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Focus on Whistle Voice Ability with Madison Sariah

In this episode, Brett brings on Madison Sariah, a singer he has been working with since she was nine years old.  Madison has come up singing with Brett and developed her voice with the privilege of never being exposed to bad teaching methods. Brett and Madison talk about their passion for teaching voice, discovering the whistle voice ability, and jiu-jitsu!


Brett Manning  00:10
Hey y’all, I’m Brett Manning.

Madison Sariah  00:13
And I’m Madison Sariah and you’re watching the Singing Success Show Podcast!

Brett Manning  00:18
Unless you’ve read the liner notes here, you’re probably wondering: Who’s Madison Sariah? Or if you have been anywhere near Singing Success and our social media, you’ve seen her on there because she is our lead social media person. She’s got the nice snow-white personality, but don’t be surprised if she could kill you very easily because she is a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu. I hope I don’t embarrass her by saying that she’s one of the toughest human beings I’ve ever encountered at that age. Holy cow, she’s tough! You don’t want to fight her. I don’t like grappling with her because she beats all the guys. Have you beat your dad yet? 

Madison Sariah  00:57
No. He lets me, though. I almost took him down once. He wiggled. I was like: “That was close! That was close!” But I didn’t get it.

Brett Manning  01:05
Her dad’s a one-stripe black belt. In time, he’ll be two. And you’ll never be able to catch him. Why? Why can you never catch him? 

Madison Sariah  01:13

Because he’s mean. I’m just kidding.

Brett Manning  01:15

No, because with your belt stripe….

Madison Sariah  01:17
Oh, yes. He’s going to get his degrees every three years, then every five years. It’s a whole thing.

Brett Manning  01:23
Until you finally get up to a red belt. 

Madison Sariah  01:23

I’ll never “technically” catch him. 

Brett Manning  01:25

Technically catch him. But she’ll beat him sometime. I caught him once, but I don’t know if it was legit. 

Madison Sariah  01:31

Right. You never know if it’s real. 

Brett Manning  01:33

And he won’t tell you. He won’t tell you, because there’s no ego in that. And that’s part of what she’s learned as a singer—to just remove your ego. And there’s a great moment that we can probably talk about on the podcast. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about her bio, how she became a coach and is still working on her artistry stuff, and just a little history about her. And we’re going to get into the whistle voice. Did you vocalize today at all? 

Madison Sariah  02:03

I warmed up. 

Brett Manning  02:03

Okay, cool. So we’ll probably talk about the song we wrote. You’ll see in the bio the link to the song that we did and recorded. I had written the verse. I don’t even remember. Do I not remember it? [plays brief melody on piano] That’s it. I remembered. Yes.

Madison Sariah  02:35

Good! I’m surprised.

Brett Manning  02:37
When you write so many songs, you’re like, “After 2,000, it’s just notes.” It’s about 2,300 songs now. If you think you’re a songwriter, you might be. But if you’ve written a couple of thousand songs and had a couple of cuts, you probably are one. I’d say that as soon as you’re doing it, you are that person. That’s what you are. But we’ll go through that verse.


I’ll tell the story right now. She’s gotten a lot of confidence from Jiu-Jitsu and singing together because they parallel each other. You kill your ego and that’s hard to do. 

Madison Sariah  03:16

You have to re-kill it over and over again. 

Brett Manning  03:18

It’s a zombie, right? That twitching zombie. I’m glad you said that. 

She was singing the chorus and her voice was just exploding in her mix until… She can talk a little bit more about her history and how light she started out. Some of you have seen some of our stuff on YouTube already, where I interviewed her and talked about this. It started with a sweet little airy voice and by the time she was 14 or 15, she was exploding. And I think you were still 17 when you were singing that song?

Madison Sariah  03:46

About 17 or 16.

Brett Manning  03:50

One of my coaches came in; she was watching. She was like: “Oh my gosh, I just want to listen. Can I hear you? She’s explosive.” She goes, “Why are you so confident?” And I said, “Don’t you think it’s your Jiu-Jitsu training?” She goes, “Yes.” When you’re used to fighting guys all the time, you’re like: “All right, whatever. It doesn’t matter whether I win or lose. I just show up.” There’s no such thing as mistakes. There are mistakes. But there’s no such thing as winning and losing in this way. Carlos Gracie said: “You either win or you learn”—not you win or you lose.

Brett Manning  04:32

Some people are addicted to losing as a form of self-defeat. The first time you tapped me, I remember. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. Then she tapped me and then I tapped her. She tapped me a couple of times. I tapped her a couple of times. She tapped me five times. I tapped her once and I’ve never tapped her since. She’s tapped me out. That means win—tap out. If you’re not sure what that means, tap means: “I quit. I surrender.” And the word surrender is important in singing. 


But I remember the first time she had this beautiful arm bar and she was trying to keep setting it. She was, I think, a little afraid at that point; if I can say this, maybe a little bit hesitant to throw it. I said, “Throw it. Whoa! Tap.” I don’t remember exactly how you handled it, but [something] like, “Yes, but you said throw it.” “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. You tapped me. It was legit.” “Are you sure?” “Yes. You could have just ripped my arm out there and pulled it. Yes, you can start punching the person in the face, but that’s not Jiu-Jitsu. There are certain principles and rules. And the same thing with singing. There are ways to hit the note and hit it wrong. We know. We deal with that with people all day long. “But I’m hitting the note!” But it ain’t right. You’re yelling, you’re killing yourself. You ain’t going to keep your voice together. 


She’s never had a chance to learn to sing wrong. So I will shut up and let you talk a little bit about that.

Madison Sariah  05:58

About singing wrong? 

Brett Manning  06:00

No, about your development: How you started out and how you’ve ended up where you are now—working for the lead studio in the world, if I might say. Not because of me, but because of my coaches. 

Madison Sariah  06:10
No, it’s super cool. I feel like my life was guided here because I didn’t fully grow up and go, “Oh, this is what I’m going to do.” I was a kid. My dad is friends with you. He came home one day and he gave me the Singing Success program—the first one, I believe. I sang in church a little bit. Then I got the program. He was like, “Here, do this.” I was like, “Okay.” I just started practicing. Brett was kind enough to let me come in a couple of times to do some sessions with him. 


Then we hit the “decide whether or not you’re going to get good or not” phase, partly because of your generous time. It was a time when I would train a little bit, but not a lot. I was doing enough to get by, but not [enough] to progress. My dad gave me a firm talk and said, “You need to pick.” It didn’t matter. I could choose not to and that’s fine. And I could choose to and that’s fine. But I had to decide so I wasn’t wasting your time and ultimately my time, but very, very specifically your time because that’s a lot of money in this business. 


I decided that I would train. I had times when I was like, “Okay, I have to hit three times a week.” “Okay, four times.” And then there was a point where I was like: “Okay, let’s just do six times. It doesn’t matter. Just rest on Sundays.” I value that a lot. So I started training and getting better. 


To be honest, I don’t completely remember the biggest differences because I was a kid. It was my mom who noticed. She said I was a lot more… Not necessarily quiet, but I wasn’t super loud. And she said, around 15 or 16, “You got loud.” Even now, when I’m messing with her, I’m like, “What?!” They’re like, “Why are you so loud?” I’m like, “Go ahead and thank Brett for that.”


I started practicing. I got older and became a nanny. I pursued my voice. I pursued Jiu-Jitsu. I didn’t really enjoy nannying. Then I had to figure out what I was going to do for a job. I worked at a restaurant where I live. And Brett mentioned becoming a vocal coach. I don’t know if I’ve talked to you about this, but I had in mind that I wasn’t going to do it. I really wasn’t. I know some of the reasons why, like the drive. And I was like, “I don’t know,” because I was still training my voice, but not as hard as I used to be. I even said I wasn’t going to do it. I didn’t know if you heard me or didn’t hear me. But I’m so glad you didn’t, because you had me come in and take another lesson. It reminded me of why I liked it. I was like, “Oh, yes!” I was still thinking about it. 


When I had to decide whether or not I was going to be a coach, Brett texted me. He was kind of like: “Hey, we’re running out of time. You’ve got to pick.” And I don’t know what—I think it was God, obviously—but my heart completely went from “I’m not doing it, I know I’m not doing it” to “You’re doing it.” I still remember because I was on the porch, house sitting and reading it and being like: “I’m doing it. Why am I doing it?” I knew I wasn’t going to do it until that moment. And then I was going to do it. 


Then I confirmed with you, became a coach, and started training. It was definitely the best decision, because I love being here. I know that one phrase, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Now I agree and disagree. It’s still work, but it’s fulfilling and it’s fun. 

Brett Manning  09:47

It’s like some days you’re so excited that you realize, “If I were filthy rich, I’d probably teach just because I love it.”

Madison Sariah  09:55
I’d still teach, yes. Absolutely. One hundred percent.

Brett Manning  09:57

Right now, you hit the lottery: $37 million! Wow! I don’t need to work anymore. I’m going to invest $10 million, live off the interest, and have $200,000 a year to blow. I’m still teaching. And you know that I’ve said this too: If one day I became a billionaire, and there’s a distinct possibility that could happen and that I’m still teaching. And they said: “What if you don’t need to?” I said: “Would I teach it? I probably wouldn’t teach as much, honestly. But I have to.” 


You do this and I do this: We teach people when we’re not teaching. Somebody said, “Man, how do you hit notes?” With this girl in the coffee shop, I said: “Can you go, ‘uh’?” She goes, “Uh,” which will be a nice segue into our whistle. I said: “Now go, ‘Uhhh.’ Say it groggy.” She has really airy voice. She was like, “Uhhh” [voice breaks up]. I was like: “Whoa! what’s that?” I did it a couple of times, so she heard it. She went, “Uhhh” [voice breaks up]. I said, “Stay there.” “Uhhh” [voice breaks up].  She goes, “What is that? I’m squeaking.” I said: “Absolutely, you’re squeaking. Now hold it.” And I said, “Go:” [squeaks]. She goes: [squeaks]. “Like a little girl?” [squeaks]. I said: “Yes. Singing is just sound-making.” “I’ve never heard that before.” 


She didn’t pay me a dime. She may have made me an extra coffee, though. That was nice. I could have paid for it just as easily, but it was cool. I got to help her. I’m always teaching. We’re always teaching because we’re passionate about it. It’s like you said something changed your heart. You were like, “I’m okay with serving other people.” 


She’s a great singer and songwriter. She’s got all that stuff going for her too. I still expect something to happen for her vocally in time. We don’t know. Nobody can really predict that. There are certain things we’ve talked about in these podcasts, like three ways you can get label attention. There are all the rules for how to do it. But in the end, it’s just a perfect storm. Who saw Ed Sheeran coming? I didn’t. I never saw that. When he first came, I go: “I don’t get it.” Then I just listened to it one day for a long time and I thought: “I get it, man.” He’s compelling. 


And a lot of his stuff is very simple. Like I said before, I–V–vi–IV. [plays brief melody on piano] That’s I–V–vi–IV all the way through that song. The simplest chord progressions. And you don’t see it coming, so you never know what’s going to happen. 


But anyway, going back to the girl at the coffee shop, I kept having her do the squeak. I said: [squeaks] And she did this again: [squeaks]. I did a whistle, like: [whistles]. She was like, “Wow, how do you whistle?” I said, “Do that with your voice.” [squeaks] She went: [squeals].  “Now hold that up.” [squeaks] She went: “Oh my gosh, I’m not doing that!” And in case you think I’m covering my mouth because I’m not singing, I’m trying not to hit the mic. So I said: [squeaks] I trust it because I found it. Think about that. You trust it once you find it. 


You found it. Talk about when you found… Do you remember it or do I need to fill in the details?

Madison Sariah  13:15
You might have to fill in because I just remember going up the scale and then you being like, “Oh, that’s good.” I was like, “Oh.”

Brett Manning  13:17
She kept going and the voice would kind of break. I don’t think she had the understanding of what was going on to be able to communicate exactly the words “I’m breaking.” I had to communicate: “Okay, so you’re flipping there, but that’s okay.” But there’s this little hesitancy, like, “Is that okay if I go [briefly sings and voice breaks up] and have this break?” I said, “Yes, it means you’re letting go into a different coordination.” All that’s happening when you’re going to whistle is that the vocal cords are zipping up. This just means they zipped up really fast. That’s not a break. It’s just a sudden, abrupt change in coordination. 


When you’re playing guitar, at first you can hear a lot of squeaks and a lot of sounds. Eventually, it starts to sound smoother. Your tone starts to sound smoother. I don’t know if you can break if you said: [does lip trills]. Let it flip a little bit if you can.

Madison Sariah  14:16

Okay. [does lip trills]

Brett Manning  14:21

Her habits are too good. It’s too good now. She can’t break. Now she could if I really made her and she were singing hard like [does lip trills with break in voice] and flip and do that. Most girls, except the girls that we work with, honestly, are going to flip into the whistle if they get into it at all. And they: [mimics singing very briefly].  It’s okay. At least you’re doing it. People will criticize you no matter what you do. Just realize that.

Madison Sariah  14:54
You can’t win—ever.

Brett Manning  14:57
Ever! You’ve had to do your own social media and some people leave mean comments and some people are super fans. It’s weird. You’re like, “Do I deserve all this hatred?” Remember, there’s a lot of jealousy. Jealousy is a powerful emotion. It’s capable of clouding a person’s vision. Also, presuppositions and pride. 


I’m not going to choose a side right now. In a personal, one-on-one conversation, we’d choose a side. But typically in any political conversation, both sides are like, “I’m right and you’re” this tard or that tard. I thought it was politically incorrect to call someone “retard” because it’s also making fun of people who happen to have a mental disability. But now on both sides of the aisle: “You’re a” this “tard.” “You’re a” that “tard.” Well, beat your chest. You just won the argument by calling somebody a tard. 

Madison Sariah  15:54

Right. Thank you for the logical argument.

Brett Manning  15:56

Yes. And I’ve seen these emotional arguments where people just go off on each other. And here’s something you can do: If somebody makes an argument, just write down points one, two, and three. Say: “Okay, what are the pros and what are the cons against their argument?” You find that you get your mind changed a lot. And if you think, “I don’t need my mind changed,” then you’ve got a huge ego because I know I need my mind changed. All the time. That’s how you learn. Learning implies something you don’t know or something that you know falsely or wrongly. 


I’m not sure if you’ve heard of N.T. Wright or heard him. He’s a Bible scholar; a teacher. He’s a British guy. He’s very regal. He kind of comes from that C.S. Lewis camp there. And he says: “When I write my books, I feel like 80% of what I’ve said is deadly accurate. I’ve quoted the text of scripture and it’s very consistent. And 20% of it is in gross need of correction. And the bigger problem that I have is that I don’t know what percentage needs a correction.” Now that’s pretty decent. N.T. Wright [inaudible], if I say so, because I’ve listened to him and I love his voice. 

Brett Manning  17:16

So you learn that as you’re going, like: “Yes, there are things I just don’t know.” So for you, coming from your Jiu-Jitsu background… I don’t know. She had this huge break. I’m not going to criticize her for it. Then suddenly, it just connected. And you know what it was? I made you say the word “mȯ,” which you do all the time. Can you explain in your own words why you think “mȯ” works so much in head voice?

Madison Sariah  17:47
The M is a nice grip. The Ȯ helps my larynx stay stable and release. Those were the two main things that I feel when [inaudible].

Brett Manning  17:57
There’s one other thing it does, too. Think about Ȯ. What does it do to the soft palate? It brings it down. Ȯ. Ah—[briefly sings ah sound while voice breaks]—is going to break. [briefly sings ȯ sound]. 

The funny thing I’ve discovered… I’m not sure if I ever told you about this, because I have so many new whistle hacks. You will have probably heard about them by the time this podcast comes on here. New whistle hacks—one is that I just keep my mouth really closed. [makes whistle sound with voice]. 

Try that.

Madison Sariah  18:32
[makes whistle sound with voice]

Brett Manning  18:35

One more thing. Just one more thing. It just keeps getting better. Just: [makes whistle sound with voice] Go ahead.

Madison Sariah  18:43
[makes whistle sound with voice] 

Brett Manning  18:45

So what happens if we do this? 

♪ Mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ ♪ 

Most girls want to be able to hit a high C and that’s admirable. But as you see, I’m starting her with C sharp as the high note. That’s the starting point. C is a black belt. C sharp—this is moving towards a master as far as mastering your range. So we’re going above the black belt. Go ahead. 

Madison Sariah  19:10

♪ Mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ ♪ 

Brett Manning  19:15
Nice, mȯ.

Madison Sariah  19:16

♪ Mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ, mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ ♪ 

Brett Manning  19:23

Sigh a little bit.

Madison Sariah  19:24

♪ Mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ ♪ 

Brett Manning  19:28

That little bit of sigh helps her drop into that whistle. 

Madison Sariah  19:28

♪ Mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ, mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ, mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ, mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ-mȯ ♪ 

Brett Manning  19:44

Now go: [uses high voice]

Madison Sariah  19:47

[Sings in high voice] 

Brett Manning  19:58

There’s a B flat above high C. Now, I haven’t vocalized her through the set of lip rolls and all the other stuff that are necessary to get there. But she’s got a B flat without really trying.

Brett Manning  20:13

If you can’t find your whistle one day… And by the way, is this the most necessary part? It’s like the least necessary. 

Madison Sariah  20:20

Yes, but it’s the coolest.

Brett Manning  20:21

It’s the coolest, it really is, when you sing that high. 

Were you there? I’m not sure if you were there the night Victoria had me come sing for a thing. 

Madison Sariah  20:32

On the piano?

Brett Manning  20:34

I was playing. I had the leather jacket.

Madison Sariah  20:36

I think I watched the video. 

Brett Manning  20:37

Okay, the video. I kind of hit that high note—complacency. I was talking and I said: “Well, I was expecting to do four songs. They told me I needed to do five and I only prepared four.” The problem is you write 2,000 songs,  you’re like…

Madison Sariah  20:50

Sure. You need a refresher.

Brett Manning  20:52

While the other guy was singing—and I was listening to you, bro, and it was a great song—I was trying to remember my words to write them down so I don’t screw this song up. Think of Muse meets Queen meets Muse. And I started singing. It’s a pretty high song. There were only high songs to do. I said: “I don’t usually like high songs because I feel like you’re trying to show off, but I like this song.” 


Everybody is talking really loud. I get to the part: [sings in high voice while playing piano] to the bridge [continues singing and playing]. And it has this little pause [continues singing and playing]. I pause and you hear this scream! Everybody’s losing their minds! As I go up, the talking goes down. Systematically, you can hear it. Every time I hear it. And then I come back to the: ♪ I don’t bend cuz I don’t have to bend ♪


By that time, they’re just losing it. And I’m not sure if you heard this but it was one of the best things I could have. And when she sings up there, the same thing. People are like, “How did she do that?” But somebody goes: “Whoa! Who is this guy?!” I don’t know who said it. I’ll probably never meet him. Hey, if you’re watching this—that guy—call me. I owe you coffee, a beer, or whatever. It was probably the best performance moment—just somebody saying that. It was totally unexpected. Like you said, you don’t need it. But it’s like you don’t need a Ferrari, but if you have one, you should drive it around once in a while. 


Let’s go back to connecting whistle to the rest of your voice. Talk to me about that a little bit.

Madison Sariah  23:11
About figuring it out? 

Brett Manning  23:13


Madison Sariah  23:18

First, finding it was more with Brett. I was just doing what I was told. I didn’t fully understand all the technical aspects of it. As I got older and started to figure out what was happening, I started to lose the allowing and started forcing it. And I didn’t realize it because I didn’t know about this muscle. I was working with Chanel, who was becoming a coach. I was like, “This comes down a little bit”—the digastric muscle. It’s your swallowing muscle. She was talking about it like, “You don’t want that happening.” I was like, “Oh no.” But I could still get through. A lot of people didn’t know it was happening, but I knew it was happening.


I had to re-fix it and re-teach this to disengage and do a lot of allowing. One of the things that y’all always talk about is that light and right is better than strong and wrong. I would do a lot of it strong. “Everything’s right except this.” So instead of right, it was almost right. I had to rework and pull my voice back down a little bit and focus on everything being technically correct—the larynx being right, this muscle being disengaged, and being okay if it didn’t connect. 


That’s a lot of what I talk about with other people because they’ll force it, they’ll squeeze it. And if it shakes, they’re, like you said, almost embarrassed. And it’s like: “Don’t be embarrassed. That’s okay. That’s everybody. Welcome to the club.” This is not an easy place to sing. Being okay with it breaking. I had to do that where I’d go [makes airy sound] and it would just be breath. And then eventually, it starts cleaning out. Ben Wates can hit somewhere up here, [presses thin keys on piano] just randomly. 

Brett Manning  25:01

Just, [makes high sound]. 

Madison Sariah  25:02

Yes. He can get one out. Yes. He just finds it. I can only find it every so often. I’m trying to work to connect it. But that helped, finding that, just learning how to thin out. I almost feel like the less force there is, the more opportunity to connect there is. It’s a lot of letting go. 


Even when you all talk about temps and the mental place you have to be in, if you’re too controlled in your life, I think that can also connect here. I don’t like things out of my control. I like feeling safe—whether it’s my car, finances, or job, it doesn’t matter. I’m like, “I need everything safe.” Everything has to be okay. With my voice, I like having control, like, “I’m going to hit the note.” It’s hard for me to be okay with not hitting the note, even ego-wise. I’m like: “No, no. Yes, I’m Brett’s double high C girl.” And I’m like, “Not today, but like most of the time.” I have to work on allowing. And doing that—letting go, fighting that ego, allowing the voice to connect—has been more profitable than when I’m feeding the ego and forcing it.

Brett Manning  26:23
This sounds like a rhetorical question. If you’re not sure, a rhetorical question assumes an answer before you even ask it. Rhetoric. I’m sure you’ve had days where your whistle just wouldn’t come and then, by the end, it was the best it had ever been. Days where, like today, it was just not working. Then you teach a full day or half a day or whatever, or you just vocalize a little bit through the day and you forget about it and you come back to it and it’s like: “Whoa! I’ve never done it this well—ever!”

Madison Sariah  26:55
Yes. I’ve had sometimes waking up in the morning when I’m like: “Let’s just see what we’ve got to work with today.” And I was like, “Oh!” And sometimes it comes from having a hard day the day before. I’m like, “Oh, my voice is tired,” but then it squeaks up there.

Brett Manning  27:09
Do you know why it works better when it’s tired?

Madison Sariah  27:13
The muscles don’t engage as much because they’re worn out.

Brett Manning  27:17
Yes! Well said. Somebody pays attention. 

Madison Sariah  27:21

I try. I don’t want to get fired. [laughter] Just kidding.

Brett Manning  27:24

“I took notes.” [laughter] But yes. What happens is that your voice gets so tired… And that’s how I found my whistle. Do you know how I found my whistle?

Madison Sariah  27:36
Wasn’t it cold outside and you were sick?

Brett Manning  27:39
I wasn’t necessarily sick. We were playing football on a Sunday, my friends and I. I was supposed to lead worship Sunday night and I was trying to warm my voice up. We were playing tackle—Justin, your dad, and a bunch of guys. I did not like getting tackled by your dad. [laughter] 

Madison Sariah  27:53

Run the other way!

Brett Manning  27:54

Throw the ball.

Madison Sariah  27:55

“Take the ball!” 

Brett Manning  27:57

“Here!” Just throw it out of bounds or run back, you know. I could run a little bit faster than him so I could sprint past him and take a catch. But even then, man, he’d hit us and it would hurt. My bones would hurt.


We used to play tackle football without helmets or anything. Just tackle. That’s tough. I’ve got respect for rugby players. Either that or no respect. 

Madison Sariah  28:22

Yes. You’re either really brave or…

Brett Manning  28:24

Yes. Don’t you guys get concussions?

Madison Sariah  28:26


Brett Manning  28:27

Yes, questionable. 

But we played so hard. It’s hot and cold—the sweating—and then you get all the mucus coming up and your body’s trying to adjust. My voice was like this when I got in: [voice breaks up]. Like “choo choo.” I can still make that sound. I went: “Oh, that’s interesting.” And I had just heard Mariah Carey, she’d been out for a little while and I’d try to hit those notes. She goes: [sings part of a note] And I was like, “I can’t.” [sings part of a note] Have you ever seen the meme, the GIF, or whatever? GIF is with sound, right? 

Madison Sariah  29:06

I think it’s GIF [ pronounces it as jif], but it should be GIF [pronounces it as gif] or something like that. 

Brett Manning  29:09

I don’t know all that stuff. “I don’t know how things work.” I don’t know how life works. It’s too hard. Technology—I’ve got people for that.


But this little GIF [ pronounces it as jif] or GIF [pronounces it as gif] shows a girl that says, “Me trying to sing Mariah Carey.” Mariah goes, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh Then she goes to sing it and shows a goat coming up: “Baaaa!” It was one of the funniest things ever. But that was kind of mean. I was like a goat and I couldn’t do it. I hit the squeak. I was married at the time and my wife goes, “That’s hurting your voice.” I said, “No, it doesn’t hurt.” And eventually, I got her to do it. I found a day where her voice was groggy. She went up there. The lovely and charming Colette goes to an E above our double-high C back then. She did the whistle on all the demonstrations in the first Singing Success program.

Madison Sariah  30:02

Oh, that’s really cool. 

Brett Manning  30:03

Yes. She went up there. But she had a huge break in going into it. It seems like you got in there really explosively because it let go so much. And it let go because you didn’t know. Think about that: You let go when you don’t know. That’s both good and bad. In the hands of somebody who knows what they’re doing, it’s good. If you let go because you don’t know in the hands of somebody who doesn’t know what they’re doing… And usually, you know what they’re doing from their track record. We have a track record here. But some people are like, “Oh, I’m just letting go.” No, you’re yelling your head off. That’s not a mix. She gave it that familiar eye roll that you’ll see from me because we’re like: “Yeah, man, this is not right.”


I’m working with a girl right now. When she came in, she was yelling a little bit. A really talented young singer. Now she’s doing the Jota song and she’s killing it. She’s like: [sings brief melody and plays piano]. She goes: “I can’t believe I just hit that note.” She’s like 13. She’s like, “How am I doing this?” She’s like, “I can’t believe I can hit that note.” I said, “It’s because you don’t yell.” If you yell to a B, you won’t hit this—you won’t hit the E because that’s the second bridge. A, B, flat B, one bridge. E, F, F sharp, another transition. And you can hear when you and I do [makes brief high sound] you can hear a transfer of resonance from the mouth to the head. And you see us do this all the time.


You see other people say, “Go behind the soft palate.” But what I have done is created the visual image of the letter C in the back of your throat. But the letter C tilts out of the mouth, on the bottom. As you go up, the C climbs further behind the soft palate. Give them a couple of those [makes high sound].

Madison Sariah  31:31

[makes high sound] 

Brett Manning  31:56

It gets rightfully very thin on the top. Somebody was saying, “That ain’t a full voice.” You can’t take full voice up there.

Madison Sariah  32:02
Good luck!

Brett Manning  32:03

Yes. Your vocal cords are zipping up a smaller vibrating surface. It’s like this [plays thin notes on piano] is not as full as [plays deep notes on piano]. It can’t be. You can’t just tighten the string. Instead of having a tighter string, you have a shorter string. If you look at a piano, the strings get smaller and smaller, they go higher, instead of stretching them higher, because then they would have different tensile strengths. As you press, there would be stress on that. 


The same thing with a guitar. That’s why it’s equally tempered for thinner strings as you go higher. And the guitar—I’m not sure if I ever told you this, it might be mind-blowing. I had an acoustic around here. Is there an acoustic sitting over there? No? Oh, he’s going to get an acoustic. There’s a very interesting little side note we’ll talk about here.


The guitar—I’m not sure if you’ve heard this—is set up like the human voice. Thank you, my brother. That’s the mighty arm of Dallan Beck. 

Madison Sariah  33:02


Brett Manning  33:04

He’s got those cannon arms. I’m embarrassing him right now.

Madison Sariah  33:08

The gym is this way.

Brett Manning  33:14

This is a bass, this is a baritone, this is a tenor, this is an alto, this is a mezzo, this is a soprano [while playing each range with the guitar]. That’s it. Bass—thick. Baritone. Tenor. And guess where the tenor runs? It runs right here, mid-range. Guess where the bass is? It resonates at the bottom. The guitar is like a voice.

Madison Sariah  33:42


Brett Manning  33:43

Here’s the bridge. Chest, middle, middle, middle, head ♪. Do you know why this is thinner in the middle? So it doesn’t compete with the voice. It takes out a lot of mid-range. If it’s too mid-rangey, it can compete with the voice. As Dallan can tell you, he’s mixing all the time, the voices have some timbres, and the frequencies don’t compete. 


When I did the “Beautiful Us”, I was driving Malcolm crazy because I was doing something called formant. Formant is where you use this type of resonance and this resonance on one note. I can say: [sings briefly while playing piano]. I’m going to mix thin, but I can add a formant by reshaping things, dropping my larynx, and getting more explosive. I can say: [sings briefly while playing piano].

I’m using a lot of resonance and then very little resonance, which is what freaked me out because she had formant. It just means to make sound, but think of adding yeast. She had those and I was trying to explain it to her. She was like, “I don’t know.” You were singing. I still remember over on 29th, your dad was there, shaking his head like, “Wow!” You were singing [inaudible]. ♪ … tore us apart… ♪ And the room shook. 


Believe it or not, she doesn’t have a big voice. She is a coloratura, a lyric soprano capable of projecting very big. It’s a bigger voice than Celine Dion’s. She is the lightest of the coloraturas. You’re a coloratura. You’re not a dramatic soprano, which I thought she might be when she was younger. It’s a very light, thin voice that projects very large. 


We were writing this song back in the day. Let’s see if we can do it. Do you remember that? [plays melody on piano]

Madison Sariah  36:23

We’ll find it. Is that the right key?

Brett Manning  36:45

Madison Sariah  36:46

If you’re cherry picking victims going for the cage, then take a trained assassin, go express your rage, with your bad, with your bad, with your bad new ♪ 

I got nervous. 

Brett Manning  37:12

And what happens if you get too nervous? 

Madison Sariah  37:17

You squeeze more? 

Brett Manning  37:19

Yes, yes. You’ll overcompensate. You’ll just sing too hard. What percentage of singers overcompensate when we sing live? A hundred percent. All of them. A hundred percent. And what is the solution to overcompensation, partly? Great technique, obviously. But you can have great technique and get on stage and still overcompensate because you have the nerves. A solution to that overcompensation is simply experience. It’s kind of the same thing. The nerves leave with stage time. You have to get on the stage. You have to perform. And you have to be at a place where “I just don’t care.” If I hit a bad note, like, “Whatever.” But there are a few of us like, “I must get this right.” Like you say, the desire to be in control. And when you have to hold on to it, it’s a bad thing. You have to fight it like, “Okay, if I suck really bad, who cares?” 


I have not warmed up today on purpose. I want to keep a little deeper resonance on my microphone. I just like it.

Madison Sariah  38:25

You sound nice and manly. [laughter] 

Brett Manning  38:26

Yes, I like to get that, especially if I’m going to do my Sean Connery. [doing impersonation] I can’t be fully warmed up doing a Sean Connery. All you have to remember is that he can’t yell. Did you know that? 

Madison Sariah  38:37

I did not.  

Brett Manning  38:38

When he gets mad, he goes: “That guy? I know that guy. He’s a bastard.” His voice collapses. He goes: [imitates collapsing voice]. You remember Kurt [inaudible] back in the day? Kurt couldn’t yell. He’d go, “Hey.” Try to get him to project to you. He’d sing right here. Neither can Neil Diamond.


Neil Diamond: ♪ Today we’re coming to America  My mom sang with him in Vegas. She said, “What was I going to do?” She goes: “No, no, no. It’s quieter.” Today we’re coming… ♪ She goes, “It’s quieter.” “Really?” ♪ … good times never last … ♪ She said, “No, it’s quieter.” She goes, “He’d eat the microphone.” He only had an octave in a half-range. He’s in the 100 million club because he sold 146 million records. So in case you think you need all that range, you don’t need it. But if you have it, use it because, as you go up, the talking noise goes down, like I said.


You’ve done some high-head stuff yourself but have you performed your whistle live?

Madison Sariah  39:48
I did one in a group at my house before, but not on a microphone.

Brett Manning  39:54
Our next thing, we’ll post it up here somewhere and put in the link. I want you to hear her—what she’s about. But the next time you go out to sing, we’ll have to work up something where you go up in your whistle and just trip people out there, like, “Ah!” But even as I say that, there’s a little bit of natural nervousness that comes in. Look, nerves are a good thing. You can take drugs and get over those nerves. That tells you there’s something wrong with you if you have to take drugs to get over the nerves. They’re there for a purpose. They teach you. Nerves teach you. Fear is a great teacher. It often teaches you this: You’re not ready. The more ready you are, the more those nerves go down.

Madison Sariah  40:42
Yes, that’s true.

Brett Manning  40:44
You know how hard it was for our friend to come to Jiu-Jitsu after all this time? It’s just that nervousness: “I know I’m going to go and I’m going to get beat.” Elvis Presley, who was the king of doing well with his nerves, made his legs shake because it was a place to put his nerves. That’s what he did. “I needed a place to put my nerves, so I’d shake my leg.” That is so amazing! And then he turned it into this rhythm. It’s like, “I’m just hitting that rhythm.” 

Madison Sariah  41:06

And that was his thing?

Brett Manning  41:07

Yes. It was his thing—all that shaking. But he stood there like a fighter because he was a professional fighter trained in multiple martial arts and he had that relaxed thing. 


Do you remember how they used to talk like this?—Ed Sullivan. [does impersonation] Isn’t it funny how they used to all talk like that? The American accent, like: “Wow! Wow!” [does impersonation] Have you ever seen that comedian who’s like, “Wow, someday maybe you could be… ” 

Madison Sariah  41:32

Like “I declare.” [does impersonation]

Brett Manning  41:33

Yes. The American accent has changed. The British has changed too over the years. But Ed Sullivan goes: “Tell us about your martial arts training. Has that helped you with your performance? Has it helped you deal with your nervousness?” and all these things. And he said: “Well, yes, but not for the reason you think.” He said, “Well, I would think it’s because you feel like you could beat everybody up in the audience.” He goes: “No, I just know that I’ve been beaten up a lot of times and it’s not that bad.” That’s profound. It ain’t that bad. It’s not that bad, huh? 

Madison Sariah  42:17


Brett Manning  42:18

Every time I’ve choked her [mimics the chokehold on himself], it’s like it doesn’t matter. If you watch two people from our gym throwing down Jiu-Jitsu, you don’t, because no person is puffed up and the other person is all sulky. Both are what I call peacocking. They’re walking around like: “Yes, I feel good! I just fought.” It doesn’t matter who won or lost. It’s the cool thing of learning. And it’s the same thing. When you get that type of confidence on stage, you’re like, “Elvis Presley makes a mistake and you like him more.” 

Madison Sariah  42:57

Yes. He’s way cooler.

Brett Manning  42:58

Yes, he is. He’s cooler. 

Madison Sariah  43:01

Because he doesn’t care. 

Brett Manning  43:02

Did you ever see the one where he’s like: ♪ Since my baby left me… ♪ ? 

Madison Sariah  43:06

I think so, where he’s like [clears throat] and starts all over again? 

Brett Manning  43:08

He goes, “I’m running out of breath, guys. Eh, it’s just another suit jacket.” [does impersonation] And in his face is just like this. His face doesn’t change. Well, since my baby left me, I found a new place to dwell  He doesn’t go [takes deep breath] “Now I’m singing in my singing voice!” He doesn’t change his posture. He’s talking and he starts singing. He just looks up and starts singing. And just the stone-cold assassin look that he has in his face, like: “I ain’t afraid of anybody here. And if I make a mistake, you’re going to like me more.” One of the keys to us teaching the performance end of the voice is to get you to where you just don’t care. 


I think you’ve seen me a couple of times on stage, not a lot, but just enough to think that I don’t care. I’ve not been kicked in the face too many times to care about this. And it’s funny, the UFC fighters—how many of them say, “No, I don’t get nervous before a fight”? I would think you’d be scared to death.

Madison Sariah  44:07

I’d be sick.

Brett Manning  44:08

You’d be like: “My stomach’s hurting. I don’t want Holly Holm to knock me out.”

Madison Sariah  44:15

I’d just walk in and I’d tap out. “Bye!”

Brett Manning  44:17

Just crawl in and then tap out. Go like this, jump on the floor, [taps on stool]: “You win! You win!” 

Madison Sariah  44:22

“You’re so good!” 

Brett Manning  44:26

It’s like what Mike Tyson says. He says: “Everybody’s got a plan until you punch him in the mouth.” [does impersonation] You go in there and you get hit in the mouth one time… And with singing, sometimes you get on stage and you get punched in the mouth. With singing, when I say sometimes, it means every time for the first 100 times. And then every other time for the next hundred times. And then, about one out of every ten times after that. And then you see people like Vince Gill who can’t miss.


If you haven’t studied with any of us, we invite you to come here. Come visit Nashville or visit us on Skype. If you don’t have our programs, you can click down below to get this. This isn’t a sales pitch. Oh, yes, it is; it is a sales pitch. There are these podcasts. We typically don’t like to talk about our programs. We like to talk about stories in the music industry that hopefully compel you to be a deeper musician, a deeper artist and a more passionate one.

Thanks for joining us!

About Madison Sariah: Madison Sariah first began studying with Brett when she was 9 years old and by age 14 had one of the most explosive teenage voices Brett has ever coached. Because Madison has never been exposed to poor teaching methods, she has experienced a coveted consistency in her voice that singers crave. Madison brings 14 years of saturation and experience to her students by understanding how to speed up the learning process, finding exceptional power, range and freedom.

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