The Natural Way
The title of this article might intrigue some readers, and rightfully so. Most singers don’t think of singing as a natural thing. The way they go about it, I’m not surprised. Singing for most people involve such things as straining, pushing, forcing, screaming, etc. But the wonderful thing is that they still keep at it, day after day, year after year. Well, if you’re one of these people, and you’re tired of it, allow me to guide you to another side of the coin. Follow me..
One thing interesting about people who sing forcefully is that when they speak, they are mostly relaxed. They might use higher pitches when they talk about an interesting topic, they might use lower notes when they talk about something sad, but all without the straining and forcing that they do when singing.
This is very intriguing (at least for me) because people don’t have two separate vocal chords. There’s no such thing as the singing chord and the speaking chord. Both effects are produce by the same instrument in the throat. So where does the separation come from? The only plausible answer is the mind.
The difference is painfully obvious. Some people have such a pleasant speaking voice but when they start to sing, the audience feels the effort involved in the mere producing of the sounds, and that’s not really what they paid for. What the audience wants to hear is the message in the piece, not the inadequacies of the artist.
So how do we get around the problem? The answer is in how we view singing. Instead of seeing it as something we need to rush through and achieve as an adult, why not look at it from the eyes of a newborn? Let’s say you were born yesterday, and the whole world communicates by singing first, talking second. What would you learn first? Maybe a note, and then a phrase, and then a whole line and so on and so forth.
I’m not suggesting you do just that (although I’m beginning to think it might be a good Idea =)) but that might be a good approach to take. My experience has been that singing is a bunch of things that build upon itself. It’s very similar to talking. When we were learning to talk, nobody forced us to learn complicated words, long and complex sentences, how to talk fast, and all those things. We were taught how to communicate first and foremost. Learn enough stuff that we may be able to express ourselves adequately to get the things we need from others.
The natural way of singing should take on a similar view. We should be able to express ourselves in the simplest way first, as long as we can get our feelings across. We shouldn’t be coaxed into believing that singing high notes make us look better, that singing on key is a must, that we need to get it perfect right off the bat. We need to be more forgiving of ourselves and of the fact that we haven’t really been practicing singing as much as we do talking.
So here are some pointers to start you off on the right track:
1) No pain – this is crucial. If anyone ever tells you no pain, no gain, do me a favour and administer some pain to his/her butt area using your best trekking boots. This does not go well with the vocal chords, and pretty soon you won’t have any if you keep this up. Once anything you try becomes painful, stop. There’s a reason why the pros can sustain high notes for 2-hour concerts, and it’s not because they are immune to pain.
2) Start small – this follows up from the previous point. What if you want to progress to a higher register? Isn’t that necessary pain? No. And double no. If you are exploring higher registers start small. Start with pure head voice first, with no connection. Then try to compress the voice just a teeny bit, to introduce the connection. Then build up from there. Pretty soon, you will have a crisp, clear belted out voice that can go very high if you want it to. But start small.
3) Repeat – this is common sense. The logic works thusly: how many years have you been using your voice as a speech tool? Compare that to the time you’ve used the voice as a musical instrument. You’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and you know it! So start now! Sing in the car, in the shower, wherever and whenever you can find the time and the place. Practice to the point where you can wake up first thing in the morning and produce all the notes that you want.
That’s all there is to it. Seriously. This is the only thing you need to do daily, and by the end of 1-2 years you would have mastered singing in the way that you want to express yourself. That’s all for now, and happy singing!