The other day, as I was working with a student of mine, I began addressing an issue of tension within their voice. With dynamic singers, quite often the case is an overly anxious habit of building volume by pulling it from wherever they can in efforts to dramatize their sound. This almost always results in an eventual if not immediate strain and a quick fatigue, and tends to run more common with vocalists who've yet to firmly establish measured technique and methods matched to their particular voice type. This student however, wasn't belting or even pushing range for that matter. They simply carried a hesitancy to release their sound. The breath was being held rather than moved freely, the pitch was flat, and the tone was all but paralyzed. Even through the soft passages there was noticeable stiffness throughout the student's neck and jaw line. So, we then took a few moments to address concepts of releasing the sound rather than containing it, and initiating exercises that allow the breath to carry out the voice naturally.
There is a definite psychological factor involved in music, and for singers it can become even more personal given that their instrument resounds organically from inside of them. For some there can be doubts or fears that keep a singer from stepping forward, fully engaging the appropriate mechanics, and trusting their own voice to be capable of doing what they desire to do.
On a separate note, it's also important to maintain a sense of awareness and discipline. That being said, many things can go wrong when we hyper-focus and try to execute too much control. Sometimes the fear alone of things not going well is what sabotages our own goals and objectives, whether musical or otherwise, leaving a person stuck and unable to move forward. By the end of the lesson this student was able to overcome the added tension being produced by actually relinquishing control and letting go of the grip they were engaging on their voice. There was a noticeable improvement in vocal timbre/tone, intonation, breath, and overall flexibility allowing us to conclude a rather successful session. Sometimes we simply have to remind ourselves not to be afraid to just let go.
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