This is the first instalment in an ongoing vocal coaching series by renowned voice teacher Tim Smith.

So I’ve sat there and watched the same person play the same role over and over. And then I see the understudy, or ‘cover’ as it’s known these days, play the role.

Same dialogue. Same lyrics. Same songs. Same blocking. Same choreography. Same costumes. Same lighting. Same sound. Same everything actually.

Except for the actor.

And THAT makes it all different. Obvious I know, but a profound, mystical, and mysterious thing as well.

So what is it? What is at the CENTRE of this profound difference?



The grunts, moans, sobs, sighs, cries, laughs, shrieks, and purred sounds we made LOOOOOOOONG before our evolution gave rise to the voices we’ve evolved today and the overlay of language, the foundation of modern-day thinking.

Before language, there was primal vocal state.

When we speak, we mostly speak from this PRIMAL VOCAL SELF.
When we sing, we rarely sing from this PRIMAL VOCAL SELF.

When my dog Tuskie barks, or growls, or snarls, or snaps, she does so from HER primal state. So do all animals. So do we, at least when we’re babies.

What we do learn as we grow? To stop ‘crying like a baby’. We were all told from a young age to be quiet. Or quieter. And thus begins the ‘closing’ of our true voice.

True voice should arise from PRIMAL VOCAL SELF and then be channelled through the intellectual articulation of that resides in language.

“But what does all this have to do with my singing?” I hear you say. It has everything to do with your singing. Because if it doesn’t arise from YOUR PRIMAL VOCAL SELF then you’re doing things the hard way.

Answer this simple question “How do you FEEL when you sing?”

More next time…

Tim Smith


Vocal Alchemy


SING BETTER NOW with tips from Vocal Alchemy
MAKING GHOST NOISES (primal voice 1)

Take a few breaths.
Just normal ones.
Now try slowing your in-breath and out-breath.
Slow it more.
Make it as silent as you can.

Now draw your attention to the moment where you start breathing in or out.
Now make those moments a little longer.
Now make those moments even longer again.
Now notice your heart.
Now notice how heavy your arms feel.
Now try to feel the breath moving through you throat.
By now this ‘breathe-hold-exhale-hold’ pattern reaches 4 or 5 seconds on each stage.

Now focus more deeply on the physical feeling in your throat.
Now breath even more silently.
Now begin to make the lowest, quietest moans you can.
Now make the moans longer.
Now make the moans longer and let then have little surges of ‘slightly louder.’

Go back to silent breathing.

Now begin moaning again but make the sounds longer with bigger surges.
Now make them louder.
Now start to open your mouth to let out any sound that comes.
Close your eyes.
Feel your heart.

Go back to silent breathing.

Go now to one of your favourite songs that has a quiet section.
Sing through this section.
Now ‘moan’ through this section using your primal voice.
Weird, I know, but do it again.
Now make up a brand new language as you mix nonsense vowels into this moaning.
Close your eyes.
Feel your heart.

Now sing the song again as ‘normal’ and see what happens.

Spend your time expanding this technique by making ‘ghost’ sounds that travel all across your vocal range.