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The Case: A Rigid Voice

The Singer: Leyla, 21 years old with aspirations and seeking insight from many vocal coaches

Case Summary: Leyla arrived with a level of frustration at what she called her ‘school choir’ voice. She was unable to produce vibrato and felt that her voice sounded ‘young’. She had made several unsuccessful attempts to address this with other teachers.

Stuck in the School Choir

Leyla sang a piece of soul music to me on her first session.

She was clearly pushing her whole glottal area in an attempt to ‘find feeling’ and was producing a sound that, whilst being fairly tuneful, lacked colour or dynamic variation.

She was physically bound and described the feeling of being in the school choir and being asked to ‘stand up straight’.

She wanted to find her ‘woman’s voice’. I felt that her difficulty was in her feeling about her body – she was overweight and self-conscious about her size.

Making a physical connection

I began by directing Leyla on a chair – asking her to sit, lie across it, straddle it, hug it, etc. as she sang through a scale.

I added instructions such as ‘kiss the chair on this note’ or ‘wrinkle your nose against it’ on this note so that the attitude she adopted physically could be mirrored in her facial movement.

After some initial shyness, Leyla began to let go (it was vital to give her time to do this).

The work produced some interesting sounds with softer endings and more varied placement.

Three sessions into this process, we were exploring this work against walls, on the floor etc and Leyla was using song phrases and sections to try out her new found range of sounds.

The Sensual Voice

Touch and movement are a part of the human sensual experience and can really help a singer release their voice.

Not only did Leyla produce a more relaxed sound but she also found a lot of movement simply through moving herself.

This helped her to focus on the sensuality of the sounds and meaning in the song and she was able to increase her personal sense of freedom through song.

Take Away

Although posture is of great importance to the singer, an awareness of connecting voice to whole physical ‘state’ is equally vital.

Standing up straight isn’t always the appropriate approach – breaking the rules can be just as productive!

  • I find your article fascinating and ringing so true from my experience. As a school girl I experienced exactly what your singer did. I only found freedom and true passion in my voice when I learned how to “let go”.

  • Hannah Karoshi

    Thanks for the insight Rachel, really interesting article!

  • I think it also helps to sing to yourself in a mirror and perform/move around like a crazy person. It’s intimidating and embarrassing at first, but it really helps you see how stiff you are (or aren’t). I feel when you can move freely as if you’re acting out the song, the feeling and emotion will also come through in your voice.