The 10 Point Singer's System - Part II
Welcome to Part II of The Singer’s System.
Last week we talked about the Horizontal Axis where we broke down 5 elements of the voice:
#1 Head Voice
#2 Upper Transition
#3 Middle Voice
#4 Lower Transition
#5 Chest Voice
This week let’s talk about the Vertical Axis of the Singer’s System. The Vertical Axis is where the fun stuff happens - style, uniqueness and where the singer has an opportunity to put some secret sauce on their chops.
Let’s think about this Vertical Axis as moving up from your belly to the top of your head, just like an elevator.
#6 BREATH SUPPORT
I like to think of breath support as home base or the ground floor. It’s where preparation begins as you take a deep breath into the belly, below the rib cage. A deep, relaxing breath, properly aligned in the body is your place of vocal power. Challenge: to become aware of how your breath flows. All too often singers engage muscles in their neck, chest and jaw as they attempt to “hold” air before a note happens. Use a mirror (or better yet a vocal coach) to help you work with the body to access proper breath.
#7 THE VOCAL CHORDS
Your Vocal Chords have a big job to do. They must respond to every mental and emotional thought you give it. For example, If you know that you are going to have to sing softly in the chorus of a song, or have a particularly long phrase to sing, then your vocal chords physically respond just before you get to that part of a song; they flex and bend in preparation. Also, keep in mind, that your vocal chords are sensitive responsive creatures, susceptible to all sorts environmental disturbances such as allergies, air conditioning, food irritations, and acid reflux problems. Challenge: to become aware of what impacts your vocal chords and how best to keep them healthy so they don't work against you.
#8 RESONANCE AND ARTICULATION
This is where sound is crafted and shaped. As air passes through your vocal chords and moves into your head and chest cavity (through vibration), sound is created before it moves out of your mouth to the people in the audience. The sound you produce can settle in several places - in the back of your throat, in the front of your face or deep into your chest. How a sound resonants, or is articulated, is vital to the health of your vocal chords and an important factor in manufacturing tone and vocal control. Challenge: to become aware of where sound resonances in your body.
#9 MENTAL & EMOTIONAL
Singing is scary. There is no getting around that fact. To combat inevitable stress, great singers think a lot, are great listeners, and must always find constructive ways to navigate their emotional selves. They are thinking about how to best interpret a line, a phrase or a section of a song and how to emotionally ground themselves so that they can be of service as they sing. To connect emotionally to a song involves many layers - your current emotional state, your mental outlook, your practice prior to showtime and your willingness to let go and be vulnerable. Challenge: to be original and express what a song emotionally means for you. It is just as important to understand how you interpret emotion as it is to understand the mechanical side of vocal training. The two work hand in hand.
Watch Celine Dion in one of her most moving performances. Before this clip, I saw her sing a song years ago just after her sister died. I was amazed at her emotional stamina and ability to compose herself and get through the song. In this performance, however, singing a song with this deep emotional message proved to be too much, for even a seasoned pro. With all her training and vocal perfection, the musical moment, and song selection, was just too much.
#10 SPIRITUAL CONNECTIVENESS
As singers, we can’t forget why we do what we do. We do it to heal ourselves because it feels good and makes us happy; and we sing to inspire and touch other people in some way. To do a good job we have to be willing to use our intellect, our physical body, our emotional center and our mental strength all at the same time. Challenge: Think about the bigger picture. Why do you want to sing? What will it potentially do for you or others? How does it make you feel? Connect to the grander vision and listen to what your heart is saying.