Friday, February 5, 2010

Singing for the Room...

A Friday night musing...

On the suggestion of Joy Dewing, Casting Director for Clemmons Casting NYC, thank you Joy!

What is singing for the room/in the room while auditioning?

First and foremost you need to know your voice and have studied to know what to DO in the room. If you don't - you have no business being there.

You have no idea sometime what the room will give you or what it will take away. It's nobody's fault, it just is.

So, knowing how your voice resonates in your own body and how it FEELS when it is balanced, will allow you an opportunity to walk into ANY space and read it properly.

Voice is about mixture and balance and motion. It has to find that mixture and balance and motion in the body first, not in the room. If you don't know how to FEEL your voice fully and recognize the sensation of balanced physicality and athleticism you will never read a room correctly. That means you will over-expose, under-expose, push or pull back and not even realize it is an issue!

First and foremost you must study so you KNOW your voice and what it does, what it can do, what you are expecting it to you. Voice is vibration and muscle and breath. It NEEDS a physicality to live in first and foremost - and that is YOUR body. You are your own acoustic first. Resonance is what carries your voice - not loud. Not big. RESONANCE. You BUILD that by practice and knowledge and study.

Most of the time, if you are aware of the SENSATION of your voice, you can trust that is enough in an audition space. This takes PRACTICE. Auditions can cause anxiety and in anxious moments, we have a tendency to push. The voice is then pushed and the breath held. When this happens, the reverse happens - the voice STOPS. And then we begin the horrid crash and burn and "cack 22" because the more we push the more the voice stops. Nothing works.

This can also happen in a room where there is no air and it dead. We give more and in fact, it pulls everything out of alignment. When the alignment is misguided, the voice literally suffers and falls away.

On the other extreme, when a room is too loud, we hold back. Again, the breath disappears, the muscles tighten and the voice disappears.

So what do we do????

First, do you know your voice? I mean REALLY??? If you don't know how your voice FEELS when it is balanced, you will never be successful in an audition space. Your physicality must be your own recital hall first and foremost in order to walk into another space to extend that.

Consciousness of the extended space of your body - the room you are in - is crucial - but it is an EXTENSION not a primary space. Your primary space is YOU. If you can embody that, chances are you can begin to allow the room you are in to enhance you, or not get in the way, depending on the air in that room!

You can always tell amateur singers from more enlightened singers by how they respond to a room after an audition. Amateurs blame the room. Enlightened singer recognize the pros and cons and still do their work. Amateurs don't get it. Enlightened singers make it work because they CAN!

So how do you EMBRACE the room, no matter the acoustic?


Be in the moment when you walk in, and while you are in the room. PAY ATTENTION to your surroundings. What kind of room are you walking into? Ceiling height? what's on the floor? What's on the walls? Is it absorbing or is it reflecting? NOTICE IT.

SPEAK IN THE ROOM. DO NOT RUSH. Support that speaking voice and feel it. How does it move in that space? PAY ATTENTION!

In a perfect world, a room will allow you to sing. Good luck with that. (except for my new studio!)

So, this means you must KNOW your voice. You must know what your voice NEEDS and what it REQUIRES in any particular space.

If a room is dead - what do you need to do as a singer? YOU DO NOT PUSH. YOU DO NOT SING LOUDER. This is not balance, and this is not resonance and this will not travel. You need alignment, more athletic breath, brighter vowels and more internal space. You need to feel your physical language in your physical space. Often it will feel like it is moving in slow motion. Diphthongs/triphthongs will turn more slowly but will carry in real time. TRUST WHAT YOU FEEL and what you are trying to DO. Quit listening and DO! You will FEEL delay. It's okay. It is the delay in your ear that gives you balance in the room.

If a room is too live - you need to stay in your physical acoustic. You won't need to work hard above the staff if you are a soprano or tenor; You won't need to modify as vehemently as a baritone or mezzo; You probably won't need to modify or open at passaggio or certainly above the staff. Belters can back off intensity and create an even more compact fundamental. Everything will turn quickly so it will feel as if you are ahead of be in the moment and don't anticipate. Don't try to change dynamic. Trust the balance of resonance and the quick and live response to give you nuance.

Practice in different spaces to find your balance in these spaces. Record yourself. Those of us who are more experienced can find these shifts more quickly, but if you are still finding the truth of your voice, it is important to discover how your voice functions in its totality and within different spaces.

This is part of study and discovery.

When in doubt, trust how your voice feels. If you don't know how it feels, you haven't developed it enough, nor have you worked it enough to recognize its signature.

It takes time and experience and craft and technique to discover a room in the process. Knowing your voice first and foremost gives you a template and a beginning. Knowing the difference between the sensation and what you hear with your ears is a start. Knowing the difference between hearing your fundamental and FEELING it is a start.

When you TAKE a room, it means ALL things to your instrument. It is simply an extension - good, bad or indifferent. The technical behavior will need to be in place for you to truly use the room to your advantage and not a crutch.

If you have no idea what I am saying - then the FIRST thing is to get thee to a teacher who will introduce you to the truth of your voice and help you develop it into a working knowledge of craft and behavior.

Otherwise - it's just a crap shoot. If you don't know how to make the room work FOR you, how can they expect you to make the theatre work night after night?

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