Monday, June 20, 2011

Singing with Soul

What is the difference between a good voice and an extraordinary voice? As a voice instructor both for my private studio, for Weber State University in the past, vocal workshops, and as a performer, I encounter a lot of voices on a very intimate level. Often when I start teaching a university level student, their voices have been robbed of, for lack of a better word, "it". Society has taught them that they should sound/sing a certain way. Each performance, they strive for the perfect sound, so their voice is on pitch, they sing with support, using all of their resonating cavities correctly, thinking and focusing on every rhythm, note, and dynamic and how they should approach it. Technically they are perfect. Often when these students sing/perform they can not captivate an audience. Why? As singers and musicians, we sometimes leave out the most important element when we sing, ourselves!

I love kids and their voices, not because their voices are perfect but because they have not been robbed of their uniqueness, they share a window to their soul. Most times, that child has not had any music lessons, they don't know how to sing with all the “correct techniques”, but they captivate the audience. Why? They use “their” voice not some overly produced, copied, or over thought voice. We lose our voice as we grow into adulthood.

As adults, we close off our soul. We build a wall around ourselves and we don’t let people know the real us. Maybe we do this because we have been hurt in the past or we are afraid of what others might think of us. If we let people into our souls through music and singing, it leaves us vulnerable and they will know how to hurt us. Whatever the reason, we must open ourselves up and let people feel and see our soul if we want to have an extraordinary voice.
When learning a song, I use my music skills of counting, sight reading, etc. Once I become familiar with the song, I make sure that I am using the correct techniques, support, ring and room, etc. However, I spend the majority of my time making it my song by giving a little part of my soul, not a replication of someone else’s voice or style.

How do I give a little part of my soul to the world as I sing?
What does the song mean to me?

1. I simply ask myself that question and really analyze the song on a personal note. Maybe it simply has a fun upbeat sound. But that fun up beat part of my personality needs to come out in the song.

2.Record and listen to myself, even if it is with an old cassette tape recorder. Does anybody still own one of those? I need to hear what I sound like. Bobby McFerrin created his unique sound by listening to him and not everybody else. For 2 years, he never listened to another singer except himself. He was afraid that he would start copying someone else’s style.

3.Overcome fear. Whatever has caused the fear of opening up I must let it go. I let the fear become my motivation. This fear then leads to vulnerability. If I don't feel exposed/vulnerable I have not let people experience me. This is what captivates an audience.

By singing and performing, you learn more about ourselves if you let the music come from our soul. Giving a little part of your soul as you perform may be scary, but it is a must to transform from a great singer to an extraordinary singer. Remember that you are unique and that you offer something that no one else has: YOU.