Ailee’s Vocal Analysis [Newly Updated]

Ailee

Vocal Range

D3 ~ C7 (3 Octaves and 5 notes)

Supported Range

G3/G#3 ~ E5/F5

G3/G#3 ~ B5 (with head voice)

Voice Type

Light Lyric Soprano

Strengths/Achievements

  • Arguably the strongest female idol singer
  • Consistent support in the mixed voice up to E5/F5
  • Has shown good moments of support above F5
  • Very well connected head voice
  • Transitions into head voice are nearly flawless
  • Head voice is supported up until Bb5/B5
  • Good control of dynamics and mixing
  • Runs are precise and well articulated
  • Lower range is supported down to G#3/G3
  • Improvement has been clearly heard from pre-debut/debut until now
  • Nasality is almost never present in her singing

Weaknesses

  • Vowel shaping often creates a whiny quality in her mixed voice
  • Lower range can become muffled with a lowered larynx
  • Head voice above B5 shows issues with support and tension
  • Mixed voice is very unbalanced and often pushed
  • Notes above E5/F5 lack consistency and support
  • Lower range below F#3 is often inaudible and overly quiet
  • Vowels such as “Eu (으)” and “Aye (애/에)” generally create the most tension in her voice

Registers

  • Lower register: Her weakest register. Improvement has been heard overtime with occasional moments of support below her supported range but generally her support only goes down to G3/G#3 due to improper larynx positions.
  • Mixed register: Mixed voice is very consistent, support is almost always present but due to stylistic reasons and bad habits, the mix can often sound pushed and overly chest-dominant, which has shown improvement over time.
  • Upper register: Most consistent register by far, shows the least issues and is one of the most developed head voices amongst female idols. Support and control of dynamics are easily present up until B5 consistently, although she may lack confidence above B5, with problems involving tension.

Agility

Amongst idol vocalists, Ailee is one of the top vocalists in terms of agility and precision. Although possessing a chesty mixed voice, Ailee still is able to keep control and flexibility in her runs and melismas. Ailee’s runs are generally very well separated, every note is clear and the overall flow is good and natural. Her runs are also precise in pitch and hardly ever show issues with pitch, her runs flow freely through her songs and she hardly ever has issues with transitions or accuracy. The issue with her runs mostly comes from the lack of bounce they have where, although precise and quite fast and complex, they don’t generally have the lightness and freedom an R&B vocalists tends to favor when doing runs, due to the heavy use of the thyroarytenoid muscles in her voice. Generally someone who does vocal runs in R&B generally uses a more light vocal cord function and a brighter vocal approach as to allow the vocal cords to run through notes carrying less weight and therefore having more freedom. Even then Ailee has shown multiple times that she’s able to carry through complex and long runs without issues in pitch or precision, such in “너를 향한 마음“, “Georgia On My Mind” and “I Was Here” as well as being able to sing through complex vocal lines that transition from her mid-range up to Bb5, such as in “One Night Only“. She’s also shown that her runs can come in different speeds and even in different scales, such as the harmonic minor runs in the beginning of “희야“.

Overall analysis

Debuting in 2012 after a few years of training in Korea, Ailee first started off as a Youtube singer with mild success that brought her from her home in New Jersey to Korea in order to make her dreams of becoming a singer come true. From the beginning of her career up until now, Ailee has always been marketed as a strong vocalist, a title she’s been able to keep by being consistent and delivering good vocal performances throughout her career. Voice type wise, Ailee possesses the tessitura and natural range of a higher female voice, a Soprano, with a girly, youthful and light tone, therefore a light lyric. The overly chest-dominant approach used in Ailee’s mix may confuse some to think she’s got a lower voice than she does, but her natural tone is much lighter when she doesn’t try to push too much chest up in her mix.

As a Soprano, Ailee has always neglected properly developing her lower range and therefore this is by far the weakest part of her voice. During debut, Ailee would often show good support down to about A3, but would then generally opt for a lowered larynx position below A3, such as the G3’s in “보여줄게” and “빛과 그림자“, and at times she’d even show lack of stability and problems with pitch in her lower range such as in “나 어떡해“. Her lower range above A3 has mostly always been very well placed, supported and relaxed. Overtime Ailee has shown that she is able to support her voice below A3, most notably the F#3 in “사랑했지만“, however Ailee shows inconsistency with her lower range, most notably the bad habit of always lowering her larynx as she descends into a more challenging lower range for a Soprano. She has shown in performances such as “Georgia On My Mind“, “Stand Up For Love” and “손대지마” that she’s able to support her voice on G#3 and G3, but may favor the bad habit of lowering her larynx for a more stylistically “soulful” sound that may work for her, in performances such as “여러분“, but generally shows a lack of understanding of her instrument as a whole and therefore exposes her lower range as a less developed register. Ideally, keeping a stable larynx and maintaining tone through support and proper mask and chest placement would create a much fuller, natural and soulful sound than lowering her larynx. Below G3, she still shows issues with projection and a low larynx, such as the F3’s in “Halo” and F#3’s in “I Was Here“.

Her mixed range is where Ailee likes to keep most of her focus on and has developed it quite well on her own over the years. In her late teens, Ailee used to show a much lighter approach to her mix and also used to have a lot more tongue tension, as shown in recordings such as her pre-debut track “Jealousy“, where many times her sound would become strangled due to her tongue being tight. Over the years, her mix has improved in support, sound and placement, tongue tension has minimized and she generally shines quite well from F#4 ~ C5, as she’s able to produce very big and full resonance, such as the A4 in “Someone Like You“, Bb4 in “I Dreamed A Dream“, B4 in “싫다 싫어“, and C5’s in “아침이슬” and “Stand Up For Love“. Ailee is one of the vocalist who has mastered support and resonance to an extent where unless she’s in a bad condition, she will generally have good consistent support and resonance will almost always be produced. The issue starts to happen more in Ailee’s voice above C#5, where her voice does not lack support by any means, but the fact that she does not lighten up her mix and allow more cricothyroid muscle coordination into her mix causes an excessive amount of breath support to be necessary so that she can keep her heavier chest-dominant mixed voice approach, causing her to often sound distorted with pushed resonance.

Another issue with Ailee’s mixed voice is that due to her vowel shaping, the sound of resonance can be hindered due to a whiny quality present in her singing. This isn’t always the case and is an issue mostly present when in the “Aye (애/에)” vowel, such as in “손대지마” and “Shake That Brass“. There’s a distortion caused by pushing and a less than ideal vocal tract shape in her mixed voice at times, such as the C#5’s in “얼음꽃“, as well as D5’s in “나어떡해“. Ailee has overtime been able to balance out her mix more, and more than enough times has shown in multiple occasions that she can support and produce good resonance in her mixed voice above C#5 consistently with less pushing, such as the D5’s in “이젠 가슴 아픈 말 하지 말아요“, Eb5’s in “Halo” and “고독한 연인“, as well as E5’s in “미소속에 비친 그대“, “아리송해” and in a parody of “Les Miserables“. Above E5, Ailee has shown more than enough occasions where her support is quite steady and somewhat consistent on F5, although the pushing limits the space in the back of her throat, creating more obstruction even though there’s support, such as in “장미“, “그 여자” and “아리송해“, as well as in studio where she’s shown a more bright approach to her higher belts, such as in “Shut Up” or “Rainy Day”. When singing on a closed vowel like “Eu (으)”, Ailee generally shows tension in her F5’s, even if she may support them, the vowel shape causes her to strain her voice, such as in “You & I“. Above F5, Ailee has had very few moments of support above F5, where she would lighten up her mix more than usual even if not to an extent of no-distortion in sound, such as in the F#5 in “너무 아픈 사랑은 사랑을 아니였음을“, as well as the G5 in “Uptown Funk“. Those cases aren’t consistent occurrences but seem to be happening more often as her career goes on, indicating a slow improvement in this aspect of her singing. Even though her mix may become quite shouty and pushed above F5, she still shows enough control of her muscle coordination to be able to carry through very high passages without showing fatigue or cracking, such as the G#5’s in “Problem“, as well as the A5 in “나 어떡해“.

Aside from the development of her mixed voice that earns her the respect of her other peers for being a powerhouse vocalist, Ailee also is one of the female idols with one of the most developed head voices. Being her register with the least flaws, Ailee has shown multiple times that she’s not only able to transition into this register without many issues, despite some abrupt transitions back down into her mixed voice, such as in “I Will Always Love You“, Ailee is in complete control of her head voice in terms of dynamics, resonance and onsets. At times able to produce soft pure notes, with no tension and a relaxed dropped jaw, Ailee shows ease in adding a little bit of air or keeping her volume controlled high into her head voice, such as the Bb5’s in “리듬속의 그춤을” and “When You Believe“, as well as B5’s in “더 사랑하는 쪽이 아프다” and “3! 4!“. Her head voice can also take on a more powerful and controlled full head resonance when needed, such as the G5 into E5 in “나는 어떡하라구” and the A5 in “싫다 싫어“, as well as being able to sustain notes for a long period of time and control her pitch well without much effort, such as the F#5 into G5 key change in “인연“. Ailee still seems not to venture far into her range above B5, as she’s only done it occasionally, it is possible to assume she might not have enough control or confidence in her head voice to take on higher head voice passages, as heard in the C#6 ~ F6 transition in “3! 4!“. She has been able to produce a whistle register occasionally, such as C7, but without any signs of support and with a lot of tension.

Musically, Ailee is an artist who uses various effects for her emotional delivery. She is without doubt a vocalist who’s able to interpret her song and control her instrument with good breath control, dynamics and vocal effects so as to properly engage the audience and create entertaining vocal performances, such as creating airiness, at times creating fuller sounds in her mix to sound more soulful, at others opting for light and bright approaches if singing something less intense, changes she has mastered overtime and can pull through a whole performance doing them, such as “희야“. Her vibrato at times may seem pushed but due to the excessive air pressure, it may cause her sound to be a little distorted. Nevertheless, she’s in complete control of her instrument within her supported range and sings more or less with the technique she pleases.

Having debuted just in 2012, Ailee has taken Korea over with her powerful vocals landing a spot as one of Korea’s strongest vocalists. For a further career in the music industry and for the sake of her vocal health, it’d be advisable that Ailee should work on further developing a healthier approach to her lower range with a more stable larynx position, as well as a lighter muscle coordination in her mix in order to improve ease, resonance and further explore the full potential of her upper mixed range as a Soprano. Additionally, developing her head voice further and experimenting more in the sixth octave would help her set her apart from other idol vocalists and follow the footsteps of vocalists such as Ock Joohyun, Sohyang and Lena Park.

Musicianship

Ailee is not one to be labelled as a “Karaoke” singer. Taking note from the general idea of self expression and vocal freedom, Ailee follows the pattern of always showing creativity and never delivering vocal performances that are exactly the same as another. Her vocal performances are generally filled with new vocal melodies, playing with rhythm and vocal runs added by Ailee herself, notably being able to always deliver accurate and precise changes to her covers and own original song performances, such as performances like “If I Ain’t Got You“, “보여줄게“, “One Night Only“, “I Have Nothing” and “나 어떡해“.

Rating

Good to Great Vocalist

Vocal Range Video(s)

Video by: Ahmin (Kitsunemale)

Video by: Edgar Cárdenas

Best Vocal Performance(s)

Analyzed by Ahmin (Kitsunemale)

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About ahmin3

kitsunemale from YouTube, AhMin33 from Twitter and Ahmin from OneHallyu! https://www.youtube.com/user/KitsuneMale

389 thoughts on “Ailee’s Vocal Analysis [Newly Updated]

  1. Re this performance on IS2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMI78qRYCcM

    Is this a difficult song or a difficult arrangement of the song? This performance kind of grew on me; the more I listened to it, the more it seemed that she was doing so many things with her voice in one song. What do you think? What technique did she show off here that is particularly difficult/maker her such a great vocalist?

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    1. It’s one of my favorite performances because of her head voice, the changes in tempo, the dynamics and the strong D5’s and E5’s. It’s difficult but not the most difficult.

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      1. Which one is the most difficult?? I don’t have a musician’s ear, so it’s hard to tell whether something is hard or just sounds hard!

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  2. Will Ailee become Excellent if her supported range goes up to G5 with resonance and consistency even though she might not sing as high as Sohyang does?

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  3. In this video, Ailee says that one of the vocal exercises she uses is making “loud noises like an animal” (she kinda demonstrates it around the 2:18 mark when she makes the “HUH” sound) What are the benefits of doing that kind of exercise? Like, would it be helpful for developing the mix? Also, would it be more helpful if it’s done on a scale?

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    1. That’s an exercise that does emphasize diaphragmatic breathing but it also causes her to contract her abdominal muscles, which makes her push and makes her use a bit too much air pressure and chestiness. It helps with getting the sound out and bringing more power to the voice, but it also creates pushing so it’s not always a good exercises. It can be helpful but I’d rather not teach this to a beginner because that will teach them to push and she should probably change her exercises a bit.

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    1. Nothing especially different. A couple of resonant mid belts, that one G4 ~ Eb5 mix slide in the middle, the Eb5 could’ve been more opened because of the vowel aye, head voice moments, nice runs. Nothing new. Same issues, same strengths.

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  4. This is kind of recorded version of many singers singing together
    1. The way Ailee does her F5 is changed at 3:43 4:50 5:02 ? It sounds lighter than used to be but I don’t know if it is supported or not about last two notes.
    2. 4:43 HV A5 well connected??
    3. Kim Tae Woo belted A4 at 4:20 does it have good placement?

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    1. The placement of the phrased F5’s at 3:43 and 5:02 is more opened and lighter, but the sustained ones after at 5:02 and at 4:50 are still quite pushed. 4:43 A5 in head voice a bit more falsetto like for style. 4:20 yes well placed A4 for Kim Taewoo, just pushed.

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  5. Hi, Ahmin. Can you please let me know whether she is using head voice or falsetto for Evening sky’s chorus part, which is at 19:28 ?

    Thank you.

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  6. Hi Ahmin,
    This blog is very informative. I’m learning a lot from this blog, so thank you for doing all of these. I haven’t read all of what’s written here, so if you have addressed these questions before, please pardon me.

    I’m not a singer nor musically-inclined. But I’m a fan of Ailee. Patti Kim, a well-respected Korean singer, once made a comment and seemed astonished on how can a powerful voice come from such a small body, meaning Ailee’s petite stature. Does the size of a person have anything to do with how much power a singer can have vocally? I think it doesn’t follow. But why are they making that connection?

    I think some kind of strength is required to be able to do proper breathing techniques to reach powerful high notes. And yet, I just watched an episode of Immortal Songs 2, where the singer KCM ( whom I’m not so familiar with, other than seeing him for the first time here in this episode) nearly collapses after hitting a high note. Same with the other guy, as explained by the MCs. Both have muscular built, but both almost fainted.
    See here: https://youtu.be/qYE9cKGm4l0?t=1h28m10s

    Both guys seemed strong physically, but had similar experience of almost passing out after reaching a long high note. Is this common? Are they straining too hard? Was it improper breathing technique?

    Could you comment on this? Thanks.

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    1. Hi there! See these are interesting questions and honestly they’re quite unusual so I’m not sure my answer can be perceived as 100% true as much as it should be perceived as speculation. In general the size of the larynx is related to the thickness of the vocal cords which then has an effect on the weight of the voice. So men have slightly larger larynxes but that has to do with being high or low. Being a powerful vocalist is completely unrelated to the size of your body because resonators create power.. so it’s kind of a myth and there’s no true scientific correlation.
      As for the strength of the body, I don’t think it’s related to hitting high notes. Usually head placement can cause pressure to the head and so strain, which is what usually happens when Minsoo mixes high, and is what KCM did, when singing plus pressure in the head and lack of airflow because you’re not breathing can cause the vocalist to feel light headed. A lot of students I’ve had do feel light headed after doing head voice exercises cause they’re not used to it. So in a way feeling light headed for beginners can be common but to pass out from belting high notes? That’s not something I’ve noticed before and I find it curious. I’m interested in understanding why, my guess is strain, head placement and exaggerated air pressure. So all these combined could have something to do with it, I suppose but I would have to search more into it.

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      1. Hi Ahmin,
        Thanks for your well-thought out reply, albeit a speculation. This is all new information for me.

        I’ve seen singers bend from the waist like VOS in this: https://youtu.be/yQikOz5fB2k?t=42m. Or fall on their knees like Jung Dongha in this: https://youtu.be/VYjucKuGH40?t=3m5s, or kneeling and bending backwards like Bada in this: https://youtu.be/yQikOz5fB2k?t=20m16s, but not what happened with KCM or Minsoo.

        So it is unusual. It’s quite an impressionable sight. Almost makes me wonder if that is why KCM won in the end. Haha.

        From what I observed, some singers do those things purposely for dramatic impact, like what Bada and Jung Dongha seemed to be suggesting from their discussion in this: https://youtu.be/yQikOz5fB2k?t=42m. Ailee usually would bend backwards while standing when she’s belting in some of her performances, like this: https://youtu.be/kHujXuVYSPU?t=3m56s

        My impression is it’s both an unconscious and conscious body gestures. Am I right to think this? I’m an animator by trade, so visual performances and body gestures fascinates me and I try to analyze them.

        Thanks again for your time.

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      2. Well it is kind of new to me, since the light headed thing is something I knew of but to actually almost fall over from belting high? That’s kind of a new phenomenon to me too. The other things you mentioned are mostly visual effects. It is unconscious, they’ve watched other people do it and then got in the habit of doing it as well without really thinking bout it. Haha That’s quite fascinating indeed if you stop to think about it.

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  7. Hello, have you listened to Ailee’s new english single for her US debut project “Fall Back”. How is it (i mean her vocals, and especially the F#5s)? and i think i found a C#3 (idk if it’s a C#3 or D3 I’m not sure, correct me if I’m wrong)

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    1. Edgar also said it was C#3, but I believe I hear D3’s. It’s hard to tell quite honestly. I would rather for live performances for me to talk about F#5’s or anything like vocal improvement.

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  8. Theoretically, how would a person train themselves to have a “big-sounding” voice like Ailee, despite being a light-lyric soprano for example?

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    1. I’d really rather you didn’t do it because the way Ailee sings isn’t the healthiest. It’s perfectly fine to be a light lyric and sing like one and retain enough power like Shannon or Lee Haeri. What Ailee does, as explained in the analysis, is use a very chest dominant mixed voice which makes her sound thicker, heavier and bigger but is counterproductive, limits her vocal development, limits her mix and the size of her resonance. If she used a more natural approach, her mix could be much fuller above Eb5/E5.

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      1. Thank you! Also,ahmin I had a few other questions I’ve wanted to ask for a while…I hope I wouldn’t be rude or too nosy by asking them though.

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  9. 1. How do speak Portuguese?
    2. Did you pick up on the Korean you know by watching t.v shows and listening to music?
    3. How many students do you have currently?
    4. What is it like in the day of a vocal instructor?

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      1. Hi Sapientia. I recommend using your teenage potential to the max. Your instrument is young and resistant. Find a few vocal range videos from healthy vocalists that you like and start identifying the notes you are good with and the ones that need work. Then after that, take it one step at a time.

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    1. 1. I was born in Brazil and lived there until I was 14.
      2. I did, I also had a lot of Korean friends in my international school. I also took some lessons and studied on my own.
      3. I would rather not say but I don’t really have a lot. It fluctuates.
      4. I’m not a full time yet, I’m still a bit young for that but it depends on the day. Some days I’m an instructor, some days I’m a student, some days I’m a blogger, some days I’m a performer…some days I’m a homebody. Haha

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      1. Thank you very much for your answer! I had thought either you were Portuguese or Brazilian. I have a friend from Brazil actually and she absolutely LOVES BTS, so I was just curious.She wanted me to ask what city you grew up in by the way. Also your life seems pretty full but you seem to balance it out well. Thank you and all of the other administrators for you hard work and dedication to this website and vocal technique and pedagogy. I’ve been following this website for 2 years now, and I’ve just now worked up the courage to make an account. Just before I found this website I was wondering if anyone had done vocal analyses on Kpop idols and non-idol singers, so when I stumbled upon this website it really was a gift. I REALLY want to get a vocal instructor but I’m still searching for someone decent and in my area, plus I’m a broke teenager…Should I just continue to look at vocal tip/technique videos and singing websites until I’m able to get an instructor?

        I apologize for the long comment…Thanks again! 😀

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      2. Well yes haha I grew up in São Paulo. I’m not sure it’s related to me liking Kpop at all really lol oh yeah haha for now I balance it but I stress myself out a lot with it sometimes.. I do too much. Awww honey why wouldn’t you have courage? Haha I think yes you should keep doing that for now, but an instructor is always what I recommend since working on your own takes time and can be very frustrating. Awww honey no long comments are welcome.

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  10. Hello there I don’t know where to post this question but can you rank ailee, sungyeon, Christina aguilera and Christina grimmie overall who is better. I know not all of them are kpop idols but I couldn’t find I post that has a rating for both pop and kpop singers

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    1. Sungyeon? As in the one who won The Voice or something? I don’t believe she’s Above Average. Christina Grimmie should be at least a good vocalist or so. Christina Aguilera wouldn’t be rated higher than average. We don’t rate pop artists usually, we would rather not.

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  11. Hi, can you do an analysis of these 3 girls in this performance.
    I dont really know a thing about vocal technique but I feel like the girl in the right (who also got the most part) did the best out of those 3). Is that right?.. So yeah my question sounds kinda stupid but I hope you would reply to it 😀

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    1. I’ve seen this before and since this isn’t a video with vocalists we would analyze, I’ll be brief. All of these girls support and produce resonance, all of them have issues around D5 and above. They’re all sort of even vocally so there’s no one who did especially better than anybody else.

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  12. This is really late but I’m finally watching king of mask singer from the beginning

    On the show Ailee said that since she has a recognizable voice she tried to change her normal vocal habits. It worked a little since one panelist said her name but other argued against (wondered if Aimee’s voice was that deep). I recognized her during her first solo song and then wondered how I missed it during the duet round
    Do you think that her changes were significant? And since she was trying not to sound like herself, was her technique healthier if she wasn’t trying to push as much as normal.

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    1. 0:24 That G3 wasn’t bad, she didn’t push her larynx down and she maintained support. It wasn’t fully projected, but it was healthy. 2:10 still a bit too pushed for that C5, she isn’t singing very high. She is using head voice for the Eb5’s in the song. 2:35 that C5 was indeed VERY nice. 2:50 Aye vowel still blocking her, her C#5’s are where things get a bit less opened. 3:08 that E5 was nice even though it was an Ee vowel. I’m not sure I’d say this is improvement, since it does seem quite similar to her usual approach but you know it could be a good sign?

      Like

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