Thursday, October 22, 2009

Please Fix My Voice!

Thursday evening musings, as I re-emerge into the land of the living out of the land of mucus and fever...hope everybody is looking after themselves out there!!

I've heard this line in some form or other repeatedly. "Please fix my voice", "I need to find somebody to fix my voice", "can you fix my voice?"

It occurred to me this week, in my fever-induced state (yes, I am still thinking about singing even then..) how this question, query and statement is actually standing in the way of the singer getting the help they need.

First and foremost - nobody can do the work, but YOU. The statement actually takes YOU the singer out of the equation and leaves you victim and makes the responsibility of success or failure, completely in the hands of somebody else. WRONG.

Your success, and your failure, is YOURS.

What needs "fixing"? You must determine that either by yourself, or with the help of someone with the authority and knowledge. Perhaps you aren't sure what needs work, but you know something isn't working! That is a start! When you are dealing with a specific concern, lead with that, in finding a teacher who can address if fully. You may find what you thought was a specificity is simply a by-product of something else that the teacher is privy to;

Do not ask for magic bullets, magical visualizations, immediate results! Be able to explain what you are dealing with as best you can, and ask for expertise to riddle it out and discover why and what to do now.

I always tell my students that THEY DO THE WORK. Their development and success is THEIRS. I am there to provide the eyes, ears and expertise to guide them, but I cannot do their work. They must develop the tools in which to translate and physicalize and make it muscular and technical behavior.

If you are looking for somebody to "fix" you - I can almost guarantee you, that will never happen. Even if you happen to meet somebody who could actually help, you won't realize the help, because you haven't learned to ask the right questions!!

Nobody can fix anything about you! YOU and ONLY YOU can do the work!!

By assuming somebody else can "fix" you leaves you open and vulnerable to wander from teacher to teacher aimlessly gaining frustration and losing time and money and the will to discover your voice!

What are you needing to "fix"? If you know, then you seek out the person that understands that and is willing to work WITH you to discover how to do just that. If you are wishy-washy and needy, you become your own victim. STOP THAT!!

Your voice is YOURS. You must claim it, and everything that comes with it; Including the good the bad and the ugly. You must be willing to see truly where you are to know how you got there and how you move forward into a more positive and usable instrument! Waiting for a "fix" is self-victimization, excuse-land and does not promote a mature forward moving artist!!

How do you fix your instrument? YOU CLAIM IT. IT IS YOURS!!! Quit pretending, and find out how it works! Find out what isn't working and why. And then get to work!!! The work begins with YOU and your discovery of self. Then it takes time to research and find a teacher that will work with you and recognizes your needs and frustrations. A teacher must be able to hear you where you stand and give you a solid appraisal with definite goals in mind. Life is too short for "Let's just sing and see what happens". Find somebody who HEARS you. Find somebody who CHALLENGES you to discover what you need and who will create a course of study that will EMPOWER you and give you knowledge and practical physical work to create the behavior for your instrument to behave!!

This is work. Finding the right teacher for that time isn't always easy. Nobody said it would be easy. If it is important to you, you will seize it and find it!

Then DO THE WORK. Whatever it takes, however long it takes. COMMIT TO IT if it is what is important to you.

By claiming the work, you claim the results. You cannot blame anybody, including yourself. You make CHOICES. You make a choice, you follow that choice to its logical end, and then see the results - or make another choice.

If you come to me and say "I need you to fix my voice" - I am going to hesitate, and may recommend a psychologist is more appropriate. If you come to me and say " I need to fix my voice - can you help me find the way? This is what I think is going on..." NOW we can WORK!

CLAIM IT ALL!!!! Let it lead you to the truth. Don't let your excuses misguide your discoveries. You find it, you fix it, you claim it!


  1. As someone with vocal problems (I liked to force my voice for years), I can relate to this. I have a couple professionals I am currently seeing but I have also tried to do a lot of hard work to fix the problems on my own.

    I think that seeking outside help is essential but I feel that seeking help without trying to understand the factors in play is just plain stupid. It is also not smart to assume that there will be a quick fix to long term bad muscle memory or that someone else is going to do the hard work. The hard work is something done every day.

    I have a high voice for a male and I was teased a lot. I had a lot of traits that made it worse and I have never been a masculine guy. Needless to say, I tried to force my voice down. Now, I have tons of muscle tension and other problems and I can't sing and I love to sing even if only for the joy of it. So, I am currently on my long road to recovery and it is hard work.

    It is made harder by the fact that I don't like everything about my voice and I am tempted to manipulate it. Being macho is no longer such a big deal, I am 30 and while I don't entirely know myself, I am who I am and an effeminite voice fits me. But my voice is not the same as other voices I grow up with and admire. It can be a very strange creature and being different has always been a hard burden for me.

    I know I will succeed at least in what I am trying to do at the moment. I don't know whether I will like the final destination. I don't always like myself. I feel like an inhuman freak far too often. I always want those people who I can talk to and just bear my soul without feeling ashamed. I would love to have people think that my voice was beautiful and worth hearing. I grew up with the worst criticisms leveled at my voice. I grew up with similiar criticims leveled at my person.

    For me, the hard part is twofold.. First, it is the gentle reminder in the form of pain concerning how I have used my voice. Second, it is learning not to be emotionally involved in something (my voice) that is very very precious to me. I never even trained to the extent that I was a good singer. But I love to sing for hours for no reason at all.. Music is precious to me.

  2. thanks Shaun! keep finding the answers!

  3. Completely 100% agree with this post. Too many singers only think about their technique in their lessons, and cede all control of their voice to whichever teacher their university assigned them. Then they float around, lost in a fog of vocal confusion when something goes wrong or it turns out that teacher wasn't right for them.

    what's more, even if the teacher IS right for you, you still have to do a lot of work on your own time! Practice, experiment with different sounds and approaches, challenge yourself with new information, and always be looking to expand upon your "technique".

    I'm launching a new website this weekend, a library of sorts for singers. It's the most complete digital library of operatic technique resources in the world, and it's called Bel Canto Forum. It has treatises from historic masters like Lamperti and Garcia, audio recordings of lessons with famous teachers like Melocchi, videos of masterclasses with great singers like Pavarotti, and even google books previews of the latest voice science literature. The library grows every day. The site also has an integrated discussion forum, where people can talk about the ideas from the literature. It even supports audio clips so singers can send each other examples.

    I have seen too many young singers who don't take ownership of developing their technique, and I hope that Bel Canto Forum can help fix that problem. I hope to encourage singers to learn about Bel Canto technique, and to challenge them to make their singing live up to the golden age of the mid-20th century.

    I think the site could be very useful for some of your readers and students. Actually, I believe that even the best singers can benefit from revisiting Lamperti... but at the very least, it's handy to have all those great technique resources in one place. And it wouldn't hurt to have a few 'real' voice teachers checking in on the forums from time to time. :)