Linda, 22, was talented but her voice became “thin” and “reedy” in public – she needed an infusion of presence.
Linda was facing a crisis: it was her final year of a three-year degree in contemporary music and she would be presenting a song in a showcase.
But her voice was not yet up to the task.
When she presented her beautifully written song in the master-class, he piano playing was strong, but she seemed almost to mumble her way through the lyrics.
She clearly knew the material well and had been practising – and I suspected that she had been focusing on her piano work to the detriment of her voice.
Back to basics!
I suggested we remove her from the piano as I felt she was “hiding” behind it.
I placed Linda with her hands on the back of a chair and asked her to face the audience (fellow students).
Then, I instructed her to sing through the song and to lean on the chair (almost as if she were delivering a very weighty speech); on the second delivery I asked her to deliver the words themselves with increased weight, as if she were a pastor or a politician.
Initially Linda forgot some lyrics because she was working in such a different way; once she got over her nerves she began to place weight on each line and we began to hear warmth and a strong tone.
I added a final instruction: that Linda should direct each line into the eyes or face of a different audience member, so that she switched her outward focus on each line.
It was when she did this that she connected with her own emotion – it was also having an effect on others.
The Whole Point of Singing!
In her efforts to achieve commercial success or even just to ‘sound good’ Linda had forgotten that the real point of singing was to share her ideas and her message with her audience.
Singing is essentially a communal activity.
Linda has revised her entire approach to the piano, working her focus toward the audience as much as possible.
The way she’s positioned her keyboard and looks up from her music are a big part of this – but, most importantly, she’s in touch with her own emotions, delivering a moving set and really connected with her audience.
If the intention and the need to communicate the message are genuinely felt by the singer at the point of delivery, the muscles that aid clarity and strength will be active.
There are many exercises that singers can do to develop technique but without that visceral connection, a voice can simply become lost!