Singing and The Very Long Haul
I sometimes discuss “waiting for the bus” or taking time to let the voice and body get used to the changes we are stimulating through vocal exercises. How much time am I discussing? It could be as little as 30 seconds for an exercise to cause a new response to arise but occasionally it can take quite a while. You have to be in the process for the very long haul in order to understand how much time is involved.
Recently I was working with a student who began studying with me about 5 years ago as a beginning adult. This person is a musician who wanted to sing while playing her instrument but had been told by multiple singing teachers that she was “hopeless”. This was due to the fact that in mid-range there were consistent pitch problems and that the sound itself was tight, unpleasant and unexpressive. This woman has been determined, diligently pursuing training on a weekly basis most of the time, making at first very slow progress. Together, we patiently coaxed very small changes in both voice and body and I always encouraged awareness of both kinesthetic and auditory feedback. She practiced diligently. For a long time, most of the work was nearly unnoticeable but then things began to change in a more obvious way. Gradually the changes got bigger and came more quickly.
The Body’s Ability To Create Miracles
Just a few weeks ago, in the middle of a lesson, while she was singing with what is now a greatly improved vocal quality, much greater vocal freedom, expanded capacity in pitch range and volume control, and far more accurate command of intonation, a brand new sound emerged which caught both of us by surprise. This sound was truly lovely and effortless. The woman’s face and body looked as serene as ever I had seen it and the sound moved easily up and down throughout her entire (now) two octave range without distortion of any kind. It was a beautiful, authentic sound and one that was satisfying to both of us. I had no idea that this sound would emerge, ever, or that it would sound as it did. The body’s ability to create miracles is amazing.
No matter that in June I will be teaching singing 45 years and that I have lost track of the hundreds of thousands of hours of listening to people sing live I have logged, it is always thrilling and humbling to be in the presence of anyone who finally discovers what it means to sing freely and beautifully. When the body is at peace with the process and when the sound just “fits” the person, that combination is always powerful but in an almost sublime way that is hard to capture in words, particularly as it is born for the very first time. It is then that the very long haul suddenly seems not very long at all and surely worth the trials and errors of the journey.
The reward of not giving up on any pursuit that we truly long to experience is great. Those who never do anything that requires perseverance, determination, faith, optimism, diligence and commitment are perhaps unaware of what they are missing. And the people who work with and through the body end up with a very special reward, because getting to know the body that intimately also produces an abundance of other benefits in other realms. If it were up to me I would want everyone to have such an opportunity. Nothing else substitutes and nothing else is quite so rewarding.