Once you get someone into a new default position, which can take a lot of work and time, it’s important to emphasize the idea that you have to do maintenance to keep it going. Particularly if the default is not the most natural position for the person, it’s essential to do regular practice.
If someone has been singing only in chest register for a long time and thinks of himself as a baritone, only to discover after two or three years of vocalizing in a strong head register dominant sound that he is, after all, a baritenor or even a tenor, that can be really liberating and freeing. Nevertheless, even if the new sound is the more natural sound for the voice, it isn’t the one with the longest history and that matters. That can’t be taken for granted, even if it sounds and functions better than the old position, simply because it is new. It might be more “natural” but it isn’t “more habitual”.
Muscle memory is real. Muscles remember what they do, sometimes long after you stop doing it. Even if you haven’t ridden a bicycle in years, once you get on again, after a moment or so, you can ride just fine. Perhaps you wouldn’t pick up the violin and play a concerto at first touch, but if you had played well for a long time, years after you stopped you would probably be able to play a simple melody in short order.
First in, first out, they say about jobs. The most recent hires are the most likely people to get layed off. So it is, too, with muscle patterns. What you have done for the longest time and most frequently, is the deepest pattern. New patterns that are more comfortable may be better but they have emerged only recently and will be susceptible to falling apart if you stop practicing for a while.
If you have gotten into a new default, perhaps for a role in a show, and you know you have to keep yourself there for the an open-ended run, you will need to include regular practice along with activities like taking a shower and brushing your teeth. Not to do so is to ask for problems. And, if you know that the role is a couple of tones too high for your easy comfort but that you can get through it as long as you are practicing your vocal exercises, you might also need to put into the equation exercises that allow for relaxation and calibration of your voice every now and then to help it remember its normal default, so you don’t completely lose it.
As someone who is in recovery from a left vocal fold paresis (since May), I can tell you that I am now having to work hard to stay in what was my normal sound. This default, the one where I lived effortlessly for my entire life, is now only there when I practice and practice vigorously. I am grateful that I have come back to a much better response, sometimes seeming as if my singing was totally normal, but I can testify that when I don’t practice, it rapidly begins to fall apart and go back to its errant ways!
Remember, the default position is the position from which you would sing, without warming up or preparing in any way, coming straight out of your typical speech patterns. If you don’t know how to authentically change your default, without manipulation or immitation, this entire post won’t make any sense, but if you are curious to understand more, you are welcome to come to my Level I training in January at UMass Dartmouth.