The Incredible "It"

Watching teachers of singing in master classes, one of the most interesting things is how many times you hear the word “it”. You hear “you are………” as a feedback a lot, too. Of course, the student always nods after each correction. Good students do, right?

“You are hooking it too much. Use the solar plexis more”. “Get the jaw out of the way, you are hooking it”. “It needs to mix more on top”. “It’s too off the voice, connect more”. “Find the low in the high”. “Keep it going more through the middle”.

What, folks, do any of these phrases mean? What is the “it” that we hear about all the time? The sound, the vowel, the tone?

“Find the breath in the higher place”. “Don’t take the weight up”.”Use the breath”. “Where are you breathing?” (Vague response from the student…”In the diaphragm?”)

What is weight, exactly, in a sound? What does it sound like, look like, how does it feel? How do you know if you have too much “weight” in your sound? It’s not good to sing with too much weight, right? Lose the weight but keep the connection.

“Keep the jaw completely out of it”. “The jaw is useless”. “Open the cheekbones when you breath in, but don’t drop too much”.

“Mix the middle”.

“Hey!!!!!!” “Hey, Taxi!!” “Ey-o-ey-o”. “Let go more”. “Stop hooking, release as you go up”. “Hey!”

Lots of head nodding.

“The resonators have to adjust so that the mix stays connected so you can feel the breath. The shape changes in the mix and you want the vowels to be clean to the top (without moving your jaw, which should not be there)”. Of course.

Does being a classically trained tenor make a difference when the student is a baritone?

Does being able to manage “a connection” when you are 40 and the student is 20 matter?

How do you “keep the richness of the bottom” and “stay connected” through the break without dropping your jaw, and not having “too much” weight in “it”, when NONE of this makes any sense? You have to know what the words mean by osmosis. How can they mean anything until and unless you already know what they mean through experience? If you have not already made the sounds, how do you learn from this kind of teaching how to make the sounds? How does this teach you to do what you need to do if you don’t already know what to do? Is this any better than trial and error on your own?

Let me help here. In English:

Your chest register isn’t strong enough. Let’s sing on a low pitch at a comfortable volume until you can sing louder there without extra pressure on anything other than your belly muscles, and without distorting the vowel in any way. Now that you can do this, can you take this same sound and vowel up higher in pitch at the same volume, gliding up on a slide. Now that you can do that, can you change the shape of your face and mouth so that it more closely resembles a smile? And can you do all of this keeping your posture strong (aligned over your feet) and your head over your torso, allowing it to tilt slightly up but not jut forward.

Do you realize that your jaw comes forward because there is a great deal of inner constriction on the back of your tongue which is locking your larynx in a raised position and that forces your jaw out? Your tongue is tight because of that, and it makes both your jaw and your tongue less able to move freely. It also causes your neck muscles to stretch which is another factor that prevents your larynx from moving freely. Rather than forcing yourself to keep your head in a level position, allow your head to lift so that you can relax the back of your throat and let your tongue rest gently on the floor of your mouth, even if the tone goes slightly breathy that way. Can you feel that this allows you to take some of the pressure off the back of your tongue? As that happens, it will allow your throat to relax enough to allow the back of the tongue to release slightly up. Once we get that response, let your head go back to normal, allowing yourself to really bounce and move your jaw and face, keeping the sound soft, while you sing easily, gli-ki-da on an arpeggio. There, now that you’ve been doing that up and down through almost two octaves, the break between chest and head is nearly gone and you can sing smoothly without getting any funny responses from either your head or your tongue. Did you notice that you are breathing both deeper and easier now? That’s because the larynx is more or less at rest, making the inhalation much easier. We have helped the back of your tongue to release, the constrictors to relax, and the larynx move and adjust all by itself, without you doing anything special directly. This, in turn, releases the jaw to move easily and allows the head to remain easily in a comfortable position, and encourages the neck muscles to let go as well.

Go practice that for a week or so and we will continue balancing and correcting until everything lines up and does what you need it to do.

If you force the “new” information (about belting, about your limited comprehension of voice science) to fit through the “resonance” and “breath support” model (and EVERYONE does that), then you MUST make the information fit what you have been taught and already know and experience. The fact that the sound emerged from UNTRAINED voices seems to have no bearing on those who insist that the way to learn it or know about it is to fit the approaches to developing it through what is known about CLASSICAL training, aimed at CLASSICAL repertoire. One of the greatest belters of our times is Barbara Streisand, who in the NY Times last year, said she had one voice lesson in her life. She doesn’t think about breathing, breath support, posture, resonance, placement, space or anything else, she JUST SINGS. Garland the same. Merman the same. They all considered themselves belters, by their own words. I guess they should know. It was their sound, their voices, their singing.

Learn something from these people, folks. LEARN. Do not drag something that doesn’t belong there into classical pedagogy.

Forget “it”, forget the other voice teacher jargon that means something only to YOU. Speak English. Ask, don’t tell.

I need an aspirin.

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