Singers spend a lot of time listening to our own voices. In the best of…
In the pursuit of good singing, we learn many useful things.
Ideally, we learn to breathe efficiently for voice use, and the sensations of flow. We learn to phonate with gentle, complete glottal closures, and the efficiencies of onset. And, we practice articulation in order to bring context to our sounds. There is, of course, more and much more nuance but those are the broad strokes.
What we sometimes miss in all that technical practice is why the voice is what it is.
The thyroarytenoid muscles, the primary structure of the vocal folds, have many survival functions before they get to making sound for communication. In the same way that we cannot beat our own heart, those survival functions cannot be subverted by our intellect (thank goodness). What makes the voice special is that its raison d’être isn’t survival but expression.
Intention becomes impulse, impulse becomes voice.
The voice is most efficient when it is an expression of what we are feeling. There has to be a point — Something specific must be expressed to these specific people at this moment. It is at its best when your singing is spontaneous and unique in every expression. This is admittedly a challenge when you are trying to line up all the technical balls while singing specific pitches, rhythms, and words that are set.
So how do we do this?
The answer begins in your practice. Technique practice is at its best when you are clear on what you are developing and how. You have to know why you are practicing certain exercises, what they are designed to do, and what sensations you might expect. Practice should be specific and focused on tangible technical goals. And, you should seek to express an intention to practice efficiency. You might express curiosity about what your voice does. Or kindness as your voice encounters limitations. However, if what you have to express is frustration, then flow frustration. If you are sad, flow sadness. The point is to master your instrument on its terms and the voice lives in your feelings.
The learning of pitches, rhythms, and words is ideally a separate process that also requires focus. Once you have learned said pitches, rhythms, and words, you can blend them with your technique and adapt them into your current technical reality. As you bring it all together the feelings you are expressing change. The music gives you an additional emotional context to express. That expression can live concurrently with what you, the human singing, need to express.
The invitation today is to invite expression to your practice. Remember that you are not just an instrument that needs to be tuned and honed. Your human voice resides in your glorious human body and in your glorious human experience. That is something I want to hear more of.
Gina Razón is the principal voice specialist at GROW Voice LLC, a full-service voice and speech studio in Boston’s Back Bay. She has over 18 years of experience both as a teacher of voice and speech, and a voraciously curious voice user. Gina has worked professionally as a classical singer for over a decade and more recently as a professional public speaker. For more information on the studio or to book Gina visit www.growvoice.com.