Joshua Keel: From a light, airy vocalist to a dynamic powerhouse

Joshua Keel

I have been working with Joshua for around 4 years. Prior to us working together, he had taken lessons with a Brett Manning associate and an SLS teacher. When he first came to me, he had trouble creating any kind of intensity in his voice whatsoever, regardless of what range he was in; there was no clarity to his voice and a lot of airiness. This was due to a severe lack of cord closure. He particularly had trouble with his EE and AA vowels.

Joshua also had issues with being able to open his mouth without constricting, a severe problem which limited him in the upper range and more intense dynamics. This inability to open the mouth freely also created constriction around the larynx, especially when trying to lower the larynx.

With the previous methods he had been studying, he was also taught to think of the voice as chest voice, mixed voice, head voice, etc. This caused him to not have any connection to speak of above the D4, and thus excessively lighten the voice as he ascended, essentially vocalizing in falsetto.

To hear what Joshua sounded like before we started lessons, listen to “Lullaby” on his MySpace page.

Here is a recording of Joshua singing the same song after we had been working together for approximately a year and a half. He renamed the song “Elevator”. You can hear the range is not only higher, but the voice has more clarity and more dynamic intensity. Although more work needed to be done due to the very stubborn closure issues, it was a great improvement.

To hear what Joshua currently sounds like, be sure to stick around until the end of the article. In the meantime, when asked about his experience, this is what Joshua had to say:

Marnell: How do you feel the lack of cord closure impacted your voice?

Joshua: Lacking cord closure made my voice feel weak and out of control. I could feel the emotion behind what I wanted to communicate, but when the sound came out of my mouth it didn’t sound like I wanted it to. It was like I was disconnected from my emotional core, which in reality I think was a disconnection from the physical engagement of my body. I remember recording myself singing a scale from C4 to G4 and it was all hollow. At the time my ear was so undeveloped I didn’t even realize it, but it had no core at all. When I sing now, I feel that I am tapping into a physical sensation of power and grounding. The G4 that was reedy when we started has become strong and resonant.

M: How has learning to open your mouth affected your voice and vocal tensions?

J: It took me a while to get used to what it’s like to sing with a fully released jaw, but I think it really helps open up your high range. Any little bit of tension in your lower range just becomes more pronounced as you try to go higher. I think learning to open my mouth has also helped develop my resonance and ability to get a full sound. If you look at great opera singers with insanely powerful voices, they are all getting a huge amount of vertical opening.

M: What does it feel like singing with your full, connected voice throughout your range vs. how you were singing before?

J: Amazing. In some ways it feels like going from not having a voice to having one. The sense of connection to my body is profound. It turns singing into an almost primal experience of physical expression. There is no sense of switching from chest voice to head voice, or even a sensation of mixing. There is only the sense of being in one vocal mode smoothly transitioning in little increments as I ascend in pitch. And the power I have in my upper range is awesome.

M: In retrospect, what are some things you wish someone had told you about singing a long time ago?

J: That anyone (except in cases of extreme vocal damage) can have a well-developed voice with time, patience, proper instruction and focused practice. There are plenty of great natural singers out there who don’t know a thing about technique but are doing all the right things anyway. I’m not one of those people. I’ve had to work hard every step of the way. The results are worth it. Now I’m proud of my voice and when people hear me sing they recognize my talent. What they don’t hear are the years of training it took to get to where I’m at. It takes commitment to become an overnight success.

To hear what Joshua currently sounds like, watch this video of his original song, “Run”. In particular, listen to how clear the EE vowel has become. That shows the closure issues have been corrected.

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