Seeing, hearing and feeling the voice

  • Author:Angie Arsenault

and training the most important muscle of all; the mind!

When it comes to training the voice, the singer must note all of the important elements of study such as posture, breath management, resonance, registers and range, which are all key factors in building up the vocal instrument. However, it is crucial to understand that everything begins with the command of thought. There are way too many muscles involved in singing for us to consciously coordinate or control them all at once. That is why the process must begin with intention. The intention sends and instant message directly to the muscles that need to respond in order to produce sound. Trusting this flow of information instead of obsessively trying to control it physically is the best approach to singing. As a singer, you could think of yourself as a mind expressing itself through the vocal instrument; through the body.

Here is an excerpt from “Foundations of the Singer’s Art” By Victor Alexander Fields:

Basically, it is the mind that sings, not the voice. You can say or sing only what you can think. Therefore, you sing only as beautiful a tone as you can think, since your voice always follows your thought. Whether we are conscious of it or not, vocal expression is governed by this law. Hence we must learn to sing in thought, for the tone is embedded in the idea that produces it. Thinking motivates pitch, intensity, expressional nuance, and other technical factors of voice production. Lofty ideas beget expansive tones. Angry thoughts produce harsh tones. Introspective thoughts tend to inhibit, subdue, or constrict the voice. In other words, man is largely a product of his ideas, his way of thinking; and mental imagery, be it lofty or debased, is a governing influence in creating overt behavior and, therefore, vocal behavior.

So, with this in “mind”, make it your intention to easily produce beautiful sounds, hit notes right on the mark, and with the intensity or nuance you desire.

“All that we are is a result of what we have thouht” – Buddha

You will receive greater results if you apply this type of trusted anticipation, whether it is about hitting the right pitch, getting the a certain quality of tone or expressing the right type of emotion to an audience.

If we take singing on pitch as an example, what you want to do is first think that pitch; hear it or see it with tonal imagery in your mind, then make it your desire to express that sound with vocal onset. If your desire is also to maintain that note, concentration and focus will be required as the technical aspects of good singing, such as breath management, all come into play while the mind keeps repeating the desired sound, giving direction to the vocal instrument.

If you are adjusting the pitch after the vocal sound comes up, it is already too late -no matter how quick you are to make the change needed. Not only that, but this type of practice will have you slipping and sliding, and worrying about hitting the right pitch all throughout the performance…which may give you an anxiety attack!

The less dependant you are on listening to your own voice as you sing, the better off you will be as a singer.

Try this in your practices:

As you are warming up your voice, take an easy vocalize that you are used to working with and try hearing the first note in your head before singing it. Hear the pitch, along with the vowel and tone quality you are aiming to sing. If you are able to also visualize tonal imagery to go along with the sound in your mind, add that to the exercise. Once you see the sound and/or hear the sound in your mind, go ahead and sing it. It may be easier to simply work with one note at a time for this when starting out.

Do not get discouraged if you do not get your desired result right away. Practice is required to build muscle memory in order to coordinate everything at once. Try the exercise again and once you have the note in your vocal instrument, the trick is now to feel it. Notice the sound when you hear it – but try NOT to actually listen to your voice which will likely produce unwanted tension and drive you further away from your desired result.

If you can, record yourself so you are not so worried about analysing your pitch accuracy in the moment of singing. Observe what is going on, notice any vibrations from resonance in the vocal tract, and then do the exercise again while trying to recall the sensory vibrations for that specific sound or pitch.

Again, you must first see and/or hear the sound in your mind, then express the sound by allowing the vocal instrument to coordinate itself through muscle memory; and feel the result in your body.

As you practice this over and over, things will begin to happen automatically as habit will allow the body to serve the mind. At this point, you will simply trust your vocal instrument and allow the right thing to happen. Expect to sing the note perfectly, receive the voice, and be surprised by the sounds you hear… as if hearing (not listening) for the first time!

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive, it can achieve” – W. Clement Stone

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