Judgement & Aesthetic Bias.


Have you, or anyone you know, been told the following by your music teacher, friend or colleague:

You can’t sing.

Get your voice out of your nose.

Stop singing through your nose. You’re nasal.

You’re singing through your teeth. Stop singing through your teeth.

Your top notes are not ‘bell like’ or, have a ring, so you can’t sing soprano.

You’re too loud. 

I don’t like the sound you’re making. Change it.

You need to have a rounder sound. This is a proper voice.

Stop singing from your throat. 

I don’t like your sound.

It’s not a good sound.

You need to sing from your diaphragm. The voice comes from your diaphragm.

You can’t pitch.

Can you change your song in your program, I really don’t like it.

You voice sounds twangy. I don’t like twangy voices.

Sorry, you didn’t get into choir. ( These are kids in primary school and should be inclusive and nurtured! )

That’s an awful sound. That artist, or person, just can’t sing.

You have a screechy sound.

You’re not supporting your sound enough. Support, support.

You’re not loud enough.

This list goes on and on…………



Sad? Afraid? Nervous? Inadequate? Angry? Confused? Stressed?

Were you given any constructive solutions or guidance?

Did your music teacher, friend or colleague have good professional knowledge of the voice and aesthetics of all voice qualities?

Were you made to feel what you were doing was wrong?

Was the criticism made in front of all of your peers?

Did you feel you did not want to sing again?

Were you afraid to sing again?

Did you suffer any anxiety from these judgemental criticisms and observations?

Did you feel that your instrument started to not work with good vocal effort, after such judgement?

Did you talk to your teacher about this?

Were you told you could not sing a particular style of music? Your voice was not suited to that style? ( You can’t sing classical, you are more suited to pop, and vice-verca ).


This is unfortunately, a very common occurrence.

There are numerous factors which contribute to how a person makes a sound for speech and singing.

It is imperative as teachers, we support, nurture our youth without judgement and aesthetic bias! To say someone hasn’t got a nice sounding voice based on your own aesthetic preference can be dangerous and damaging to the individual’s confidence, passion and vocal journey.

Our neuro pathways are connected to our larynx - vocal instrument. Any form of anxiety and negativity can cause the larynx to constrict and not work efficiently, ‘Fight & Flight’.

Once the ‘seed’ has been sewn in our brain , it can create fear and anxiety to create sound. For many, this can be detrimental, debilitating and upsetting, to the point they don’t want to, or, feel comfortable to sing again. They don’t feel ‘good enough’ to continue, and the larynx reacts in this way, ‘Fight’, and can start a constricted habitual state when vocalising.

Our youth need to be open to create, explore and play with sound without judgement, to not be afraid to make sound. It is our job as a vocal coach to encourage this, ensuring good vocal health and awareness, regardless of our own aesthetic preference. This should also be the case for all teachers.

Singing should be fun and creative, without too much pressure or stress. Not scary, or ‘pigeon holed’ by someone who may think in their opinion, is a good, nice sounding voice! ( Their own aesthetic bias ).

There is a difference between respecting style, and imposing your own aesthetic bias.

There is no right or wrong.

We can only vocalise with what we physically have, know and understand, and do so with our best intentions.

Next time you make judgement on someone’s voice or performance, think again, and put yourself in their shoes. Shouting ‘Sing out of your nose’, in front of the student’s peers is not helpful at all, nurturing, or professional, especially if you cannot translate or identify what the student is doing from a vocal craft and anatomical view.

Your own personal opinion and judgement, can be detrimental to that person for the rest of their lives. They say a ‘a little knowledge, can be a dangerous thing’. So is imposing your own aesthetic.

Everyone deserves choice and options to vocally explore.

I don’t impose any judgement or, aesthetic bias on my students, and I certainly don’t impose, or, give advice on instruments I know nothing about.

Artistry and respecting style, is another topic!

In vocal pedagogy, we are continually learning about the wonders of our vocal mechanism, and still researching the function of it. There is so much more to know and find out.

“Everyone has a beautiful voice……You just need to know how to use it” - Jo Estill

Nobody’s voice is perfect.

Keeping It Real!

"Jo Estill, who sought out to separate the mechanics of singing from artistic and aesthetic preconceptions".

Cairns Voice Studio - I don't 'own' any method or technique. What I teach is not original, and love learning and discovering new ideas, concepts and exercises to guide students to sing more efficiently and in good vocal health.

What I give are years of coaching, performance and professional development, taking numerous ideals and vocal pedagogy learnt, borrowing, discovering new ideas along the way.

How I coach and communicate is unique in my own way, even if exercises, trigger and tools are not of my own making.

There are many fabulous,inspirational genius of vocal pedagogy and voice science who genuinely discovered something original and new, evolving how voice (speech and singing) can be taught - Garcia, Sundberg, Titze and Jo Estill (Nolan, C. 2015). There is still so much to learn and discover. This is what science is, a continual and evolving journey of discovery and play.

Play an discover. No voice is perfect, and there is no quick fix! The voice is a complex instrument.

As singing teachers and vocal coaches, our job is to do our best, guide, mentor and give students the tools and understanding for the, to practise, discover, evolve and to do the best they can. Every single clients is bespoke, it's a journey, so keep it real!



When is a good age to start voice lessons?

I am continually asked by parents:

"I have a 5 yr old daughter who just can't stop singing. I feel she has a lot of talent and would like her voice developed".



"My child is 6 yrs old. She loves to sing and sings all the time. I would like her to have some coaching to see if she has talent or not as don't want to waste my time if my child can't sing!"

It is IMPERATIVE a child happily sings as a child regardless whether YOU may think they are good enough or not.

I do coach children under 10 yrs however, it all depends on the individual and parents understanding of their child's OWN bespoke vocal journey.

From 5-10yrs it would be better for children to join a fun choir/ group and sing freely as much around the house as possible to songs they love without judgement.

They are incredibly young in vocal terms and with the training, it is a journey that cannot be pushed or rushed.

Anatomy and physiology has a lot to contribute to how 'mature' or vocally efficient a young voice can be ( well, ANY age )!

If your child is studying Song & Dance for competitions at a very young age, then it IS important to have guidance and mentoring from a vocal coach to learn and understand the process of learning a song correctly!

Pitch, rhythm, phrasing and commitment to text can be taught from a young age.

It is not about winning too.

It's the journey and most of all fun factor of performance and expression.

Remember, we are ALWAYS learning and at such a young age, children are at the very embryonic stage of their vocal journey!

Students I coach under 10 yrs show a natural passion for singing, not because their parents insist they have lessons.

Parents are made aware that the lessons are focussed on the enjoyment of singing, expression, communication, confidence and clarity of tone without any force or too much manipulation.

This is also a fabulous time to learn an instrument or drama for self expression, for example: ukulele, guitar, piano, any instrument and a fun drama club!

I hope this little blog clarifies some questions any of you may have about Voice lessons for the young ones.

More than happy to chat to your queries and recommend many fab groups and instrumental teachers In Cairns and FNQ

We ALL have a voice

Discovering Jo Estill's work has been in many ways an epiphany for me. After years and years of vocal judgement and strong aesthetic bias, this is music to my ears, confirming an instinct which has always been true. I want all my students and artists to have vocal choices and no aesthetic bias or judgement. We ALL have a voice.

"Singing is no more difficult than learning how to drive a car. Where you go with it – that is, what you choose to sing – is your decision. There is no single “best” voice quality. “Best” depends on what you like to hear. Some qualities require more work than others and they cannot be done without that physiological commitment. But even that “work” can be fun." - Jo Estill

Who's in control? You or your tongue?

A fabulous article by Anne-Marie Speed, one of the world's leading Estill Voice Craft Specialists.

I have had the privilege to attend Anne-Marie Speed's workshops recently and work with her personally. The tongue is a huge contributor to vocal efficiency, pitch and quality. I only know too well being taught consistently to vocalise with a low tongue, making my vocal instrument difficult to work efficiently and cross over different styles.

A must read!


Dreaded Phlegm

Dreaded Phlegm. All vocalists and speakers hate phlegm. Avoid clearing throat by coughing and grunting. Sounds awful, however swallowing is far better. Phlegm is also a 'protector'. The body will produce further phlegm to protect the true vocal folds if there is vocal trauma (swelling, scratching etc). It is also triggered by dietary intolerance however, would make sure the cause isn't from vocal trauma first.


CAIRNS EYE - A fabulous surprise!

A fabulous surprise to have such coverage in the Cairns Eye last weekend. Thank you to Editor Rosalind Pulley at Cairns Post for a lovely editorial.  It certainly has been a challenging journey since moving to Cairns from life in London. 

Starting all over again is daunting and scary with plenty of ups and downs, however I'm so happy I have made such a change. Change can be a good thing. I now find my career even more challenging and rewarding than ever! 

Who knows where this amazing journey will take me? All I know is i'm extremely thankful for this enriching ride!

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