Learning to Cross Over

Adults who want to learn to cross over, or go from singing primarily in one style to another, have special challenges. They have more life experience, which is useful, and that can make it easier for them to understand what is needed in their “cross over” training. The musculature, however, can take more time to change, the old vocal patterns not only are deeply ingrained but there are psychological things to deal with in changing technique that can be daunting.

You cannot proceed too slowly. Both the body and the mind need time to assimilate changes, especially those that effect the deep muscles in the throat, and the vocal folds themselves. Sound is very personal. We are all used to hearing ourselves a certain way and changes made to a singer’s sound can be very traumatic if they are not done gently. Nevertheless, the vocalist has to go out of his or her comfort zone sooner or later or no change will take place.

The spiritual aspects of voice training are real. The spirit, or the innate essence of what makes each of us who we are, are inseparable from the physical aspects of breathing, moving and making sound. It is very hard to remain silent, and it is very hard to be completely still, and it is impossible to stop breathing (on purpose). Any sound we utter arises from the larynx. The command comes down from the brain’s central nervous system passing through the spinal cord to the nerves that cause the vocal folds to close and vibrate. There is no other way to make voiced sound except through the larynx, by the vibration of the vocal folds. Sometimes we forget that because we feel the result of that process, not usually the cause, except indirectly.

If the spirit of a human being is part of her character, then all the qualities one would want to see in a human being will be needed in exploring, training and developing the voice. There will be a need to have curiosity, patience, courage, perseverence. There will be a time for probing, exploring, and calmness. There will be elation in times of success (a perfect high note) and despair in times of frustration (why can’t I sound better?) There will be a need for critical evaluation of intellectually chosen goals and a need to abandon rules and regulations. In fact, finding and expressing vocal sound, especially vocal music, is challenging in every way. In the end, singing stands to make us each better human beings, with more that is good to contribute to the world. It matters not how any individual voice sounds, there is room in the world for all kinds of voices. It matters that the vocalist makes the journey and keeps being challenged by it, all through life.

Learning to cross from one kind of singing to another as an adult takes spiritual courage, intelligence, dedication, desire, patience and diligence, not to mention a lot of hard work. Even though many of us were told it was “not possible” or “dangerous” to sing more than one way, that is simply an old wives’ tale. Every day adults stick their vocal toes in the water and see what it’s like for themselves to learn to sing with new sounds, in new styles, with new patterns and learn, too, what it takes to go back to the more familiar old ways, the old friends, and thank them for being patient while we looked at new territory.

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