The Voice (First Vocal Warm Up Exercise)

For this exercise many of the people who watch my channel will already be familiar with this exercise. Really this exercise is the first thing I like to start with when working with anyone new to my methods and practices.

Trilling Exercise

You need to learn how to use different parts of your facial singing muscles to produce clean sounds. This will allow you to hit the notes easier and more consistently. We call this exercise a trill.

This exercise not only helps to warm up the voice but aids in limiting the amount we as singers rely on our swallowing muscles to reach the notes. This means the notes are less likely to break apart when we try to reach that higher note. 

Don’t worry if you struggle with this in the beginning this isn’t something that comes easy to anyone.  Just keep practicing and the techniques and it will come. 

For Your First Attempt

As you can hear when Aaron started speaking he has a great deal of texture to his natural resting voice. This is a great feature to have as singers. It helps to bring emotion and feeling into your song and lets the audience connect to the material.

However, with Aaron's voice he has been highly relying on the wrong muscles to reach notes in the song.

Correction Exercises

To correct this I had Aaron put his hands on his cheeks and make an exaggerated grin face and do a lip trill. This stopped him from using his swallowing muscles. It also let him draw on a different set of muscles to create sound.

When First Correcting Your Voice

Now this can be quite a weird sensation and will feel rather strange.  Certainly Arran found it strange. In fact he told me that he sounded like Chewbacca. “Don’t worry that’s normal”, I told him. Using this exercise we can work up the scale. Exaggerating our sounds in the exercise.

Each time Aaron did this I got him to really emphasise how he did this. This starts to train the foundations for what muscles we will use to sing.  Just through doing this exercise we were able to see Aaron get far higher notes than before. 

The correction exercises we did was the tongue trill but first we used both our hands on our face to hold the expression. Secondly we just put out thumb under the throat to monitor the swallowing muscles.

Working On A Song

It’s one thing doing exercises. However, applying it to a song and making a connection is quite a different thing. Attempting a song after doing the exercises we covered above will allow you to breakdown what you learned and apply it to the song. 

After all you’re not going to use the tongue trill as your closing piece to your set.  However, doing these exercises before you sing can be a massive help for really owning your voice as you perform. 

The Song Choice

In this video Aaron picked Justin Timberlake’s song “Cry Me a River” to perform. So we started with Aaron singing the song through as he normally would.

However, in the beginning I noticed that he started to slide back in his throat when singing. What I then got him to do was put his hands on his cheeks and exaggerate the sounds. 

This helps to counteract our natural tendency to fall back in our throats. Even after doing this Aaron was able to have slightly less restriction when moving through the notes. Instead he sung using his facial mask. This made the notes easier to reach and didn’t damage the voice.

However, as I said to Aaron, in the beginning we need to fight the habit to fall back in our throats. This can be difficult in the beginning. However, practice will make it possible.

Getting Those Higher Notes

Often as singers we don’t want to be limited in our song choice. A good singer can sing in multiple genres and for multiple keys. However, it can be difficult to achieve those higher notes if we don’t use the proper signing techniques. 

When working on the song with Aaron I recommended that when he started to sing the higher notes he deliberately over pronounce the words. This gets easier with time but it helps to train the brain to engage more of the facial mask for reaching these trickier notes. 

Exercise For Reprogramming The Voice

Many of you will already be familiar with this exercise I got Aaron to do it in the training. The intention is to get the sound to be felt higher up in the face. As well as actively monitoring if the throat muscles are moving down.

Often exaggerating like this can make your voice sound more nasal. It can also help tilt you head forward to engage more of the facial mask and less of the swallowing muscles.   

Aaron and many other people find this difficult as it is so different from how you are used to singing. However, this is what makes it such an effective exercise. 

With daily training it really will create a noticeable difference in your voice. 

Just listen to how Aaron sounded so much more vocally free after this exercise.  


Aaron also wanted to be able to understand and use more falsetto in his signing voice.  This is a method of signing, particularly for those with a lower normal range to reach higher notes. Usually I don’t recommend using too much falsetto. 

Long term use of incorrect falsetto can really damage to vocal muscles. Instead I suggest using the exaggerated facial mask sounds to get the high notes but also retain some connection while singing. This will allow you to move down the notes much easier as well.

Second song

Aaron’s second song choice was very different to his first choice. This required some rather complex notes as well as Aaron finding the key himself.  

You can hear this particularly in his first go at singing these songs.  

The notes he used broke apart quite a bit particularly when going for the higher notes. 

How we deal with these tricky notes

For these higher key notes I have another great method of consistently hitting them. A lot of people start low and try to go higher to reach the notes.

However, instead of this I suggest imaging you are pulling the note down as you sing. This combined with using the facial mask allows for more consistently controlled singing (and less damage to the voice) at a higher range.

Nay Nay Nay exercise

At this point of the lesson I wanted to bring in the Nay Nay Nay exercise. I use this exercise to help with stopping the throat muscles activating. Using the Nay sound is a great base for understanding how to use the facial mask in creating consistent sounds. 

Pulling it down

After doing this Aaron was able to reach a greater number of the notes in the song. However, he still was in the mindset of going up for the notes. This is understandable as the song was in such as high key and had so much energy behind it. 

However, remember this important lesson; “never go up for a note”. You always need to imaging you are pulling these higher notes down closer to your normal range as you sing them.  The effect of this can be significant. 

As we saw in Aaron’s next attempt of the song the notes stayed together more at a higher range. All this comes down to be slightly changing the way you were saying the words.

Remember the more repetitions you do the more your body adjusts to this new way of singing.

Improving Your Voice Now

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About The Author

Roger Burnley - Vocal CoachRoger Burnley - Vocal Coach

Roger Burnley is a vocal coach located in Hollywood, California. He has been teaching the voice for over 30 years and singing for even longer than that. 

Notable past and present clients include Macy Gray, Brandy, Ray J, The Beastie Boys, James Torme, Taylor Lautner, Nona Gaye, and many more.

His clients have collectively sold more than 30 million albums, with several reaching Platinum and Gold status. 

Roger has been featured on VH1, TV Guide Channel, TV One,
and MTV appearing as a vocal expert.

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