Improving the voice is a multifaceted journey of exploration and surprise, filled with rabbit trails, pitfalls, toolsets, saboteurs, enablers, frustrations, u-turns, plateaus and sudden eureka moments. It is a journey of steps... and like a well-played video game, you want to take the ones that lead to victories, not defeat (and definitely not injury!)
When a singer or speaker comes in for a lesson with me, I assess where they are at the present moment. Then I look for the key to the next level up for their voice. Whether it's the first lesson or they are a long-time regular, I look the most limiting factor, the weakest muscle group, the lie they are buying, the area of tension they are prone to, the awareness they haven't yet aquired, the degree of curve in their upper back, the great thing they are doing sometimes by accident that they need to be mastered into habit. These steps usually fall into the big three catagories of PPP training:
POWER (balanced control/support of breath)
PATH (sending voice through an open -not tight- throat)
PERFORMANCE (reach, communication issues)
Sometimes the steps are concerned with physical, emotional or vocal health. I began this post from an observation of myself. A long-delayed trip to the dentist (and yes, eventually an endodontist) left me with some temporary but serious dental nerve pain. I found that this made me lose any desire to sing; even vibrations from demonstrating vocal exercises for students was uncomfortable.
I've seen voices compromised by such random things as a dull headache, hormone imbalances, a crick in the neck, overbulked shoulders, worry about a math test and menstral cramps!
Some specific key steps among the myriads I've seen unlock vocal freedom:
- Taking on a taller, more flexible posture.... getting used to balancing head over spine.
- Becoming aware of, and changing, the bad habit of over-lifting or over-dropping the larynx to reach notes.
- Doing some self-discovery: Getting to the bottom of - and conquering - fear and insecurities... such as looking foolish or being harshly judged.
- Practicing active listening plus various exercises, aiming directly at the center of pitch.
- Becoming aware of your immediately improved vocal control when you keep the ribcage flexibly wide.
- Finding allergy protocols/ remedies that work for you.
- Drinking more water to increase cord hydration and correct viscosity of mucous layer.
- Adopting a habit of dropping and loosening the jaw when articulating.
- Adding facial and eye language.
- Figuring out who one should be singing or speaking to.
- Changing diet for respiratory and other health issues, better digestion, controlling acid reflux, gaining more energy for vocal support & less mucous.
- Addressing and controlling sources of pain - anywhere!
- Developing live mic technique to control breath.
Here's the thing, EVERYTHING can affect your voice. But don't get overwhelmed - the staircase to great voice is not too steep to climb. Ask yourself right now...
What is the one main reason my voice is not doing as well as it could?The most important step to your next level of vocal improvement is to ACT ON THAT!
OK... I'd love to know... what was your step?