Sunday, October 23, 2011

How large is your range?

Sunday musings...

(still healing - keep those positive thoughts, prayers and energy heading my way!!! I feel it!)

When a "singer" feels the first thing they need to tell you is "I have a 3 1/2 octave range" or "I have a 4 octave range" my reaction is either "So?" to the first and "Really?" to the second.

Leading with your range SCREAMS amateur.  Lack of knowledge of what is truly important in the physicality of the voice.

A range that grunts at the bottom and squeaks at the top isn't range.  It isn't singing.

Most singers who lead with that simply have not learned enough about singing to understand just because you kinda sorta wanna "hit" that note,  doesn't mean you can, and doesn't mean it's a good idea.

The middle voice is so crucial in the true development of the voice.  This establishes a balance in the resonance to then allow the extensions - however large or small - to reveal themselves fully so that the ENTIRE range is resonance, vital and vibrant.

That range needs to be accessible.  Fully.  However,  it doesn't mean you want to use it all the time!  Where are you comfortable?  What tessitura shows YOU off the best?  Where does the voice balance most comfortably for the longest period of time?

Just because you have a high C doesn't make it a good idea to live up there.  Just because you have a low E doesn't mean you can project that over and over comfortably over the course of a show!

Range is irrelevant if you don't have balance of resonance anywhere.  Range is irrelevant if the voice is not balanced from the centre out.  If you stay in the extremes too long, the centre begins to develop inconsistencies. 

I know, especially in theatre,  singers are often asked what their range is.  This is a stupid question frankly. It doesn't give the answer that is truly needed. How should you answer it?  Give your range and then follow up with the part of the voice that you KNOW you can balance and sing in all day and never get tired.  Find your comfort zone and live there!  Acknowledge that,  nurture it and live there to allow for more!

Of course there are roles that need extreme.  OF COURSE.  So obviously if your range does not access that physically,  beating on it isn't going to coax it in!!  Until you truly find a balanced middle, you often cannot say with certainty what will happen to be able to access those extremes.

If you know that the "range" of a role is X to Z  and the majority of the time the character sits in a certain tessitura that is YOUR comfort zone,  THAT is more key!  Then it's about timbre, weight, and all those other things that DEFINE a voice.

So, bragging about having a 4 octave range means NOTHING if you can't SING it!  Sadly, most that brag about it, can't actually do it.  I know many mezzos who have high notes, so?  And many tenors who can sound like a baritone, so? If the mezzos don't live in their comfort zone,  if the tenors aren't comfortable where the tenor voice is most accessible,  it simply doesn't matter.  Range is irrelevant if you can't LIVE vocally where you need to, in order to perform the task at hand.

Many coloraturas have chest voice and can vocalize under the staff - but that's not what defines their voice type and if they stayed down there they would tire out so quickly! 

Range is less important that a solid, balanced and vibrant middle and a knowledge of the tessitura you can live in ALL DAY.

Lead with the reality of that.  Claim it. Own it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What is your definition of success?

Sunday musings on my "jammie day"!

Lead a Music Theatre Audition Process class yesterday in NYC.  First - what an amazing group of talented souls!  It energized me and gave me hope for our business.

I began thinking about "success" and what it means as I drove home.  The many definitions of success.

What does "being successful" mean to you as a singer, as a performer, as an artist?

Often we look to outside markers to determine our success.  I encourage you to begin to create your OWN markers.  Your internal decision of how you measure YOUR success is no one's but yours.  Measuring up to/comparing to is going to automatically dismiss you - we simply cannot be compared with someone else's path.

Each path is unique;  each artist/singer/performer is unique;  thus, each definition of success has to be unique and purely personal.

Perhaps this is what we get afraid of.  That personal responsibility and dedication to our own individual and unique definition of success.  You simply cannot make excuses for it, or for the lack of it.  You cannot compare it,  you cannot quantify it.

In class yesterday,  one of the things I felt was necessary to talk about is about PROCESS and PRESENCE.  How AWARE are you in your moment?  Aware of being, doing, deciding, responding, sensing- all those things that keep you present and in the moment of what you are actually EXPERIENCING in the NOW! 

There is great success from the work of NOW - whether it be an audition,  building craft,  embracing artistry,  being YOU.

Perhaps something I am beginning to realize is that the differences between 'success' being far off into the future, esoteric and exhausting and the 'success' of being in the moment, and aware of the process as one walks, runs, skips and rests doing it.

Your success is what you discover, what you embrace,  what you discard,  what you walk toward and what you walk away from.  Your success, ultimately, is about your DECISION.  It is ACTION,  it is NOW, it is REAL.

And true success simply relies on YOU to make a decision.  The decision doesn't make YOU.

Saying "One day I will be successful" almost sets you up for failure!  What are you doing NOW?  Waiting for what?!  Success is in the NOW. Why?  cause that's all we have. 

Perhaps instead of searching for success,  we have to begin defining it and allowing success to FOLLOW us.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Having a Voice doesn't Make you a SINGER!

Sunday musings...

We have all experienced it: a performance that seems flawless vocally but doesn't move us, nor do we take the experience away with us.

On the flip side, a performance that IS flawed perhaps,  maybe a voice that hasn't developed completely, has issues, or a voice that is simply not an athletic animal,  and yet the performance is VIVID.  We are moved, we are changed.  We never forget it.

It doesn't matter the genre,  the voice doesn't make you a singer.  The voice is a tool - a very important one - but the communication and narrative is so much more than that.

Once we allow ourselves to SING,  the voice will follow.  The demand on perfecting your technique,  the demand of "not being ready yet", the demand, the demand, begins to lift,  and the reality of what you are ABLE TO DO can be claimed.

Singing - and BEING a singer uses the voice as a vehicle.  But what fills that vehicle?  Technique only?  Physicality only?  Athleticism only?  I have heard some voices that are athletic animals and certainly make a great deal of impressive sound - but no music.  No singing.

Discovering the voice - its faults, its growth, its imperfections, its flaws - is crucial to recognizing where you are in your technical development and simply where you are in the development of the vocal body.  These discoveries,  wins and losses are about the vehicle.  They are never going to be perfect.  However, those physical discoveries are important to explore in order to find out what you CAN do, and simply what you can't.  This work happens in the studio,  in private.  This is not singing yet in the larger sense. 

The SINGER lives.  Experiences.  Discovers.  The SINGER doesn't spend 23 hours in the practice room and never experiences life.  The SINGER knows how to LIVE.  The SINGER experiences laughter, pain, loss,  anguish,  joy.  The SINGER knows what passion is.  The SINGER embraces the road map and lets it lead.  Scars are simply part of the fabric.  Passion and compassion, laughter and tears, fear and joy are complimentary to the singer.  They are integrated and woven into the fabric of the life the singer embraces and acknowledges and breathes each day.

The voice is a life force that is generated by that experience.  It is not important to be perfect.  It is important to DISCOVER.  It is not important to be flawless.  It is important to accept the flaws.  Every flaw has a story and a uniqueness that is YOU.  It is not to be hidden away.  It should be drawn out to see if it can be used to further the narrative or not.

If a singer discovers a voice - the voice is a vehicle of narrative, of passion, of anguish, of whatever the music demands it to do.   The singer can allow the ego to release and the song to be sung.  These are the performances that are riveting and remembered.  The voice can be flawed and no one remembers that.  Why?  Because the singer is aware of the fully integrated performance and what they are there to DO.  The audience is taken on a journey and will remember how it made them FEEL.

We work in the studio on what we cannot do yet.  We LIVE as singers.  We lead with the integration of life in our work and in our sound.  We do not hide away until it is perfect.  Perfect will never arrive.  Perfect has no place in our world.  A singer in progress who dedicates themselves the life of a song and wants to SAY something through it,  commits to the narrative and never lets go finds a glimmer of truth that the audience can absorb and be changed by.

Study yes!  Learn and discover about the voice,  but remember it is a vehicle that is highly motivated to absorb more than a physicality.  It can absorb TRUTH through living and release that passion through true singing.

My dad used to say "boredom comes from within".  If the voice is boring to an audience,  I wonder why? Could it be that boredom is projected? Something to think about...