photo by Intel Free Press
I realised whilst teaching that all the singers had the necessary knowledge already, it was simply a matter of reminding them to put it into practice. I’ll explain what I mean.
Most singers feel that they could benefit from singing lessons. They feel that they need help to find the right vocal technique in order to sound better or to be able to sustain their breath longer or to sing without ending up with a sore throat.
In my experience, most singers already know how to sing well and in an effortless manner, but just forget to put it into practice.
Of course, if you find that your throat hurts during or after singing, or you find yourself getting very tired and muscles start to ache, then you need some outside assistance to get you back on track (see Your singing voice: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!).
I began my workshop with a series of gentle exercises to stretch and relax the body, to help people find a stable, relaxed and balanced posture for singing, and to ease the voice into action. Pretty soon people were making a beautiful, rich, unforced sound.
But then we started to work on repertoire and things didn’t sound quite so nice: chins were pointing up in the air, shoulders were stiffening and heading towards ears, frowns were appearing and voices sounded forced and tight.
So I stopped the song and said “Close your eyes and check in with yourself”. Then we began the song again and it sounded effortless.
I hadn’t done anything, it was the singers. I just reminded them to take a moment and check their posture, breathing, balance, etc. which they did quickly and easily.
Several times during the workshop I had to remind people to check in with themselves.
Why did I have to do that?
Because people had started thinking (see The curse of confusion: why thinking is bad for singing).
Instead of just singing the song in the easiest way possible, people had stopped being in the moment and were thinking about something else:
- What are the words to the next verse?
- Did I get that last note right?
- Will I have enough breath to get through the next phrase?
- Is the person next to me singing something different to me?
- Is it hot in here or is it just me?
- Are my shoulders relaxed?
- I wonder what’s for tea?
There’s a fine balance between being in the moment of the song and being aware of your body. You need to check in with yourself regularly and be aware when you’re tightening up or your posture is bad, but you don’t want that to interfere with your singing.
It needn’t take long: a quick check in with yourself, a slight alteration of posture and back to the song. Soon it will become automatic and the need to adjust posture, etc. will be needed less.
So think as much as you like in rehearsals and warm ups. Try to understand what your teacher or musical director is telling you. Think hard about the structure of the song and where you come in. But as soon as you are performing or singing the song in its entirety, forget all of that and just sing! (see also When you sing, forget everything you’ve ever learnt)