The vocal apparatus is operated mostly by the automatic nervous system which I refer to as the autopilot, not the conscious mind. An autopilot (in tech speak a 'macro') is configured by consciously choosing the job we want it to do. In the case of the voice, the job is: To Communicate a Message!
How the voice creates messagesEffective communication requires shaping vocal sound so the message can be understood by the intended ear. As discussed in this interesting article I found, shaping vocal sound is accomplished by
- articulation - using movements of speech organs including lips, teeth and tongue - and
- pronounciation - using muscles in the mouth to change how we emphasize, extend and link syllables. [an interesting side note from the article:] The control of the flow of air and the shape of the mouth are the keys to clear pronunciation.
Let's try experimenting with some exercises. Using the sentence "You better not do that" see how many different messages you can create:
- Say or sing it 5 times, each time emphasizing a different one of the 5 words. Notice how the message of the sentence changes, becoming a threat, a warning, a pleading, an invitation to play, sarcasm.
- Say or sing it while moving the jaw with a slight chewing motion, then with a very still jaw. Notice the still jaw message is more menacing.
- Now do it with a tight ribcage, then with your spine moving like a lava lamp.
- Try it with a flat, then lifted, soft palate.
- If you know how, overlift (it will sound thin and strained) and then overdrop (it will sound hooty) your larynx while sounding the message.
- Do it with a numb 'poker face', then while smiling and moving your eyes around.
- Try pushing it out with a lot of (uncontrolled) breath, then pulling it out with wide ribs but using very little (controlled) breath. Oddly enough, the second way can sound a lot more confident!
How messages create the voice
- you're the reason I feel this way (you make me happy)
- you're the reason I feel this way (you made me angry)
- you're the reason I feel this way (you left me lonely)
- you're the reason I feel this way (you gave me this courage)
Messages that diminish the voice
- I don't know what these words mean. I'm just making noises.
- I'm bored with this song. It's not worth my time or yours.
- I'm sick/ weak/ stressed/ tired/ worried/ otherwise in need of your pity.
- Didn't I just hit a great high note there?
- I'm scared. Don't hurt me, audience!
- I don't know who I'm talking to. Certainly not you.
- I suck. I'm just proving it to you.
- This is a vocal exercise (not a message). Laugh, then come back when I have something to tell you.
- I'm singing GOOD... you want to give me the PRIZE... I'm the BEST... I can do more VOCAL LICKS than anyone else (I hear these messages a lot at contests, church, and sometimes awards shows).
Messages that empower the voice
The voice really exists for one reason: to deliver messages.How well that message is created will determine the strength of the response you get. THIS is the power of your vocal performance! Even when going after a commercial vocal career, the paradox is that vocal performance is the most powerful and valuable when it's focused on making a particular heart understand something at an emotional level. Your gift is made for giving.
Want more?Try Power, Path and Performance vocal training.
Communicating the message is a primary cornerstone of my 3-stranded vocal training method, with balancing breath support/control and keeping an open throat comprising the other two. The synergy of Power, Path and Performance courses and vocal lessons creates significant vocal improvement with immediate and ongoing gains... and without strain. Check it out at www.judyrodman.com
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