10 Secrets that Guarantee Easy Singing
Warm up the voice before you sing. A true warm up is primarily about mental preparation to sing, not physical. It is a time when we get our mind set up ready to sing. during this warm up time, we are encouraging cell memory to be at the ready. The physical benefit is a by-product. Don't just make the sounds for the sake of it, think about why you are making the sounds and how the sounds are being produced as you seek freedom in vocal flow.
Pull, don’t push the sound. When Maestro Schuch Tovini first said “nicht schieben, sondern ziehen! Bitte!” I did not understand him. I went to a coffee shop and on the door were the words ziehen (pull) and schieben (push). My life as a singer changed forever. The Maestro was to repeat this advice in every session. Pull, don't push! All you need do is think about pulling your sound out instead of pushing it. Think it and the body responds. It’s the thought that counts not the effort.
Start the sound where it needs to reach, don’t force it there. Young voices are light but often impatient for power. The word projection is a dangerous word without greater explanation. Of itself, it suggests sending something from one point to another. Many singers force their voices to push their tone to reach the back of the room. Filling a room is much easier than that. Just think your energy can start at the back of the room. Think it and trust the thought process and the body will respond. You will fill the room and achieve projection but without force.
Sing in stereo. Think that your voice can start from the two back corners of the room and be pulled out beyond the room. Add the thought that you can start sound simultaneously from each side of your forehead pulling each side to both rear corners of the room and beyond the room. This requires a relaxed, spontaneous, trusting thought and a spontaneous start to the sound. You don't need to achieve it, just think it and trust a response from your body to the thought. Stereo thinking engages the diaphragm, opens and warms the tone. If you can master this mediative approach to vocal release, you will gravitate towards easy singing.
Be spontaneous! Schuch Tovini would often distract me in lessons with conversation then invite me to repeat something “sofort!” (Immediately). Without trying to get it right, I spontaneously opened the sound and there it was! Easy! If I tried to repeat the outcome it wouldn’t work. If I was spontaneous and trusting it would work with ease. The more you experience spontaneity, the more aware you become to its power. We have more capability than we think. Spontaneity and trust opens us to a greater capibilities.
Don’t make the body do anything! It’s the thought that counts when it comes to easy singing but it’s got to be the right thought and this must be learned. The thought comes first and the physical responds. Athletes call this being in the zone. My earlier teachers taught me about diaphragm and breathing and anchoring and diction. In hindsight, I now see how constrictive that methodology was for me. Maestro Schuch Tovini did not mention the diaphragm until 9 months after I started with him and when I asked about it he would raise a finger to his lips to shush me. When he did discuss the diaphragm it was not as a tool but as an afterthought. "See what the diaphragm can do in response to your thinking," was the message. By this time I could see that when my thinking was right, I noticed the greatest activity in the body. The diaphragm was responding to my thought process. I was not trying to make the diaphragm work for me. I then came to understand that “trying” to achieve better singing by “making’ the body work was a bad singing experience. By thinking the pulling out of sound, being patient and allowing vocal energy to flow out of me freely, my diaphragm was engaging as it naturally should and with unrestricted power even though it felt very light. This discovery was the beginning of understand how what I have come to teach my philosophy "don't sing, be sung."
Don’t try! Let go of the voice and let it be what it can be. This is where every singers buried treasure lies. If the brain is distracted with ‘trying’ then spontaneity is impossible. The right thought process triggers natural bodily responses that produce easy singing and which in turn develops cell memory.
I was told by teachers before Maestro Schuch-Tovini, “you need to let go!” No-one taught me how but my work with Schuch-Tovini showed me how. It is the most powerful gift I have been able to share singers, how to let go of the voice. Caretaking, observing, not trying, accepting your voice at any given time and patience are the keys to letting go and easy singing. We try because we don’t believe we are good enough. Find yourself as a singer, find your natural gift and you will unleash capabilities you never expected would be possible.
Diction is poison! Blasphemy they cry out. Not so. But it is the truth. We must clearly hear the words being sung but the over emphasis on vowels leads to so many problems for so many singers. Vowel assimilation is a key! Many teachers and choir masters force clearer diction which destroys many young voices. Overdone diction forces vowels and consonants to sit in the breath, not on the breath. Try something here. Speak a phrase emphasising with great clarity each syllable of every word. You will notice if you are looking for it (which most people do not) that the words feel central to the face about the level of the mouth or upper lip. Now think that you come from a strange planet where people speak with their vowels and consonants drawn wide and apart from the centre and pulled out of their faces through their foreheads. Play-act a little. Have some fun with it. Let this thinking happen as you speak and you will see a difference. The diction becomes seemingly sloppier. Make sure you are pulling the sound out as you do this. When speaking apart in this way, the words might feel too loose and not understandable. If done to the max, the sound can be very similar to a person with severe cerebral palsy trying to make him or herself understood. When we open to sing in this way, the diaphragm engages spontaneously and clearer as the diction is suddenly carried "on the breath" and not held in the breath. Words are clear for the audience but might at first feel strange to the singer. No vowel is pure when you sing. Each vowel takes something from the vowel before it and gives to the one coming after it. They are constantly assimilating. To achieve the benefit of this process quickly, it is best to approach the process by freeing the vowels so much that they are virtually unclear and easing back to a point of clarity. This can be embarrassing for most. Embarrassment does not belong in the entertainment world. Ultimately you will reach a point of balance on breath. The consonants provide the links or stepping stones which you “get off’ as quickly as you can to allow each vowel its full measure.
Singing in the nose is better than singing in the throat. Many teachers object so much to nasal singing that the singer backs out of the nose. Easy singing engages 100% leaning on the diaphragm (not down but allowing the diaphragm to send our voice up. The diaphragm rises as it does its work.) If we don't engage the diaphragm fully we lean to varying degrees on the throat and or into the nose. When releasing the voice from the throat a singer will first go into the nose. This is good and should be encouraged. Singing in the nose is a step toward freedom. How we open the nose then is the key. Open nose is the secret to Bel Canto. Think of an hour glass. An upturned chalice at the bottom, a narrow passage through to a chalice at the top. We have a similar shaping on our faces. Look at your face in the mirror and notice "your hour glass." The crease lines from the base of your nose form the bottom part of your hour glass. Your nose from nostrils to just below the eyes is the centre shaft of your hour glass, the narrow passage through. Then see the line that flows from each side of the upper part of your nose curving across to and including your eyebrows and the forehead space above. This is the upper part of the hour glass, your forehead or “die schaedel Gesicht.” (bones of the face) as Schuch-Tovini would call it. It is in the bones of the face (The Mask: Italian description) that we resonate. The core of our learning to sing easy is by opening the nose to the bones of the face. The best singing with the most resonant tones is open nose singing. Use the nose to your advantage.
Don’t Sing be Sung, the X + Y Factor. When we go to singing lessons we bring our habits with us. Think of yourself as a resonator not as a singer. Learn to resonate and let the singing take care of itself. Concentrate on what I call our individual X + Y factor. X+Y = singing. When we stray onto the singing side of the equation (which is for the audience) we try, we get embarrassed, we lose trust, we worry..... we sing poorly and without freedom. When we remain focused on thinking the right thoughts and letting the body respond and watching and learning more about what the body is doing in response to our thinking, then we have the potential to maximise our physical capability beyond expectation. In taking this approach we can learn how to learn how to sing and become our own teacher.
The ultimate goal is to pull our sound up, over and out. This is not something we can force. There are a myriad of anatomical body parts and nerves and cells that we activate during singing. If we come to understand our X + Y factor and stay focused on that then the outcome becomes easier because we create a state of mind that allows those myriad of body parts to do their natural job without our inept or presumptuous interference. The ultimate “in the zone” experience is when the up, over and out becomes one thought for every syllable and this is “the ultimate” way to singing easy.
It’s the learning how to get to this place that can be hard but so worth the journey.
© 2000 by Brian Gilbertson