Muscle Memory and Conditioning

When and if we actually understand vocal function fully (and for the most part, teachers of singing are far away from such a reality), we might be able to establish some kinds of norms for voice types, for CCM styles, for age groups and for vocal health in performers.

If we were to successfully take that path, it would have to be assumed that everyone agreed we are dealing with source and filter (vocal folds and vocal tract), and with postural alignment, rib cage and abdominal control and controlled duration and pressure during sung sound. (That’s all there is, folks). We would have to acknowledge that “resonance” is a kind of acoustic efficiency that has to do with a certain configuration of harmonics and formants and that “carrying power” has to do with decibels generated by a forceful exhalation that can be managed by the resistance of the vocal folds through pitch and vowel.

If we are to get a performer to sing thinking only about what the lyrics mean and to be emotionally connected to the impact of those words, we have to get her to a place where the machine functions, and functions very well, on its own. It has to do the job effortlessly while she is in the midst of it. Professional sports, dance and acting are all like that. You have to practice doing them until you don’t have to think at all about the mechanics of doing them.

Intellectual thought involves the use of language. One word at a time, in a sequence, expressed moment by moment. A physical act, however, does not have to be intellectual. If you burn your finger, you say “ouch” without having to decide to do that. It just happens. You can dissect it after the fact and talk about it all you want, but when it happens by itself, a conscious thought process is not involved.

It is therefore CRUCIAL to understand how the brain is wired to the larynx and to sound making so that the path to changing the basic default of someone’s voice is short but accurate. For example, if you want more volume, you have to firm up the closure of the folds and get a smaller tube in the vocal tract, INDIRECTLY, so that the belly can push harder on the viscera, which pushes against the contracted diaphragm, which pushes on the bottom of the lungs, which pushes the air out harder as it is resisted by the folds. If you do this time and time again, in vocal musical exercises, sooner or later, the body will be able to take over most of this behavior and not be managed moment to moment by anything done deliberately. In other words, muscle memory and conditioning set up optimal responses to maximize singing efficiency and effectiveness.

I do believe that some people never understand this at all and some people never actually get there. They don’t sing without some kind of “doing-ness” and it means that something is in between the feelings and the voice, between the music and the expression of sound. Unfortunately, some of these folks get jobs and they also teach. They assume that what they have learned and how they experience singing are universally applicable to all vocalists. They further assume that their approach is both valid and practical. This can be completely unfounded, based on nothing objectively measured but it unfortunately doesn’t stop people from teaching it.

So, I say yet again, if what I have written here over the years does not make sense to you, ask yourself why. If you cannot do some of the things I have discussed not just here but elsewhere in this blog, ask yourself why. If your body isn’t making “good” sounds but you are trying your best to “sound good”, ASK YOURSELF WHY. Is it because you are not trying hard enough, not thinking the correct thoughts, have a “bad voice” or are just untalented? ASK WHY. Maybe what you think about what you are doing is more of a problem than what you get.

If you enjoyed this post please like & share:

One thought on “Muscle Memory and Conditioning”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *