FIND YOUR VOICE
A topic I have found myself referring to with singers a lot lately, has been the early part of "my" singing and teaching journey. So I thought I would share some of "my" experiences with you in this blog, and hope that it may encourage you.
I have always been a shy and quiet person, and always loved singing. My Dad is a singer, and my sisters grew up wanting to sing and perform like him. As a teenager, something that was a very big struggle however, was not being allowed to have an opinion about most things, nor being allowed to express it.
This made the start of my singing lessons, a very interesting 30 min sessions, for my vocal coach, Danny Stone.
I never started lessons, wanting to be a performer or in the limelight. To be the centre of attention was just not who I was. I always thought to be a "good" performer", I had to be someone like Danny. eg Bubbly, chatting, joking, full of laughs and lots of movement. If that is what it took to be good on stage, you could count me out.
As I did my practise at home, Dad would come in the room and to tell me his opinion on what I was doing wrong. This then made singing in front of Danny, (my coach at that time), even harder, as I was constantly waiting for him to criticize me, tell me what I was doing wrong or judge me.
You can imagine the obstacles that this presented.
Danny tells me now about how "quiet" I used to be. He had to have the music very soft, because he could "barely hear me". Thanks to Danny's constant patience and encouragement, my general vocal skills developed, eg my breathing control, tonal control, range etc. He likened my voice to "Karen Carpenter" and would tell me that I
didn't have to be a "loud singer" to be a "good singer".
With time, I eventually gained the confidence to participate in my first few performances. I remember standing with both feet planted in the one spot on the stage, the mic was in one hand and my head titled to the side. I dare say, I wasn't very entertaining to watch. Never wanting to perform anyway, this proved to me that I'm clearly not good at it.
Hmmm.... doesn't see me with a bright singing future?!
In the early days of my "teacher training", we had a performance coach working with Danny Stone Voice Production. She said something to me, that made the way I thought of performing, change dramatically.
"All you have to do is be yourself", she said.
It was about this time that Danny and I were talking about "song interpretations" and how to teach it. He would ask me to write a few lines next to the song words, about what "I" thought my songs were about. Being guided by what the "song words" were saying, and how they made me feel, became a way for me to start expressing "my point of view".
I was finally in a place, where I was "accepted" for just being myself. I was encouraged to be me, and I was "allowed" to express my thoughts and feelings, without being judged or criticised for it.
What a difference to what I had been shown all my life?!
With these 2 tools, they became massive turning points in my performance and my singing. They helped me to "discover" my voice.
From such humble beginnings, of being told what I am doing wrong, to now being able to:
- Sing stronger than many "strong" singers.
- Sing songs I never thought I could or would.
- Sing duets and trios with amazing singers, with complicated harmonies
- Sing in a 15 piece harmony ensemble
- Participate in workshops with world renowned vocal coaches and singers
- Perform at in-house concerts, corporate and private functions, community events
- Be a senior voice coach at Danny Stone Voice Production
- Record and produce EP's and albums
This has come together with a lot of hard work, practise, determination, patience and perseverance. It has always been my love of "singing" that has motivated to get me here. If I relied on how I felt or how I sounded, I wouldn't be here now.
If you love singing, but have
- been told you can't sing,
- worry what people may think etc,
I can tell you from experience, that these obstacles are possible to overcome, if "you" want too. With your coach in your corner, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
"It's what is in your heart that makes good music"
Quote from Soundbreaking- Stories from the cutting edge of recorded music.
If you get performance anxiety, or like me, believe you are an introverted performer, check out this article by Renee Grant Williams and try this "shyness survey". You may be very surprised by what you discover.
YOUR VOCAL IDENTITY - What does your voice say about you?
As vocal coaches, Danny and I consistently hear from so many people of how they dislike the sound of their own voice. Ask yourself the question, "What am I doing about it?" Do I just accept that this is my sound and do nothing about it?
While doing my study and research this week, I found an article by the world renowned Renee Grant-Williams, who Danny and I had the opportunity to see in Melbourne last year, which has prompted this week's blog.
The way we speak and deliver lines of communication, like our personal image, is one of the very first impressions we leave with people.
Not happy with your look? You change your look.
What if we consider our voice as our very own trademark to separate us from everyone else, to get that job we really want, or make that presentation or to get that promotion we are after?
Why not work on your voice to achieve an improved vocal identity?
Here are a few simple ways to improve the quality of the way we sound, and how we execute them.
1/ Breath control -
When we speak, we very rarely think about breathing, let alone controlling it. This causes our breaths to be shallow and therefore our sound to be quite breathy and weak. Engaging the diaphragm will provide the control and support needed to give fuel to the vocal cords to make your vocal footprint.
"If you breath shallow, you sound shallow", says Renee.
2/ Tone control -
"I sound like a whiny cat when I sing", is something Danny and I hear a lot. What people are actually referring too is the "tone" of the voice. When we speak don't think of getting the richest, most beautiful tone we can, therefore it can sound thin and white.
3/ Pitch -
Rise and fall in our conversation makes us more interesting to listen too, and makes "what" we say more convincing.
4/ Be present -
We have all had the phone calls with someone where the "vocal drone" on the other end becomes hypnotic and we just "ah huh, yes, Ok etc" every now and then during the conversation. Meanwhile we are thinking about other things. Being present in mind and thinking, while communicating with people can keep them engaged or make them feel like they are being ignored and not important to us.
5/ Passion -
Do you think about what you say before you say it? "Believing" the things you say and feeling passionate about it, changes the way you sound and the delivery of your information.
Danny and Kylie doing a sound check for DSVP Performance Night.
Danny and the Elite Harmony group bringing the house down.