What should I sound like? What vocal technique works best for me?
If you struggle to understand vocal technique these questions always arise, yet the answers remain the same:
You and Yours.
The most important question a singer can ask is not how to find their own sound, but how they may be standing in the way of it. From here we can explore a new path toward the art of authenticity and the genius of genuine music making.
Working through a vocal identity crisis can be daunting but a three step path awaits to lead you to an authentic sound: Catalyst, Catharsis and Calibration. Each step is built with the intention of bringing us closer to Clarity in our singing voices.
A Catalyst is anything effecting a change quickly, suddenly and often with surprising results. As a voice teacher I have seen this change most effectively while working with the breath. However, simply talking and experimenting with breath control is not enough. We must go deeper. We must listen to the voices of the past. Beyond historical recording or the echo of your voice teacher’s examples there are voices in our past holding us back or in need of reemerging in our sound.
When my father died I lost my voice. His was my voice of reason and I could no longer hear it. It took me several months to rehabilitate myself wherein I realized my father was gone but his voice was not. Within me and part of a new vocal landscape I was exploring his voice became one needing to be infused into mine. As I accepted him into my vocal legacy, all of his joy and pain, my voice was liberated, freer and filled with a deeper resonance than before. For we who struggle to find our authentic sound the voices of the past may inhibit or set us free. Allow your breath to act as a cataylst and as you attempt Practice #1 feel what changes may occur.
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Practice 1: Here we strive to find the word or phrase that connects us to a voice from our past. With one hand resting on your solar plexus and the other along the small of the back start to breathe evenly and freely. Close your eyes and start to imagine a vocal influence from your past: a teacher, a parent, a friend, a lover. What did they do to your voice? Did they help build it or tear it down? How does their memory affect your breathing? As you continue to breathe allow yourself to call out the word or phrase you need them to hear. These sounds link you to your past. Are they weak or strong, breathy or firey? Look for links between these vowels and the ones you struggle with in your singing. Step one: decide- is this vocal influence one I will release or embrace? Remember: you are the leader of your own voice. Step two: call out to your future self. Once we set into motion the Cataylst of breath vocal change is within our grasp. Using visualization we can call out to our future selves: a future voice who successfully navigated technical issues and communicates freely and efficiently. With your mind’s ear imagine not only what this voice sounds like, but what words of wisdom they may hold for you. They will act as a catharsis for your voice.
Practice 2: with your hands still in place allow the mouth to close gently and begin to hum, exposing your entire vocal range. Continue to hum and imagine your future voice communicating with you: what does it say about where you are now? Who does it want you to become? As you reach areas of strain or passaggi in your hum allow the breaks to show. Does your future self say something about navigating these treacherous areas? Is there more ease because you know there will be?
Continue to hum for two minutes and open yourself to wisdom from your future voice.
Last, allow this present moment to be one of vocal Calibration. Our mission is to calibrate the joy, pain and volatility of the past with the grounded maturity of the future self. This is where we resonate and communicate with Clarity.
Practice 3: Use a recording to allow yourself insight about your progress. Sing a musical phrase and listen back: are there sounds or old ideas linked to a voice from the past that need to be changed? Do sounds from your future self come forward? The vowels that resonate are our “power vowels.” Use them as a guidepost for those that are still in progress, or that may be tied to a past vocal self.
Enjoy your vocal journey!