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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Your Voice: Instrument or Not?

(I think this is a very good article for people who use their voice for any impactive task or hobby...)

The voice is NOT an instrument!

by   , 02-21-2012 at 04:47 PM (587 Views)
I’m having voice lessons again. Not singing lessons – I’ve done my share of them and they never really suited me. I’m finally starting to realise why. I’ve signed up for 10 two hour lessons in a group session and thought I’d write down my thoughts, to try to remember stuff and make better use of it all… I thought it was pretty interesting so am posting it out just in case anyone else finds it interesting too.. 

The tutor is Sylvia Rands, a ‘voice work’ coach. Her work is a sort of fusion of several vocal theorists, a key one being - Kirstin Linklater - Kristin Linklater - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia who wrote “Freeing the Natural Voice” (which I’ve ordered from the library!) There were 6 of us at last night’s class and I was the only ‘singer’, all the rest were actors, wanting to maximise their voices. They’re an ‘out there’ sort of bunch, not afraid to make the weird noises required.

One of Sylvia’s first questions was “So is the voice an instrument?”
Yes of course – thinks me – conscious of striving for better control of breath, pitch, dynamics.... all that mechanical stuff.
Wrong! The voice is YOU... Ooopsy,  I’d forgotten that.
Yes, it is all that mechanical body stuff, but beyond that, the voice is an expression of who you are. So it is MORE than an instrument.
Hmm, this goes some way to explaining the different dynamics audio engineers talk about when they are working with singers.

So how do we open up the voice to its fuller potential?
Based on the 4 elements of breath, toning, range and articulation... we started off by breathing out low and deep, making cool deep gravelly grunty sounds... It’s all to do with opening your mouth REALLY wide, hanging that jaw down as far as it will go. We ‘played’ with our voices... swooped up high, snatching high freq notes out of the air and diving down to that old bass HAH sound... heh heh, hard to describe but very strange noises. The first breathy notes are described as ‘grey’.. heaps of singers just use that grey sound... sort of ‘fluffy’ (?) whereas a true note is described as ‘black’ – it is clearer and more directly pitched... hmmm am I making any sense here at all?? 

A key trick with effective vocal work, is to co-opt your body in to do most of the work. If you sing with your whole body, it is relatively effortless. You can sure hear the difference. Sing a note with just your throat/larynx and you can make a cool sound, but standing staunch with your legs ever so slightly squat, using your breath and really ‘feeling’ the sound through your whole body – wow – it has a whole new level of richness and power.

So we started playing around with our jaws, feeling around the face, working out how the wiggly bits fit in together and where all the tension sat. Open your mouth really REALLY wide and feel how it all works. You watch how the really cool singers work – their mouths go wide. I was watching Annie Lennox the other day, she has one relaxed jaw! So, a relaxed jaw is critical... you mouth-breathe and drop that jaw down to your boot and practice saying some Hah! Hah! stuff deep down low…

Well… that’s a truncated version of a hefty two hours…
This morning, my jaw feels punched... It makes these weird sort of graunching noises when I open it… yikes!
Next week we are diving into vocal sounds – vibrato and brilliance.
‘Brilliance’ is a cool term, it describes that glittering quality that can come through at times, a sort of vocal sheen…..
Happy to share more – let me know if it’s of any interest, or just my own strange little noisy journey.

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