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The Case of the Disappearing Phrases

The Case: disappearing phrase-ends

The Singer: Dave, 22 years old, unable to sustain tone

Case Summary: Dave was studying production, writing electronic music and wanted to sing over it live in performance; his voice was letting him down.

For you? Any novice singer who wishes to find warmth and strength in their tone

An exceptionally weak delivery

Dave possessed a clear and tuneful baritone with an additional light tenor. On every phrase he began with strength that faded into breath and a trembling vibrato before the end.

He craned his neck forward on every note and also clamped his jaw on every phrase ending; singing the easiest phrase was clearly a huge effort.

Turning breath into sound

I asked Dave to sit on the floor back to back with me – and to make sure that as much of his back as possible was in touch with my own.

(Its always important to advise students that singing tuition can involve physical contact and to check that they are comfortable with this idea!)

We played a game of ‘sending the vibration’ – simply humming notes in Dave’s comfort zone and feeling the buzz – we took turns initially then I handed over to Dave – this was fun!

After a while it occurred it Dave that he was buzzing/humming for quite substantial lengths of time.
I instructed him to send long words to me and to commit to the shapes at every part of the word (beginning, middle and end), making sure that he buzzed the shapes.

Dave found that he was opening his mouth and that he was managing sound up to the end of phrases as he settled into a rhythm of breath over each phrase.

Finding the cause

A few visits and Dave was well on the way to ‘vocal recovery’ – I did ask him to consider whether there was a time in his life that he felt ‘silenced’ or that he was ignored – this led to an important conversation.

Over the years that I have taught and coached singers, I have become aware of the tendency for some students to offload in a session! It can be a place where they contact a deeper part of themselves and sometimes other issues arise!

Often we lose the power of our voice or the conviction to utter sound when we lose motivation and confidence.

I assure my students that I am not able to offer counselling, but that sometimes simply by regularly remembering/considering these aspects of their lives, they can clarify specific influential moments or periods in their lives and help themselves to resolve resultant voice issues.