It takes more energy to lift a piano than it does to play a piano (though I am sure that some virtuoso pianists would disagree).
But just think of the futility of a pianist who is lifting a piano onto the stage when he should be playing!
Similarly, I am really concerned about singers who put their energy and effort in the wrong places.
Have You Done an Effort Assessment?
Different vocal tasks require different energy investments:
Speaking requires less effort than calling out.
Crying requires more effort than sighing.
I want you to monitor the amount of effort you are investing in new vocal maneuvers.
What is most important to keep in mind is that the sensation of effort in the larynx (or as I call it, ‘the voice effort’) should remain as low as possible at all times – even when you are singing more energetically.
When you are singing – especially a demanding passage – become aware of the amount of effort you are putting on your voice.
Are you straining your voice? Are you ‘lifting a piano’ with only the area of your throat?
Enlist the Help of Your Body
Keep in mind that muscles love to relax as soon as you think about something else.
They also like to invite their neighbors along for a rest as well.
Both of these tendencies can produce problems with stabilizing the sounds you are trying to create.
All of these factors make listening to your body and giving clear mental instructions tremendously important to the retraining process.
The rest of the body may need to work quite dynamically in order for the voice effort to remain low.
This voice/body workload relationship should be monitored constantly in the initial training stages.
If the voice effort goes up vocal stamina goes down and the potential for vocal strain or injury increases
Watch Out for Lazy Muscles
It is worth repeating that muscles like to relax as soon as your attention is divided.
Singers often begin a vocal maneuver with high stabilizing effort and let it drop a second later.
As soon as the effort drops the voice effort will increase and the voice will become unstable and constrict or crack.
Keeping a ‘Jedi-like’ mental focus all the way to the end of a vocal maneuver/note/phrase is a skill in itself and may take time to develop.
After any exercise or vocal task I always ask the singer, “Where was the majority of the effort?”
The answer that always makes me smile is, “My brain!”
My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids
Joe Z – “Personal Jesus” (Cover)
Interesting take on a great song. Be careful with “Approximate Pitch Syndrome” which I mentioned in Marlena Phillips’ clip as well. Some of your “little” notes aren’t quite hitting the pitch bull’s eye. I like the way you are using technology here to create a signature sound. I would keep playing with this and make even bolder choices.
Carl Brister – “On Top Of The World” by Imagine Dragons (Cover)
I’m loving nearly everything about this. Your “oo” vowel is a little too closed for the weight you’re singing with here. “Oos” like to be much lighter in their purist shape. If you want to add more weight/volume try opening the vowel from “oo” like boot to “u” like foot. You’ll feel comfortable holding that vowel shape as well. Great work!
Glenn Xavier Mendoza – “The Way You Look Tonight” (Cover)
What a charming cover. You have a fantastic light tenor sound. Your phrasing is tasteful and never overdone. Just be careful with all that subtly that you don’t end up in the background being ignored. Try adding new dimension to the song by creating more of a rise and fall in the dynamics and use of different vocal effects.
Dane Chalfin is a leading industry vocal coach and voice rehabilitation specialist. His clients include well-known artists and actors and his teacher training courses attract professional vocal coaches and singing teachers from around the world. He is also Principal Lecturer in Performance and Artistry at Leeds College of Music. www.21stcenturysinger.co.uk