For the last six months, on and off, I have been working with a new student who had a breathy, soprano voice. I used many functional exercises but the problems in her voice were not changing much. There would be very small changes which would then revert back to her old habits. Finally, we managed to get some chest voice happening with more volume. I was very excited and asked “How was that?” She responded that it felt “like shouting”. I paused for a moment. The sound was nowhere near shouting. I asked her if she had ever been told to be quiet when she was singing? She responded that yes, when she was ten she had a great big belt voice, it was stronger and more mature sounding than the voice she has today, but her parents had asked her to be quiet one day. So she was. I asked her why she had to be quiet? Three people had died in the family in quick succession. Perhaps her parent’s grief made it hard to hear her cheerful joyful voice filling the house. Perhaps it was an inappropriate time for singing. Who knows? She had been quiet now for eight years. I asked her to be loud, to make the “shouty” (not a shouty sound!) sound. We played with her voice and to our great joy a beautiful big chest voice AND belt voice reappeared. In one lesson! I asked her how it felt? She replied, easy, free, wonderful! Wow! Such a joy!
Sometimes the blocks in our progress with singing are not functional, but emotional. We can hold onto emotions emotions and instructions for far longer than was originally intended. I always say to my students “This is where your voice is this week, so this is what I want you to work on this week”. I have found that I can give a specific instruction for a student for one week, or two, or for a song, which then becomes a rule for every lesson, every scale, every song! Once the functional use of a scale has achieved its goal we move on. Sometimes I will say, “try this quieter, try this louder”. But I hope I make it clear that this is an instruction for what we are working on in that moment, that week.
Words are powerful. Words speak into our hearts, souls and bodies. My first diet began the day after a family member told me I needed to be “careful or I would end up fat”. I was a size 8/10 (Australian). I had someone ask me to sing “more like Christina Aguilera”. How do I do that? What was actually wrong with my voice? Three years of twisting my voice around followed that gem. How many of us have stories like this about our bodies, our voices, our lives? Be kind to yourself, listen to those who have knowledge and wisdom on the subject and find your voice.