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London and Brighton confidence skills. Confidence tricks 12 – The Ring of Confidence & the Power of Communication

London and Brighton Confidence Boosting skills workshops

The Alexander Technique - move through your life with greater ease Freeing your voice - The Alexander Technique applied to the speaking and singing voice Presentation Skills Training - Applied Alexander Technique with Alan Mars
Voice, confidence & presentation coaching with Alan Mars
Voice, confidence & presentation coaching with Alan Mars

London singing lessons
Brighton Hove singing lessons

LIBERATING VOICE & CONFIDENCE FOR PERFORMANCE

Most singers experience some anxiety at the prospect of performing or auditioning. For some the nerves can be completely debilitating. Celtic harp player and traditional singer Alan Mars suggests some simple methods for transforming stress and anxiety into confidence and excitement.

The techniques are drawn from the author’s extended training in singing, Alexander Technique, NLP and presentation skills training

NERVE ENDINGS & THE RING OF CONFIDENCE

The performing world is full of remedies for nerves, from the lucky rabbits foot (not so lucky for the rabbit perhaps) to Luciano Pavarotti’s gracefully flourished handkerchief! Ultimately, the luckiest charm you have is a harmonious relationship between mind, body and voice.

A little adrenaline can be the fuel that turns a merely adequate performance into an exhilarating experience for both singer and audience. But what can you do if you have rehearsed your material thoroughly and you still feel the kind of anxiety that turns performance into panic?

THE “OUR SONG” PHENOMENON
Many couples have experienced the phenomenon of “our song”. During the courting phase they had a favourite song. Hearing that song, even decades later, can bring the feelings, images and sounds associated with that time flooding back.

Similarly, for many people, the mere thought of performing in public can spark off feelings of confidence and resourcefulness or terror and abject misery. Does the name Pavlov ring a bell? The trick, of course, is to have your very best experiences of confidence and competence powerfully associated with the thought of the venue within which you are going to perform. How is this done? Nothing could be simpler!

LIBERATING YOUR BODY AND YOUR VOICE- IN REHEARSAL!
EXPERIMENT 1) Vocalising from restriction
Think of a time when you were feeling a bit pressured and restricted. Remember this as fully as possible… what you were seeing around you, what you were hearing and also what you were feeling… Stay fully in this state for a while longer.
Now look around the room, does it look any less bright or any less friendly than before? Now walk around the room. Do you feel taller or shorter? Do you feel wider or narrower? What size does your “personal space” seem to be (indicate with your hands)? Is your walking lighter or heavier?
Vocalise an ah sound. Sing a line or two of a song. How easy or difficult was it to vocalise?

EXPERIMENT 2) Vocalising from ease
Move around the room and stretch to dissipate the effects of the last experiment.
Remember a time when you felt “on top of the world”. Recall and relive this experience… what you were seeing, hearing and feeling…. stay fully in this state a while longer and allow yourself to take two or three easy, deep breaths with the emphasis on the outbreath. Allow this feeling to spread through your entire body…..
Look around the room again. Is it any brighter or friendlier now? Walk around the room. Do you feel shorter or taller? Narrower or wider? How large is your “personal space” now? Is your walking heavier or lighter?
Vocalise an ah sound. Sing a little. Notice how your voice feels and sounds different from the first experiment.

You have just taken the first step in freeing your body and liberating your voice! Which of the two states would you prefer to perform in?

The above experiment demonstrates that, as far as our muscles are concerned, the difference between thinking about a particular event and actually doing it is only a matter of degree.
When I run performance workshops many participants tell me that the room looks more friendly and welcoming after doing the second part of this exercise. This reminds me of the old cartoon series “The Gambols”. One of the characters, George, is portrayed in a variety of moods as he responds to the ups and downs of life. When life is going badly there is a grey or black cloud above his head. This is accompanied by an appropriately sagging posture.
When George is on a high, there is a puffy white cloud above his head or a kind of halo radiating light. This is accompanied by a confident posture, bright eyes and a smile. What this demonstrates so well, as many cartoons do, is that the state we are in at any given moment affects the way that we respond to the pressures of daily life- including any performance activity.
Many cartoons also seem to express the belief that the cartoon characters (and by implication, ourselves) are at the mercy of circumstances. It is possible, however, to stabilise your best physical, mental and emotional states, so that you approach performances with a peak performance state literally at your fingertips…

THE RING OF CONFIDENCE
Fully recall and re-live a focused and easy state by seeing , hearing and feeling it again. As you begin to slide into your focused state, gently link the tips of your forefinger and thumb together. Keep your fingers linked for 10 to 15 seconds. You are now beginning to link or “anchor” your resourceful state to your fingertips.
Once is not enough? Strengthen and reinforce your anchor by repeating the above process three times.
Simply linking your thumb and forefinger will now be sufficient stimulus to take you the critical first few steps into your confident and focused state- a very useful thing to do when waiting for your turn in a competition.

“…I use certain tricks that make me feel more secure. Everybody knows about my white handkerchief, which I used in my first concert in Missouri in 1973, in case I started to perspire… I feel much better if I have it out there with me. It has a function but it’s also for good luck.”
Luciano Pavarotti- My Life

VISUAL ANCHORS
Many different concert halls and audition rooms share similar characteristics e.g. exit signs, furniture, instruments of different types etc.
Get yourself into a resourceful state by using the fingertip “ring of confidence”. As your state changes visualise the furniture, the instruments and the general room layout. Repeat three times.
This will help you to anchor your most confident states to the appropriate context. If you can do this “live” in the venue, before you perform, so much the better.

EVOCATIVE ODOURS
Smells are very powerful. The smell of apple [1] blossom, for example, can virtually transport some people back to childhood, playing in an orchard.
Radio 4 recently reviewed techniques that help actors overcome stage fright. The performer first creates a state of poised relaxation and then sniffs a handkerchief impregnated with aromatherapy oils that encourage even deeper calmness and focus. They then strategically place the handkerchief on their costume just before they go on stage. The odour of the aromatherapy oils then triggers the state of poised relaxation. So there may be more to Pavarotti’s handkerchief than meets the eye!
Imagine your favourite aroma. Breathe it in gently and deeply and let it go with a whispered ah sound. Anchor your peak state to this aroma. Use this technique before performing.

DRIVING THE CAR
Instead of getting into the car and immediately rushing off to do battle with the rest of the traffic…

Pause and place your attention in your physical centre of gravity (just below your belt buckle); extend a strong positive feeling to the world around you; adjust your driving seat; your mirrors; keys in the ignition and your hands on the steering wheel.

This will anchor the touch of the steering wheel to a safer driving state and will ensure that you arrive at work, the interview, the sales appointment etc. in a happier and more efficient state!

POSITIVE FEELINGS
This is perhaps the simplest and most powerful self-management technique of them all. Radiate a strong positive feeling from the core of your self. Cast the “net” of your positive feeling over the whole venue including your audience.

BUT I STILL FEEL NERVOUS!

The point of anchoring is not to stop butterflies in the stomach- the point is to get the butterflies to fly in formation. Adrenaline can give you the critical edge that takes you over the threshold into performance excellence. Adrenaline means that you care.

The attitude behind anchoring, I believe, is of greater importance than any anchoring exercise itself. When I ask people about this they say it is to do with a quality of self belief- “I have a choice”; “I have control over my response patterns” ; “I can learn from all situations.” etc.

REACHING HARMONY- THE INTEGRATED ANCHOR
Much of what is written above is drawn from the field of sports psychology (national and local sports teams please take note!) and, more recently, from the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)- a study of, amongst other things, the structure of excellent performance.
Our best and easiest performances happen when conscious and unconscious are working in harmony. This is like watching two excellent dance partners waltzing. They make it all look and feel oh so easy and flowing. But as you look at them you realize that such skill required repetition, communication and time.
After a while your peak performance states become the new normal- you are no longer walking in the foothills, you are becoming acclimatised to the higher slopes. The higher slopes allow you to glimpse unknown and perhaps unsuspected lands of mental, physical and vocal excellence…

 

 

http://alphainventions.com/

Alexander Technique & the Choral Singer + choirs

Alexander Technique and the Choral Singer

The Alexander Technique - move through your life with greater easeFreeing your voice - The Alexander Technique applied to the speaking and singing voicePresentation Skills Training - Applied Alexander Technique with Alan Mars

Potted Alexander Technique

F.M. Alexander (1869-1955) was an actor who suffered from recurrent hoarseness and breathing difficulties. Having unsuccessfully tried the medical treatments available at the time, Alexander studied by himself, over a period of seven years, in a three-way system of mirrors to find out what he was doing that caused him to lose his voice.

He noticed a tendency to stiffen his neck and pull his head back and down. This habit initiated a pattern of misdirected effort through his whole body. He eventually developed an approach that involved momentarily pausing and releasing his habitual tension and then ‘directing’ himself into an easier, co-ordinated state.

Alexander went on to teach, using a combination of gentle manual guidance and verbal instruction to give his students a direct experience of using their bodies in a more co-ordinated way.

Alexander and the singer

The singing/Alexander Technique teachers I worked with said nothing about my voice. Instead they said things like, ‘Allow your shoulders to release and widen’;’release the back of your neck’, etc. Over time this gentle approach increased the resonance, range and flexibility of my voice.

most of us accumulate muscular and mental habits which, to some extent, shorten, narrow and twist natural skeletal alignment. These things interfere with easy singing, and changing such habits will, in turn, change your voice.

The way we stand and sit has a profound effect on the way we sing. We become so familiar with our habits which restrict our posture that any attempt to change to a freer state can ‘feel’ wrong and unfamiliar. One of the advantages of doing Alexander Technique with a choir is that any change is reinforced by the immediate feedback of an improved sound.

Take a seat

Is there a conspiracy afoot amongst the designers of institutional furniture to create chairs that are at odds with everything we know about the healthy human structure? The typical rehearsal room posture tends to follow this pattern: the arms feel too heavy to hold up the score, so we rest it on our lap (with one leg crossed over the other) and sag down to peer at it (see below). Then, to turn an already bad situation into a disaster, the choirmaster requires our attention, so we tighten the backs of our necks to look up. At this point we try ‘straightening up’–pulling the shoulders back, raising the breastbone and arching the lower back. This requires considerable effort, creates fatigue and is difficult to sustain over even short periods of time–hardly a conducive state for singing!

Becoming more open

Many people do not open their mouths to sing. They open their heads–by tightening the muscles around the base of the skull, lifting the nose in the air and keeping the jaw fixed (see left). This causes excess pressure to bear down on the larynx, ribs and diaphragm and leads to vocal strain. By releasing the muscles that suspend your jaw you can open your mouth more easily.

Look in a mirror – preferably the three-way sort, like an old dressing table mirror. Let your lips be softly together. Think of releasing your jaw muscles, from your temples along the old-fashioned sideburns area (see right). Without tipping your nose either up or down, let your lower set of teeth drop away from your upper set. Open your lips and vocalise an ‘aahh’.

Sitting bones

Place your hands under your buttocks and find two bony knobbles: these are your sitting bones. What happens to your sitting bones:
a) When you slump? (How does this affect your head, neck and body relationship?)
b) When you pull your shoulders back and chest up, military-style?
With your head leading, rock back and forth on your sitting bones until you find the point where they are pointing down directly into the chair. Think of directing your knees away from your sitting bones and slightly away from each other. How does this affect your body as a whole? Now sing!

Arms and eyes

Imagine that you have puppet strings attached to your elbows, wrists and fingers. The puppeteers raise your arms with minimum effort on your part. Repeat this experiment holding the score. Using only your eyes, alternate between looking at the score and looking at an imaginary conductor (below).

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End gaining

An Alexander Technique expression for using excess effort to achieve a given end. Think of the poor old sopranos and tenors, noses and shoulders up in the air, trying to achieve their high notes.

In the bass and alto sections chins are compressed into throats as thev strive for that low note. These habits may feel right at the time but the end result is rarely satisfying.

Easy does it

There are singers who make the most demanding roles look and sound effortless. Although we may not all become Pavarottis, this quality of ease is learnable: imagine you have an octave mapped out along your spine and head. The lowest note is on your bottom, then your lower abdomen, upper abdomen, breast-bone, neck, base of skull, forehead and finally the crown of your head. Sing up the octave to your crown; and down to your bottom again.

Many singers squeeze up to ‘end gain’ the high notes and pull down along the front for the low notes (right), so try it the other way round – the highest note at your bottom and the lowest at your crown. This can lead to greater ease and appropriate effort in your singing.

A word about breathing

Associated with the habit of stiffening the neck, singers often suck in what feels like a large chestful of air (watch a choir just about to sing). In doing so they become like an over-inflated balloon and the air rapidly rushes away. If you take care of your posture in the ways outlined above, your breathing will tend to take care of itself. During warm-ups allow time for your breath to return unhurriedly between phrases.

Take five

‘Is there a special Alexander way of feeling calmer when you are in a hurry?’ students often ask. ‘Yes,’ comes my reply, ‘leave home five minutes earlier than usual’.

Take five leisurely minutes to warm up before choir practice. Remember a favourite time and place–an experience in which you had plenty of time and space. Relive what you were seeing, hearing and feeling. Stay with this experience for a little while longer. Now vocalise an ‘aahh’ or sing.

During busy rehearsals it may feel as if there is insufficient time to warm up, but being physically relaxed and mentally alert will pay dividends in choral singing. Current research suggests that people learn faster when they are in a calm and collected state, and one way of preparing for rehearsals and performances is to use the Alexander ‘active resting’ position (below). This gives maximum support to your spine– feet flat on the floor, knees pointing up to the ceiling about shoulder-width apart–alleviating pressure on the lower back.

The head-rest (some books will do) encourages release in the muscles that join the back of the neck to the base of your skull. It should be neither too high (or your chin will compress your throat) nor too low (or your chin will stick up in the air). Imagine the four ‘corners’ of your back–head, shoulders and tail bone– spreading and lengthening and widening away from each other and on to the floor. Use the active resting position for ten minutes a day or before rehearsals.

voice-class-alexander-aikido-nlp1

About The Writer

Alan Mars has been a STAT qualified teacher of the Alexander Technique since 1982. He has taught Alexander Technique and voice-work at many leading performing arts institutions including – the Arts Educational Drama School, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal College of Music. Alan has taught Alexander Technique based presentation skills to staff from many top public and private companies including Abbey National; General Electric; Sainsbury’s; Lloyds of London; Comet; the Royal Pharmaceutical Society; BNFL; the Probation Service to name but a few. Alan regularly coaches at senior management level. He is the author of a book on presentation skills “Presenter” published by Hodder & Stoughton.

Alan Mars
Alan Mars, Brighton & Hove Alexander Technique,
26 Ventnor Villas, Brighton & Hove, BN3 3DE
Tel: 01273 747 289 or 07930 323 057
Email: alan.mars@yahoo.co.uk Web: http://www.thetechnique.co.uk/

Related Articles:

Singing, Health & Happiness

The Lychen Choir – a growing collection of community singing with lyrics and MP3 soundfiles

Choral Links and Resources:

British Choirs on the Net

Gerontius

choralnet.org

Hear the Choirs Sing

Choral Public Domain Library – one of the world’s largest free sheet music sites.

Musica.Net – Virtual Music Choral Library

Choral evensong on BBC radio 3

Singing, Health & Happiness – Confidence Tricks 6

 

When we think of the word “health” we may also think of “happiness”. And from happiness it is a short leap of the imagination to song and celebration. And just as happiness can lead to song, so also can singing can chase away the blues at the beginning, middle or the end of the day. It re-establishes a full, easy pattern of breathing and encourages release of the muscular system, with all the attendant benefits of stress alleviation. It is a way of expressing your feelings and of linking up with other people and the world around you.

For many people who would love to sing regularly, however, the opportunity simply eludes them, the last time they may have sung in a group may have been at nursery school! And while it is occasionally possible to hear workers singing on a building site this is more often than not replaced by the ever present radio. Anyone who sings in their office is likely to attract curious glances. Attendance’s at places of worship, where fifty years ago most people could sing at least once a week, have declined sharply.

Despite all of this the U.K. is still a nation of committed singers, boasting more amateur choirs, opera and musical theatre societies than any other country in Europe. Those who want to sing can find the opportunity – even if they are a bit rusty and in need of a touch of polish before throwing themselves into the vocal deep end!

Sound familiar? Take heart- help is just around the corner! Remember this: we are all born singers! Most people assume that the speaking voice comes first and then we build a singing voice on top of it. The reverse is true- singing comes first and then we learn to speak.

A baby lies on her back making a variety of vowel sounds- ohs, oohs, ahs, eehs etc. She plays with the intensity of the sound, a bit softer, a bit louder and sometimes a hell of a lot louder! She explores a variety of different notes and pitches. As the weeks pass by she moves her tongue, lips and jaw in a greater variety of ways and begins to form consonants. At first the sounds are quite random and are only repeated “accidently”. Soon she finds herself repeating more and more of the “accidental” sound patterns and her voice becomes increasingly melodious and under her control.

The pattern of a baby’s vocal development is remarkably similar to the vocal awareness exercises that a singer or actor will go through during training. However you do not have to go to Drama or Music School to develop your voice. Everyone has a “body memory” of that original vocal exploration. All you have to do is tap into it!

Unfortunately for some people the idea of singing is not a cause for celebration. Many people have been given negative messages at an early age, often from teachers and parents, about their apparent inability to sing. This may have happened publicly. The resulting embarrassment virtually guaranteed that the child would no longer be able to sing, thus creating a self fulfilling prophecy. The effect of these negative messages persists into adult life. During family and seasonal celebrations, when others are singing, the wounded singer holds their breath and clamps their teeth or soundlessly mimes the words.

human skeletonhuman skeletonhuman skeleton
A SIMPLE ANATOMY LESSON

Imagine, for a moment, that the singing, speaking human being is like a well constructed musical instrument. From your pelvis, through your ribs, shoulder girdle, larynx (voicebox) through to your skull and jaw your skeleton is a basically tubular or cylindrical shape- all connected together by the column of your spine. This is the central, skeletal core of your vocal instrument onto which the bones of your arms and legs attach.

human musculature
the “skeletal cylinder”

Your skeleton is covered in sheets of muscle which wrap around it spiralically to create a perfectly tailored “elastic suit”.

the”elastic suit”

The “elastic” of your muscles can either contract and shorten or it can release and lengthen. Together these two qualities, contraction and release, enable you to move around easily and efficiently. BUT.. because of habit and the lifestyles that we lead nowadays, most of us are using far too much muscular contraction. Medical authorities, alternative and mainstream, warn us about the dangerous effects of prolonged muscular tension. On a mechanical and postural level this mis-directed muscular tension has a distorting effect, causing, to a greater or lesser degree, a tendency to shorten, narrow and twist natural skeletal alignment.

The elastic suit, such a perfect and roomy fit when we were young children, becomes restrictive of our movement. This all has a correspondingly restrictive effect on the voice: inaudibility, shakiness, inaccurate pitch, harsh and grating tone.

COMMON STRESSES OF THE “ELASTIC SUIT”

LACK OF BODY AWARENESS

Perhaps the most common cause of vocal difficulty lies in a lack of awareness of how we use our body in daily life. We are experts at screening out sensory information that is not directly connected to achieving our goals. This is a blessing that allows us to achieve our objectives without being swamped by irrelevant sensory information. An activity as simple as making a cup of coffee would become unmanageably difficult without this ability.

It can also become a curse. As we focus more intensely on goal directed behaviour our body can become increasingly filtered out of awareness. Day by day we accumulate small, seemingly insignificant amounts of tension without even noticing it. Just as constantly dripping water can distort the hardest stone, these small accumulations of tension have a detrimental effect on both body structure and voice.

MISCONCEPTION

Most people have only the vaguest of ideas about how their body is put together. And many of us simply have wrong ideas about how the body is structured. How many of us, for example, can accurately locate the full length and circumference of the spine; where the head and spine join each other; where the larynx is; where the jaw joint is; and where the ribs and diaphragm join with the spine? All of these parts, to name but a few, are part and parcel of the singers stock in trade. Misleading ideas have a direct bearing on how we use the voice. It is possible to get a sound out of a trumpet by blowing in the wrong end but the process is wasteful of effort and the sound produced is disappointing.

the startle pattern
FEAR AND ANXIETY

Many people who are confident in all other respects would do just about anything to avoid singing with or in front of other people. In situations of perceived threat a group of responses called the “fight/flight” syndrome comes into force. Adrenalin is released into the blood stream. Breathing and heart rate speed up. The muscles become more tense. The shoulder and neck muscles are among the first to contract, pulling the head down, tortoise fashion, towards the centre of the body.

The person’s face might drain of colour or they may blush. The pupils dilate heightening visual acuity and leading, in some cases, to tunnell vision. For the primitive hunter/gatherer this whole pattern was discharged by actual fight or flight after which everything returned to normal. It is not appropriate, however, to “fight” with your audience or to take “flight” and lock yourself in the lavatory, tempting as both options may seem at the time! Fortunately there are many ways of creatively channelling the energy of the fight/flight pattern to enhance vocal confidence which we will explore in depth in the following chapters.

PRECONCEPTION OF EFFORT

Consider the image of someone lifting a heavy looking suitcase only to find it empty or lifting a light looking case and finding it full of bricks. If the lifter does not pause momentarily to truly consider the weight of the case, they may sustain an injury. Singing, like lifting the case, is equally a muscular activity. Taking time to pause and consider appropriate effort, during practice or before starting to sing, is one of the single most important elements in freeing the vocal and breathing mechanisms.

IMITATION AND MODELLING

How often is grown son or daughter’s voice mistaken for that of their father or mother on the telephone? Why is it that we can recognise certain individuals from a distance? Why do some dogs look like their owners? Young children, especially pre-verbal children, learn a vast amount through imitation and mimicry. The child adopts, to a greater or lesser degree, the postural, movement, breathing and vocal patterns of her carers. Models of vocal excellence are scarce, however, and only the most fortunate of children will find them in their immediate family. This book endeavours to present standards of mind/body and vocal excellence for the aspiring singing student to continuously develop.

HABIT

When you are exposed to a constant unchanging stimulus you will automatically, assuming it is not too painful, screen it out of conscious awareness. If you live next to a busy road you may have to make a conscious decision in order to actually hear the traffic. The author and Aikido teacher George Leonard talks about this in terms of homeostasis:

“Our body, brain and behaviour have a built in tendency to stay the same within rather narrow limits, and to snap back when changed- and it is a very good thing they do.

… if your body temperature moved up or down by ten percent, you would be in big trouble. The same thing applies to your blood-sugar level and to any number of other functions of your body. This condition of equilibrium, this resistance to change is called homeostasis. It characterises all self-regulating systems, from a bacterium to a frog to a human individual to a family to an organisation to an entire culture- and it applies to psychological states and behaviour as well as to physical functioning.

The problem is, homeostasis works to keep things as they are even if they aren’t very good”
F.M. Alexander, the creator of the Alexander Technique, mentions a case in which he gave a lesson to a young girl who had a severe scoliosis- an asymmetrical sideways bend of the spine. After the lesson she was considerably more balanced and symmetrical in appearance. Rather than being pleased with these changes the young girl complained bitterly about feeling all twisted up! That which was habitually twisted felt normal. And that which was balanced felt twisted and abnormal.

Although this was an extreme case it is still something that we all, to a greater or lesser degree, have to deal with across the range of our activities. Given time the experiments in this book will allow you to “re-tailor” your elastic suit into a more spacious and freer fit. This re-orientation may feel unfamiliar or even wrong in the short term. A basic willingness to familiarise yourself with the unfamiliar will accelerate the ease with which you can reset your homeostats. This will encourage a freer, more confident and dynamic use of your voice and body, regardless of your starting point.

TIME FOR A CHANGE !

Find a place where you will not be disturbed for fifteen minutes. Tapping into the full potential of your singing voice will require a quality of self acceptance. Any sound that you make is going to be unconditionally acceptable! Here are my three golden rules for singing classes:

Any sound that anyone else makes is unconditionally acceptable.
Any sound that you make is unconditionally acceptable.
Remember rule 1. and rule 2. !
Application of these three rules leads to a reduction in the fear reflexes that interfere with easy singing. And this leads to increasing playfulness, curiousity and, as anyone who looks after young children knows, a continually developing sense of discovery…

Vocalising and moving from restriction.

Take a couple of minutes to remember a time when you were feeling a bit pressured and restricted. Use all of your senses to recall and relive this memory as fully as possible… what you were seeing and hearing around you and what you were feeling.

Now look around the room. Does it look any less bright or friendly than before? Walk around the room now. Do you feel taller or shorter? Do you feel wider or narrower? Are you breathing freely or are you holding your breath? Is your walking lighter or heavier? Smoother or jerkier? Easier or tenser? Indicate with your hands how wide or narrow your “personal space” seem to be.

Vocalise an “aahh” sound. How easy or difficult was it to vocalise?

Vocalising and moving from ease.

Move around the room and stretch to dissipate the effects of the last experiment.

Use all of your senses, seeing, hearing and feeling, to remember a time when you felt on top of the world. Stay fully in this place for a while longer and allow yourself to take two or three easy deep breaths with the emphasis on the outbreath. Let this feeling spread through your entire body.

Look around the room again. Is it any brighter or friendlier now? Walk around. Do you feel shorter or taller? Narrower or wider? Are you breathing freely? How large is your “personal space” now? Is your walking heavier or lighter?

Vocalise an “aahh” sound. Notice in what way your voice feels and sounds different from the first experiment.

Which state, cramped or expanded, would you prefer to be in when singing?

Congratulations! You have just taken the first step in liberating your body and freeing your voice. “Embodying” a pleasant experience while vocalising a vowel sound, simple as it sounds, can make a real difference to your voice:

In a series of experiments in the early nineteen forties, the surgeon William Faulkner established that when his patients thought of something unpleasant the movement of their diaphragm became restricted, shallow and irregular. These breathing changes were accompanied by a corresponding tightening of the oesophagus. And this in turn was accompanied by negative changes in the quality and characteristics of the patients voice.

When, on the other hand, his patients thought of something pleasant the movement of their diaphragm became expansive and regular and the levels of tension in the throat reduced. All of this was accompanied by positive changes in the characteristics of the patients voice.3.

By vocalising vowel sounds in this positive spirit you will find yourself in good company:

“When I started serious study, I spent the first six months vocalizing only with the vowel sounds. Day after day I would be singing ay, eee, oh, eye, ooo… my teacher, Arrigo Pola, believed it was essential. And he convinced me. Over the years I have become even more convinced of the importance of this.”
Luciano Pavarotti- My World. Page 282

MORE PRACTICE

Do some vocalised ahs. Play around with the volume – a bit softer, a bit louder. Play with the pitch – higher and lower.

Experiment with combinations of volume and pitch – high and soft; high and loud; low and loud; low and soft.

Slide from quiet to loud to quiet again on a single note. Repeat the same with a variety of vowel sounds.

Avoid straining your elastic suit as you do this. Continually return to a sense of ease in your vocalising. Allow your breath to return effortlessly and naturally between sounds avoiding any exxagerated sucking and sniffing of the air.

Vocalise an ah sound and then gently bring your lips, but not your teeth, together to make a humming sound. You may notice a subtle tingling or buzzing sensation spreading across your lips and face. This feeling may spread to other parts of your body – throat, chest, fingertips etc. This tingling is associated with muscular release and increased peripheral blood flow. Now sing a song. Sing several songs!

1. Faulkner, William B. Jnr., “The Effect of the Emotions Upon Diaphragmattic Function: Observations in Five Patients”, Psychosomatic Medicine, 3, No. 2 (April 1942).