- Improve Your Voice
Baxter - source
all know of someone who has an incredible voice and never had
a bit of instruction.
people just open their mouths and it comes out great. Lucky
for them. However, the common belief that some people are born
to sing doesnt mean that the rest of us have to sit on
the sidelines. Anyone can improve the sound of their voice.
My advice is to think of it as un-training.
to sing is a lot like strapping on a pair of roller blades for
the first time. Some people are fearless, or maybe reckless
is a better word, and fly off with little regard to the laws
of gravity. They immediately fall flat on their butt, laugh,
and get right back up to try again. Most of us, though, would
rather not spend the day bouncing on the pavement. We approach
the challenge with one agenda: do not fall. This mind set dominates
muscle behavior. As soon as we are hoisted onto a set of wheels,
we forget how to bend at the joints. We shuffle along stiff-legged,
clinging desperately to any lamp post, tree or person within
reach. The irony is that we still end up on the ground. A rigid
body, which reflects our fear of falling, causes a loss of balance.
The inability to loosen up also prevents us from developing
a feel for shifting body weight from skate to skate. So at the
end of the day, both personality types have sore backsides,
but the carefree people have at least learned how to roller
Pay a visit
to a maternity ward and its obvious that we are all born
with the ability to produce sound. Crying is reflex behavior.
Singing is crying -- minus the tears. Within a short time after
birth, our personalities emerge and influence this basic instinct.
Some babies cry louder and more often. As toddlers, we begin
to experiment with different vocal tones and the responses they
provoke. When two year-olds whine enough, they will either get
another cookie or be sent to their room. By the time we reach
six, the results of these experiments have heavily influenced
our personalities. We establish core traits which stay with
us a lifetime. If you doubt this, visit a senior's center and
notice how much a bingo game looks like a kindergarten class.
Its not that the seniors are acting childish, its
that they are being themselves, again. What this means to potential
singers is that, from a very early age, we have trained our
muscles to produce sound in a particular way. Your particular
way may, or may not, interfere with singing. If it does, then
youve got some un-training to do.
brace in anticipation of singing a bad note as if it will hurt
our bodies. It wont. A bruise to the ego and a bruise
to the vocal folds are completely different things. Like fearful
skaters, its the singers who fear a vocal slip that cause
themselves the most problems. Perfectionists,introverts and
people who pride themselves on having good pitch are usually
the worst offenders. Ironically, tone, pitch, emotion and longevity
all suffer due to the over involvement of protective muscles
like the tongue, jaw and neck. A cautious attitude doesnt
even insure that you will avoid vocal strain. Like falling,
stiffening your muscles because you fear injury often causes
more damage than if the body was loose.
is a balancing act. The expectation that notes should always
roll perfectly out of our mouths, especially when were
just learning, is absurd. But dont be too hard on yourself
if youre finding it difficult to let go. Its not
your fault. Pressure is placed on us the moment we start to
explore our voices. For some reason, children are allowed to
be clueless on every instrument except the voice. Nobody rips
the violin out of little Suzys hands as she saws her way
through, Three Blind Mice, but heaven forbid if
shes out of tune when she sings the same song. Kids that
struggle with singing in grade school are usually detoured into
sports programs or given a tambourine. Wouldnt it have
been great if they did that with math? Later in life, the stigma
of falling off pitch or hitting a crack silences many would-be
problems can be traced back to speech. As kids, were taught
the meanings of words and how to pronounce them, but not how
to efficiently use our muscles when speaking. This is expected
to happen naturally. It usually doesnt. Normally, emotions
dominate our motor reflexes and shape the way we talk. Speech
becomes an extension of our personality. You can tell a lot
about someone by the way they talk, not what they say. There
is a difference, though, between normal and natural. Natural
is efficient; normal is what we are used to. Unfortunately,
we are so accustomed to the way we speak that our trained-in
tensions go unnoticed until we start to sing.
Sit at a
piano or pick up a guitar and the instrument is ready to play.
Musicians tend to take this for granted, but starting with a
pre-balanced, consistent, instrument is a huge advantage when
learning to play. Open your mouth to sing and any number of
obstacles can compromise range, tone, volume and flexibility.
In other words, in order to learn to sing, you have to build
an instrument first. Most instruments we play today are the
result of many years of refinement. As techniques for making
pianos and guitars improve, their sound and ease of play improves
as well. Instruments basically stay the same from day to day.
This provides a great foundation for developing the skills need
to play. We dont have that advantage with our voices.
Many things can interfere with the playability of
our voices, from talking all day to tension held in the jaw.
Since most of these are not genetic or natural limitations,
they are removable.
It is vital
that you allow yourself to sound bad as you work to improve
your voice. Find a private place where no one can hear you;
its hard enough to tune out your internal critic let alone
opinionated roommates and family members. Your goal when vocalizing
is to minimize muscle involvement -- no matter how bad it sounds
at first. For this reason, it is important to distinguish the
difference between sound and feel. We often say a note feels
bad when it actually just sounds bad. Sounding bad is okay,
feeling bad is not. Some people will put up with tremendous
discomfort in order to make something sound better.
should feel like nothing, like rolling down a stretch of smooth
pavement. Correct notes are just as easy to sing as incorrect
notes, so dont add any effort when you want to sing something
better. Cracks are simply a momentary loss of balance. They
do not hurt you physically, so try not to wince if one zings
out unexpectedly. To gain control of your voice, you need to
learn to release your face, jaw, tongue and neck. Just like
relaxing your arms and legs when skating, this usually creates
a short term loss of control. Re-visit this slippery feeling
until its trusted and you will be rewarded with effortless
singing. The only difference between singing and roller blading
is that you wont have to sit funny while youre learning.
Think of it as un-training and youll have a big head-start
on the process
Baxter is a vocal therapist who offers private and video
lessons. To contact him, call: (800)659-6002. Visit his website
with the kind permission of Singer