Vocal Resonance 101

Vocal Resonance 101

If you’ve been wondering about vocal resonance, what it is, what all the difference resonance terms mean, and how to actually sing with resonance, then this is the article for you!


This article in intended to be an overall introduction to the concept of vocal resonance.

The video below will go over everything you need to know. There is a break down of everything included in the video below in the table of contents. Be sure to click the link so the Table of Contents opens up.

After the video, you will find lots and lots of video examples of other singers who use resonance well, so you can hear it in someone else’s voice other than my own. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list — just a few singers I know of who exhibit these concepts well. I might add more at a later point in time. This is about sensitizing your ear to the sound of resonance more than anything else.

Just to make this clear, I would advise you watch all the examples of singers, even if they are of the opposite sex. It will really help to sensitize your ear to the right sound, how the vowels behave as you go higher, and how to approach certain types of phrases.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, after watching the resonance video, you need to check out the vowel modification video I did with Phil Moufarrege. It will help everything I discuss in the examples make a lot more sense.

Table of Contents

00:00 Introduction
00:34 What is resonance?
03:49 What are the components of resonance?
06:07 How do you do it?
14:39 Types of resonance
16:30 — Mask/forward resonance
18:34 — Chest voice vs. chest resonance vs. head resonance
20:41 — Ping/ring
21:13 — Chiaroscuro
21:47 — Pharyngeal resonance
25:00 Your Questions
25:06 — What’s the difference between pharyngeal and nasal resonance?
26:38 — Diego/Owen: How are resonance and breath support connected?
27:42 — Sivert: How do you achieve resonance in the low range?
29:01 — Timothy: How does pharyngeal resonance help unlocked the mixed voice?
30:25 — David: Why do I get less nasal resonance when I open my mouth?
31:42 — Nyron: How do I know if my voice is resonating to its full potential?
32:11 — Tavis: How do I use the soft palate to add warmth and power to the voice?
37:09 — Jay/Wen: What’s the difference between nasality and nasal resonance?
39:08 — Owen: What happens when a singer loses resonance in a certain part of their range or at a certain dynamic level?
40:14 — Steve: What’s the difference between head resonance and a nasal sound?
40:34 — Steve: Should I let my voice shift into head or keep pulling chest?
42:23 — Nicholas: My voice is muffled and lacks resonance.
43:25 — Christianna: How do you keep resonance in high stress situations?
45:26 — Lionel/Greg: How do you sing with different colors but still maintain resonance?

Vowel Modification Video

The Singers

Each of the links below is clickable and will open up an analysis and video playlist for each singer. Feel free to skip around. However, in order to get the most out of the information here, I would recommend watching everything in the order presented. (So watch all the guys in the order presented, then all the females in the order presented.) I will often make references to points from previous clips as I go on with each artist. Also, each playlist is ordered in such a way to cause your ear to sensitize to the correct sounds more.

The Guys

Donnie McClurkin

Donnie is a very good Gospel singer. His approach into the higher range is normally very good, particularly when he’s singing clean. (Not the distorted, growly stuff.) One thing to be aware of with him, though — he has a paralyzed vocal cord, so his sound isn’t as clear and as pingy as it should be. You will hear it more as he tries to sing EE and OO in the upper range. Otherwise, listen to the quality of the vowels, and try to copy that.

  • Jesus, the Mention of Your Name
    OH at 1:26 has a good approach. “Wonderful” at 2:11 is great. Listen to how the “ful” shades more towards an OO rather than an UH. If he did more UH, the resonance would have been thrown off. When he says “hallelujah” at 2:15, listen to the depth in his OO vowel. That’s key for resonance. “Proclaim” at 2:23 is quite good. “Lord” at 2:35 shades towards OO. “All of” at 2:56 shades quite a bit towards U as in “good” or “book” or OO as in “too” or “new”. “Bows” at 3:00 also shades toward an U, even though the vowel in the actual word is an AH.

    From 3:04-3:11, do you hear a lot of U in all of those vowels? “Tongue proclaim” at 3:30. “NObody” at 3:54 shades towards OO. OH at 4:01 is good. “World” at 4:46 shades towards U. Same for “no” at 4:54.On “beside” at 4:56, he lost resonance because the vowel is off. Great resonance when he says “hallelujah” at 5:00. “With all of our hearts” at 5:17 has a GREAT approach to this phrase. “All of our” all shade towards U if you listen carefully. “Praise” at 5:19 is good.

    On the “up” at 5:23, his resonance is off. Bad vowel choice. “MAGnify” at 5:27 starts off well for the AA. It shades properly. But for the AH at the end of the word, he misses the resonance. “Holy” at 5:30 is good. That’s about as much as I would open the OH vowel in the upper range without losing resonance. “AdORE” at 5:36 — hear how it shades towards U? When he repeats “adore” again right after it, the resonance is more off, though. 5:53-6:06 has good resonance.

  • Holy, Holy, Holy
    Listen to how he says “morning” at 0:41, how it shades more towards OO as he goes higher. That’s proper resonance. And “merciFUL” at 1:07, how he says it more with the U sound as in “full” or “good” rather than the UH sound as in “fun” or “mug”. This sets him up for finding the resonance correctly in the high range. “God” at 1:16 shades quite a bit towards an OH, letting the resonance open up more. “Golden” at 2:03 goes more OO as he goes higher. “Which” at 2:34 has nice depth. “SinFUL” at 3:18 once again shades towards OO, to prepare for the upper range. “And” at 3:39 — listen to how the vowel shift as he goes higher. “Perfect” at 3:49 shades more towards OO as it goes higher. The EE at 4:03 has good depth. “MerciFUL” at 4:55. “And” at 4:58. “God” at 5:04 shades a lot towards OH. Same at 5:33.

  • We Expect You
    “And” at 0:59 has good resonance and a good overall set up. The “you” at 1:24-1:26 has a good release from tension, hence the depth it has. The upward pattern on “time” at 1:30 has a good approach. “To see your blessed face” at 1:42. The “your” at 1:44 has a REALLY good approach. The vowel is right and listen to how he continues it from the F#4 to the A#4. It sets him up correctly for “blessed face”. Listen to each time he repeats “you” between 1:55 and 2:10. That’s how your OO should be approached. If you can’t do that, you will never find full resonance in your upper range. “Hallelujah” at 2:47 has good resonance. “WAITing” at 2:56 has good depth.

    Although humming is something I rarely talk about, his hum at 3:01 is done with proper resonance. Many people, when they attempt to him, try to go for too bright of a sound and thus cut off the lower overtones that should be present. That DEPTH in the sound. He has the depth WITH the clearness. The chiaroscuro. This is what your hums should sound like if you’re practicing them. It should still have the depth of your OO.

  • Create in Me a Clean Heart
    Each time he repeats “now” at 0:57, it has good resonance. 1:16-1:18 is good, even though I’m not sure what he said there. “Please don’t take” at 1:28 is good. “And restore” at 1:33 is perfect. Listen to how the “restore” shades towards U as he goes up. “So” at 1:40 shades a lot towards U, and is good, but the “I” he does right after it is off and gets constricted. “Please, Lord God” at 1:46 is good. Notice he has has U under both “Lord” and “God”.

    “Yes” at 1:50 is a peculiar one. He opens the vowel more towards an AA. It makes a different kind of resonance. This approach will work just as long as he’s not singing much above an F#4. But notice as he continues going higher, he rarely does anything like this. This is just a COLOR that you can use in the voice from around F#4 on down.

    When he says “not” at 2:11, notice it shades a lot towards U. It does NOT sound like the way you typically say an AH. You can make it sound more like AH in this range, but you will LOSE resonance and the voice won’t coordinate as efficiently and seamlessly. “Don’t take Lord” at 2:17 is good. A lot of U. Notice when he comes down off of “restore” at 2:23, the OH has a lot of U in it, especially as he riffs back up to the A#4. “So that I” at 2:29 — notice when he says “I”, it shades towards U, but as he riffs back down, then it can shade more towards an AH.

    2:35 is a bad approach to the phrase. He gets constricted. But he corrects it, because when he says “clean heart” at 2:43, you can hear he’s back on track. “Purify me” at 2:45 is also very good. For the “heart” at 2:55, notice how that one shades more towards an OH, because it’s a little lower in his range compared to the one at 2:43. “Lord God now” at 3:01 has a perfect approach to the phrase. Vowels and resonance are dead on.

    “Heart” at 3:07 opens more towards an AH, but he still maintains resonance. That’s about the max that he should open the vowel in his upper range. You can do it as a coloration thing.

  • Blessed Assurance/Can’t Nobody with Michael English, Gary Oliver, and Bill Morris (live on TBN)
    This clip is interesting because it gives a good comparison of different people with differing levels of technical ability all singing the same song. Donnie has the best technical approach of anyone on the stage. Bill Morris’ voice is also very good and very balanced. Gary Oliver represents someone who is at an in between stage of technical development. He has a lot of ping and clarity in the voice which would come from doing pharyngeal type exercises, but he didn’t continue to develop his resonance by further bringing depth into the voice. So his voice is only half developed. Michael English shows someone who tries to go for that deeper sound, but still has strain in the voice and didn’t develop all of his coordinations properly.

    The parts I really want you to hear start at 5:30. It’s Donnie and Michael going back and forth. At 5:40, listen to how Michael keeps saying “keep on, keep on”. It’s not balanced well or controlled well. That makes the resonance off. But then listen to how Donnie repeats it right after him, showing how to approach it correctly. When Donnie says the word “on”, it still keeps a lot of U under it.

    At 6:24 when Michael says “praising MY savior”, it’s not too bad. At least it’s not strained. But it doesn’t have the full release that it could. Then Donnie comes in right after him and shows how the phrase would sound with the complete depth and resonance in the voice. Then Gary Oliver comes in at 6:35, and you can hear a lot of that bright ping, that pharyngeal resonance in his voice, but without the depth for complete development. Then Donnie comes in with a riff at 6:48 and shows a more complete development of the resonance. It could still be a little more free, but it’s really good regardless.

    Listen to Donnie speak starting around 7:30. Notice how he keeps that same depth in his voice even as he is speaking/preaching. This is the bridge between speaking and singing technique. Even when he says “refuse” at 7:52 and “lose” at 8:00, he still keeps a lot of depth in his OO. This is the EXACT same place he sings from. No difference.

    Bill Morris comes in at 8:20 and shows a very balanced voice, a very balanced resonance. Listen to the depth he keeps under his EE at 8:55. Michael comes in next and is an example of someone that doesn’t understand his resonance or coordination well. He struggles more with the notes. Gary comes in next and has a lot of that pharyngeal resonance, but once again, without the depth. So a half development of resonance. When Donnie comes back in at 10:00, he shows the more full development of resonance. Notice the depth when he says “noBOdy”. His AH shades towards and OH. And each time he says “do”, you hear the depth in his voice. And then his “no” at 10:33. The difference between his voice and the others’ is not so much a difference in anatomy, but a difference in coordination and technical approach.

    When Bill Morris comes back in at 10:44, you hear him a bit higher in his range now, but still a good approach. Each time he says “body”, it moves away from AH and shades towards OH a bit more because he’s balancing the resonance properly. And each time he says “healed”, the EE is not strident. It still has a lot of depth in it. Note that twangy color that he uses in his lower range is just that — a color. It’s not something that works well as he goes higher into his range, which is why you don’t hear him doing it in the high notes. He approaches the high notes differently, more like Donnie.

  • Singing with Michah Stampley (live on TBN)
    This is another interesting comparison clip because you have two people going back and forth singing the same phrases. Micah has a clear, healthy voice (compared to Donnie who has the paralysis and maybe acid reflux issues too). But despite that, Donnie has better coordination and resonance, especially when they both get into the high tenor range. This was a impromptu performance too in the middle of an interview, so you really get a chance to see their default, unrehearsed habits.

    When Michah speaks at 1:30 and says “the spirit of pride hates that verse”, you can hear he CAN get that depth to his voice, but he collapses out of it the second he starts singing. It makes his voice thinner (in the wrong way) and gives it a more “forward”/”mask” kind of sound. But that kind of sound doesn’t have a lot of resonance. Listen to when both he and Donnie hold out the “heart” at 1:43. Micah has an almost nasal sound, whereas Donnie has a lot of U under his sound, which lets the resonance open up more and causes him to get a lot more depth in his voice, despite the fact he’s singing an Eb5 at around 55 years old. Donnie’s approach to the phrase at 2:17 is really good. He keeps the depth. Listen to the vowels. Compare it to Michah’s vowels. Keep comparing all the phrases where they go back and forth.

    When Donnie keeps saying “holiness” at 2:55-3:00, listen to the vowels. The OH has a lot of U under it, which lets him power into the sound more while still keeping the larynx relaxed. As a result, he gets more resonance. Same for the “holiness” at 3:13. Notice when Donnie starts speaking around 3:29, he still keeps the same depth to his voice. He speaks and sings from the same place. The approach to the phrase at 3:46 is good. Listen to the quality of the vowels. Listen to when he keeps repeating “to yours” starting at 4:12. Vowels are set up perfectly. Then listen to the vowels as he starts going higher with it at 4:34.

David Phelps

David has a very good tenor voice with a nice clear ping and a good amount of depth to his resonance on the high notes. The high range from around G#4-D5 is where he shines the most. Be careful, though, of his EE vowel. He often tends to do them in a shallow, high larynxed way that cuts off the resonance. Everything else is good, though.

  • These Are They (Live)
  • There Is a River (Live)
  • Oh, What a Time (Live)
    Listen mostly for him knocking out those Db5’s at 1:34, 2:11, and 3:02.
  • One King (Live)
  • Just as I Am (Live on TBN)
    The part around 3:19-3:40 is where he really hones in on the resonance. Don’t copy his EE vowels, though.
  • Gentle Savior (live on TBN)
    The part from 3:08-4:02 is particularly good. His EE vowel is better here. This EE is more suitable to copy.

Tom Jones

For the lower voiced male singers, we have Tom Jones. He sometimes doesn’t get as much ping in the voice as he could (meaning the cords aren’t closing AS efficiently as they could), but his overall approach is normally pretty good, at least when he sings in a range that is suitable for his voice. Note, he gets a lot of roundness to the voice because he is really getting a lot of release and depth in the voice. So his AH will often have a lot of the shade of OH in it, at least compared to other singers.

  • Delilah (Live)
    On the “my, my, my Delilah, why, why, why, Delilah” phrases, you can really hear the vowel shifting a lot. The AH goes more towards OH as he goes higher. Otherwise, he would lose resonance and the throat would start to close off.
  • Run on
  • Delta Lady (Live with Joe Cocker)
  • Medley with Ray Charles (on the This Is Tom Jones Show)
  • My Yiddishe Mama (live with John Farnham)

Jeremy Jordan

Another great tenor voice with good resonance. He is a little different in that he will deviate from the ideal position a little, and open the vowels much wider than the other singers. This is partly because he has a wider hard palate than the other singers, so he can more easily get a wide sound without getting off balance. But the resonance still has a lot of depth and release. Please note that note everyone will be able to sing vowels this wide and still maintain resonance. It depends on your voice and individual makeup.

  • Don’t Rain on My Parade (at Miscast)
  • It’s All Coming Back to Me Now (at Broadway Loves Celine Dion)
  • Over the Rainbow/Home Medley (live)
  • Maria (live)

Brendon Urie

Panic at the Disco’s lead singer is another good tenor example of resonance. He makes some deviations to the vowels, opening them a little more than he should sometimes in the range from A4 and up, but it’s nothing too drastic. It’s still mostly in the ball park. Note that he still maintains a lot of depth to his voice. You really hear it when he sings in the lower parts of his range below a G4, particularly in his Frank Sinatra covers.

  • Luck Be a Lady/Fly Me to the Moon (live at APMAs 2014)
  • Death of a Bachelor (live on Ellen)
    For the upper notes of this song, he opens the notes a little more than ideal, to the point where he starts to lose a little of the focus in the resonance. But it’s nothing too drastic. For the purposes of training, I would NOT attempt to use that as your starting out place. Get the upper range to sit more like Donnie McClurkin or David Phelps first, and THEN see how much you can open the vowel and play with the sound without totally constricting the throat.
  • I Write Sins Not Tragedies (in The Live Lounge)
    Note how he doesn’t have to use any exaggerated, excessive facial expressions.
  • Victorious (live on Ellen)
    Notice he still keeps depth in his voice through much of the song. That indicates he’s not holding a lot of tension in his larynx, neck, and jaw.

The Ladies

Kelly Price

When it comes to female vocalists, she is one of the best at maintaining proper resonance, particularly for soprano belters. She gets a LOT of release and depth in the voice, but still while balancing it with the ping properly. Take very special note of how she colors her vowels as she goes higher. This is the proper approach to your upper range. Especially listen to how she sings OH and OO. These normally set her square in her head resonance.

Although she does more R&B than anything, when she sings Gospel, she really tends to wail into the voice and let the resonance open up a lot. She belts a lot more in Gospel, but belts correctly. While not 100% perfect, everything from D5 on up is usually very good in her voice.

  • Thank You, Lord (live mic toss with Donnie McClurkin and others)
    From 0:39-1:11 and 1:50-2:33, she has her solo parts. Listen to how she sings “all” at 1:03. It gets the shade of U like “book” or “good” in it. That’s head resonance coming in properly. Same for the “no” at 2:00.

  • Hold on, Help Is on the Way (live at the BET Celebration of Gospel)
    Listen to the “joy” at 1:17. You hear how the resonance expands and opens up? Listen closely to the vowel quality. It gets a lot of the U under it. Same for “hold” at 1:22, “joy” at 2:18, and “hold” at 2:24. When she said “yeah” at 2:34, she got stuck for a moment because the resonance was off. The larynx got tight. But then when she went higher a second later, she corrected it and found the right vowel shade. This will happen in live scenarios; however, if you know what you’re doing, you can always correct it the next phrase.

  • When the Saints Go Marching in (live on BET Celebration of Gospel)
    “Lord” at 0:34 has great resonance. From 2:19-2:27, wonderful resonance. From 4:15-4:30 and 4:40-4:46, she is on fire, honing dead in on the resonance. Listen to how much U she gets under the sound.

  • Amazing Grace with Bishop Paul Morton (live on BET Celebration of Gospel)
    Starting at 0:42, she begins to hone in on her resonance properly, and is good through much of the rest of the clip.

  • Heartbreak Hotel with Faith Evans and Whitney Houston (live on Rosie O’Donnell)
    She comes in at 2:30. Listen to how she says “all” at 2:46. Has a lot of U under it.

  • Love Sets You Free
    Notice how her voice just floats above everyone else’s, because it is so efficient, especially from 3:48-4:30.

  • Messiah Has Come
    Everything from 3:27 through the end of the clip is really good. Listen to how she sings “holy”. It has a lot of U under it. Same for “wonderFUL” at 3:44 and 3:51.

  • Oh Come All Ye Faithful
    Everything from 3:21 through the end of the song is quite good, especially the ad libs during the key changes. Listen to how she approaches the OH at 4:13. Listen to the quality of the vowels. Same for “alone, worthy, called” at 4:30. “Christ” at 5:12 and 5:27 has a lot of U under it.

  • You Brought the Sunshine feat. Karen Clark Sheard
    Karen Clark Sheard’s voice sits higher than Kelly’s voice, so Kelly was singing more a the limits of her range in this song and doesn’t get as much release as she could on some of the Ab5’s. Still really good, though. Listen to how she says “Christ” at 3:36. A lot of U under it. Same for “life” at 4:18. “Throw your hands in the air” at 5:03 has great resonance.

  • He’ll Arrive (Coming Back) with Yolanda Adams
    Kelly comes in on the second verse, but listen to the whole thing. Yolanda isn’t singing particularly freely in this clip, so it provides nice contrast. Listen to the difference in QUALITY between Yolanda’s vowels and Kelly’s vowels even when they’re in the same range.

  • Through the Fire with Chaka Khan (live on Motown Live)
    Chaka Khan loses the release in her voice, particularly in the second verse moving forward, so this becomes a good contrast clip where Chaka sings one verse, and then Kelly comes in and sings it with better balance.

  • Everytime (Grateful) (live on the 2016 Trumpet Awards)
    Pay attention to how she approaches her low range from 0:37-1:02. The larynx is relaxed. This is very important because it sets up everything correctly for the high range.

    The OH she does at 1:23 is not good. She does the same thing on “grateFUL” at 1:41. Although it’s common stylistically in a lot of mainstream music, it constricts the larynx and sets you up badly for your high range. Luckily for her, she tends to fix this as she goes higher. But most people get stuck in this way of singing and OH, and it causes lots of problems for them. Her OH should be more like the one at 1:48.

    The “all” she does at 2:13 is good. It has a lot of OH and U under it. So she got out of that thing she was doing earlier that was wrong. “You already KNOW it” at 2:27 is great. The OH there is really good. A lot of U under it. Correct resonance. Same for “grateful, grateful” at 2:31. Her EH vowel is dead on, and the “ful” she does correctly with a lot of U under it.

    But then at 2:35 when she says “grateFUL”, she goes back to doing that constricted thing she was doing on the OH earlier. It makes it sound more like an UH, and it doesn’t have any U in there with the vowel. This throws her off temporarily for what she tried to do at 2:37 on the “grateFUL”. This is what will happen to most people if you try to keep that bad vowel and miss the resonance. Actually that’s the best case scenario of what will happen to most people. For the average person, it would come out much worse, if you even reached the pitch at all.

Yvette Williams

Yvette Williams of the Kurt Carr Singers is a very interesting study. As her career went on with the group from the 90s moving into the 2000s, her technique started to get better and better, with her resonance opening up more and more. Her resonance approach is very similar to Kelly Price, just as it should be for any soprano.

  • Something Happens
    Here, almost everything she does is spot on. The vowels hone right in on the dead center of the resonance. Listen to how she sings “call” at 2:02. It has a lot of U under it. Same for “transFORMED” at 2:17, “holy” at 2:25, “call” at 2:52, “call your name” at 3:14, “call your name” at 3:40, “all the power” at 3:48, and then 5:51-6:05.

  • For Every Mountain #1 (live)
    Listen to the phrase at 1:10 when she sings “brand”. The resonance gets way off. Way too wide. It’s not focused properly. But “along” at 1:20 is EXCELLENT. Spot on. This clip is only to compare these two phrases to the next clip.

  • For Every Mountain #2 (live)
    Overall, this clip is much more controlled than the previous one. She is better technically here. Listen to the “brand” at 0:25 here. Spot on. That’s with proper resonance. Listen to how the vowel is TOTALLY different. “Along” that comes right after it is pretty good, but she got it even more free in the previous clip.

  • We Exist to Give You Praise feat. Troy Bright

Shervonne Wells

Shervonne is another from The Kurt Carr singers. She has a very similar approach as Yvette and Kelly Price, as they all have to sing soprano.

  • I’ll Fly Away (live)
    Shervonne comes in at 4:44. Listen to the vowel, to the “I’ll” at 4:48. It has a lot of OH and U under it. Then the OH at 4:55. The I’ll at 5:21 is pretty good, but she starts to open it too much and loses a little resonance. The riff on the OH at 5:18 is very good, though. Listen to how she says “die” at 6:04. The “all” at 7:04 is a great example of her losing resonance because the throat got constricted, but the “all” at 7:09 is well balanced.
  • Jesus Can Work It Out
  • I Surrender
    The parts from 2:04-3:47 show good resonance.

Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston is one that can be tricky to listen to. Like most natural singers, I don’t think she was fully aware of when she was honing in on the resonance and when she wasn’t. So it’s a thing that’s more hit or miss with her. As a general rule, though, in the time period between approximately 1987-1992, she had all of this down more consistently. I have tried to pick clips where she really has honed in on things well.

  • We Didn’t Know with Stevie Wonder (live on The Arsenio Hall Show)
    Almost everything here is spot on. Whitney has the fully developed resonance here. Compared to Stevie, you can hear how his resonance was only half developed. He has the bright part of the sound, but he’s missing the depth that comes from the release of excessive tension.

    Listen to how much depth Whitney’s EE has at 0:28. Same at 1:15. Listen to the OO in the middle of the run at 1:44. Spot on resonance. Full of depth. Listen to the run on OH at 2:46, how it gets more U as she goes higher. Perfect. That’s how the head resonance comes in.

  • Hold up the Light with BeBe and CeCe Winans (live on The Arsenio Hall Show)
    Whitney comes in at 5:33 and is doing so much correct here. Compared to CeCe Winans in this particular clip, Whitney’s vowels are more dead on. The voice is better balanced. CeCe must have been having an off day because her resonance is normally not THIS far off. But it’s a good comparison. Listen to the difference in the QUALITY of the vowels between Whitney and CeCe. The approach to the vowels is different. So CeCe sounds like she is struggling more on this song.

    In defense of CeCe, she did much better in the first song of this set. Listen to the OH she did at 2:24 in “Lost Without You” at the beginning. Much better than “Hold up the Light”.

    Listen to how Whitney says “DARKness” at 7:25. And at 7:40. It has a lot of U under it. It sounds almost like she’s saying DOOKness. That’s how much the vowels have to modify here in your upper range to stay balanced sometimes. From 7:47-7:51, the “won’t you please” is excellent.

  • Saving All My Love (live on David Letterman)
  • Do You Hear What I Hear (live on Jay Leno)
    Listen to the “big” at 0:41. Hear how much depth she keeps under that vowel? Same for “big” at 0:49, even though that one is higher and rings more. “Child” at 1:24. Hear how much depth and release it has because there’s so little tension in it? “And” at 1:33 she didn’t modify the vowel properly, so it got a little tense. “Bring him” at 1:37 is great, though.

    The OH at 1:48 is off. Do NOT copy that. The resonance is getting way off, and the larynx is becoming unstable in the throat. “Said” at 1:53 is excellent, though. “Everywhere” at 1:57 was in the right direction, but the resonance is still off. “Child” at 2:22 has great release. “He will bring us goodness” at 2:27 is great. “Light” at 2:31 was off, though.

  • All at Once (live on the AMA’s)
    1:39-1:44 and 2:30-2:34 are great. The resonance is very open and free. HOWEVER, that approach will NOT allow you to keep going higher with freedom. That only really works up to around a C5 or C#5. If you need to go higher, you need to use more of the approach she does at 2:52-2:55 and 3:08-3:12. Listen to how the quality of the vowels is different.

    The problem Whitney Houston ran into during her career is the type of vowels she used at 1:39, she kept trying to do higher and higher in her range, especially on sustained notes, and that doesn’t work. “Know” at 4:10 is a perfect example of this. The “once” at 4:17 is half correct. It’s trying to go in the right direction, but it’s still imbalanced, hence why her voice cracks like that as she holds out the note.

  • The Greatest Love of All (live at Wembley)
    From 6:52-8:00 , the resonance is very open and free. It’s very good. The vowels are very wide, but it’s still free. But she’s basically at the limit of how high a female should go with vowels that wide (the C#5), and even then, she might be on the borderline too much. As long as you don’t try to use these really wide vowels above a C5 or so, then it’s not too much of a problem. Whitney would never be able to sing “Hold up the Light” with these kind of wide vowels. She would end up running into the exact same problems CeCe Winans did during the song if she tried to.

Shirley Bassey

Shirley Bassey has a very free, open resonance. She doesn’t go much into the soprano range, though. As a result of that, she tends to opt for the resonance strategy Whitney Houston used at times where she keeps the vowels very open and wide through the C#5. As a matter of fact, many times when she is singing a C5 or C#5, she sounds a LOT like Whitney Houston.

  • Somewhere (live)
  • I Who Have Nothing (live)
  • What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life (live)

Jennifer Nettles

This lead singer of Sugarland has great resonance in her voice. She often colors the voice in a brighter way, going more towards an AA, which makes the sound very appropriate for country. But she also has a lot of roundness and depth in the voice too. Like Shirley Bassey, though, she opts for an approach of using very open vowels up towards the C5, which presents a bit of a range limitation. If she has to go higher, she lightens the voice incorrectly by going more towards a disconnected head voice with some twang instead of keeping the same connection but shifting her vowels differently like Kelly Price and Yvette Williams would. (And Whitney Houston when she was on top of her game.)

  • Hello Again (at the Kennedy Honors)
    Listen to how much depth and fullness she gets on “couldn’t” at 0:32. Listen to the roundness and depth of all of her OH vowels during the song, especially each time she says “hello” and “know” around 2:25!

  • Bridge over Troubled Water (at the Memorial Day Concert 2014)
  • Stay (live at the AMA’s)
  • Tonight (live at the ACM Awards)
    Everything is perfect in this clip. Listen to how much depth she keeps in the voice for “I know how it feels to breathe” at 0:48, especially under all of those EE vowels. Each time she says “tonight” in the chorus, she shades it a lot towards AA to give the sound more bite and brightness. “Would be” at 1:44 — listen to the depth!

  • Let It Go with Idina Menzel (live at the CMA Country Christmas)
    This is not meant as a slight against Idina Menzel, but Jennifer’s resonance is much more open and free compared to Idina. This clip highlights that point since they are often singing in the same range. Idina tends to be more nasal and high larynxed. That type of sound doesn’t have a lot of resonance. Jennifer has much more depth to the voice, even when she’s singing with a brighter sound. Her voice is just better balanced. Jennifer does run into the range limitation with this song at times, due to not knowing how to shift her vowels properly to continue going higher.

Leave a Reply