Voice First, Everything Else After

If the body is a hologram (and it is), then working with any part of it changes every part of it, whether that change is perceived or not. Of course, that idea can be expanded to include the universe, and certainly the globe. If any part of it is unhealthy, we all suffer for that.

Does it matter if you work to make someone really emotionally comfortable  making any and all kinds of vocal sound or you get comfortable after you make the sounds because you get used to them? No. Can we begin with work on the voice before we do other things? Yes. Do we start some other place? Maybe. Like everything else, it depends on where we are going.

Much depends on what kind of singing you do. If you only know the voice through speech, even if that speech is excellent, you don’t have the same experience as someone who knows the voice through singing.  Professional level singing requires more control over the voiced sound than speech. All singers can speak but not all speakers can sing. Said another way, singing includes speech but you can’t reverse that statement. While sophisticated, controlled speech,  is very demanding and takes work to perfect, the randomness of expression allows for greater freedom than singing in terms of “correctness” and therefore, less precision as well.

Singing mostly asks for some kind of vibrato. Singing can be up to three times broader in terms of range and four times as loud and typically, in terms of duration, a sung phrase lasts longer than a spoken phrase. Breaths and pitches have to be done deliberately rather than  at random, and pronunciation is often clearer in singing. Further, intonation accuracy isn’t something a speaker ever has to worry about and it is a significant concern of singers. Register change is also almost non-existant as a concern in speech but a very important part of successful singing.

A balanced sound allows for the greatest amount of responsiveness in the vocal mechanism. What is a balanced sound? One in which there are two registers, seamlessly connected through the area where the register converge, and one in which all vowel sounds are as naturally produced as possible, and which allows the sounds to be louder, softer, “brighter” or “darker” and consonants to be articulated without fuss. It also allows breathing to happen with very little effort, provided the body posture allows for that.

Acting is NOT a substitute for vocal skill. Being a really excellent actor who speaks very well does not automatically set you up to do the things that singing requires. The idea that you can “commit” to a choice that will propel you enough to “sing authentically” is faulty. It is only through singing training, aimed at musical goals, that singing can be coupled with vocal efficiency, stamina, demand, and style. And if you do not know the difference between musical vocal function for its own sake and free dynamic speech, you shouldn’t be teaching singing. What brings out the uniqueness and the humanity of a voice is a combination of all these things and it matters, quite a bit actually, that all people who deal with voice understand these differences.

No matter what you work on, at some point you will need to work on the path to the end product you desire. Practicing Shakespeare will not prepare you for a play by Harold Pinter. Singing Un Bel Di will not prepare you to sing Cherokee. Singing Joanie Mitchell’s River will not prepare you to sing An Die Musik. You can be as emotionally free and as willing as possible to use your voice in any and all manner of sounds, and have great connection to your breath and body. You can be very clear about what you want to communicate through music and lyrics, but none of this will prepare you to deliver the end product you seek on its own. Only working on that end product to get what you want out of it will take you there. Don’t confuse these things or you will get lost.

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2 thoughts on “Voice First, Everything Else After”

  1. I honestly had no idea what this blog was about. Could you please put in layman english as reading this blog was like trying to decipher the Di Vinci Code

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