Friday, September 4, 2009

So What Do I Sing? Vocal Physicality...

Friday looks like this is going to be the first of several in this series...

I look at the fall season as my "new year" - an opportunity to re-invent, to observe, to clear out, to re-focus...

Even though I consult with singers year-round, the fall often is a time to re-evaluate and re-discover and thus, a discussion like this seems appropriate...

Often I am asked "can I sing anything I want?"  The short answer is "sure", and my next question is "Why?" and  then the reality needs to intervene!!!

Let's be clear: if your technique is built well, your voice will be able to sing the notes of anything you choose!  HOWEVER, that doesn't make it a good idea!!!

Your voice is physical and it's athletic!  As singers, we must be willing and able to be realistic about what that physicality can do successfully.  If you want to pursue a career, you need to discover what that instrument can do,  and then what you need to do to continue to develop into the singer you choose to be within the best destiny of that instrument!

The physicality of the instrument determines much, but it also  takes time to fully discover.  Singing is not instant.  It is physical behavior and as it is muscular, it needs time to develop and work properly.  Just like going to the gym!!! One trip ain't gonna give you muscle definition or fat reduction!!!  No matter how much you want it, if you don't put in the time, it's just not happening!

The physical development of the voice and the athleticism it demands will take dedication, time, and consistent work and thought!

As the physicality of the instrument develops, the physicality will determine what the voice could be best suited for...

Not all voices are operatic voices, just like not all voices are R&B voices, or theatre voices, or jazz voices!  Some voices have the physicality to sing several genres, but some do not.  

Have the courage to discover WHAT YOU HAVE!!!  What you might want may not be reasonable.  Dare to be realistic and dare to be truthful with yourself.

Just because you want it, doesn't make it a good idea.

It is your responsibility to really discover and and BUILD that instrument!  Find out what it can do!  Find out what you need to do to build it, to develop it, to sustain it.  

Repertoire is simply notes on a page, until you have an instrument developed enough to lift those notes off the page and breathe life into it!  You will not know what notes to lift until the instrument has developed substantially enough to give you a true sense of what you can actually DO.

The vocal physicality of an instrument has to do with the mechanism and its development, with the shape of the resonators,  with the physical athleticism of the body, with the body's ability to suspend, to support, to elasticize, to create buoyancy, to develop intrinsic muscle groups as well as larger muscle be AWARE and to create physical behavior.

What can the instrument do in its natural state, and what is it capable of doing in its developed state? This is your goal - to determine by work and TIME and development WHAT YOUR VOICE CAN DO!!!

Often when we discover the TRUTH of our instrument, the reality of what to sing becomes much more acceptable responsibility!  

The truth of vocal physicality takes time, dedication, and focus.  It isn't going to suddenly "happen"! There is no "instant" in vocal physicality, no matter how badly you want it.

Knowing what to sing means you have to INVEST IN YOURSELF.  Invest in your body, your mind, your spirit, your study, your development!  Investment takes time - there is not instant gratification.  The gratification comes from knowing you are on a path of discovery that will lead you toward a recognition and understanding of what you are truly capable of, a truthful assessment of what could BE.

Dare to discover THAT.  


  1. I enjoy your enthusiasm.

    The road you suggest is probably the true best path and the path everyone should ultimately follow but as a beginner, it is a path that I find hard as I am sure many do.

    I guess I am blessed and cursed. I have one of those strange voices that really doesn't fit into one of the regular fachs. I am an unusually high tenor. So, I don't have any real idea what I will come out sounding like. I have places I would love to take my voice but no real idea what I can do with it. Starting out, I have no idea whether I will be the person who can't sing a full two octaves or the rare male who has more than two and half. I also have absolutely no idea where my tessitura will lie. I might have a really high voice and enjoy singing in the same tessitura as a regular high tenor or my tessitura might be really high. It is hard to say and it is a learning process.

    However, the more you talk to people, the more you realize that everyone in small ways deviates from the standard definitions of fach and everyone's voice is special. I might have a rare voice but that does not make my voice any better sounding than someone else's. Honestly, it probably just makes me a very acquired taste. Beauty is not in the range or type of the voice but in the quality of the voice and the way it is utilized.

    Learning to sing properly is painful. It is having to learn not to care what you sound like and just let the instrument be. It is about knowing that in order to sound good to others you might have to sound aweful to yourself and be willing to try new things and let others guide you while you slowly come to understand what they are trying to show you. It is a lot of trust with something that should be profoundly important to everyone. It is very easy to note that singing in a certain range or weight is painful but as a beginner, you don't really know your sound yet and you can't say "that is not me".

  2. thanks so much Shaun! Discovering and claiming one's voice has so many elements and facets and incarnations - it is a life-long journey! As we journey, we discover! And in the discovery, we claim! Take your time, take baby steps when you need'll get where you need to be!