“Letting go & staying in control” was the title of a module on Advanced Breath Management in the Voice Technique 101 class I took through Berklee Online.
(POST UPDATED 18/2/20)
I decided to focus on learning about vocal technique when I started teaching singing at MAINZ about six years ago. It was driven by a need to put together a singing syllabus!
I also had to get my voice in optimum shape so I could demonstrate and teach others the curriculum.
There were a couple of things that really resonated with me on my journey to upskilling.
Hard learned lessons!
Lesson one is that the more I know about singing the more I realise I’ve yet to learn!
Letting go and staying in control was another big lesson.
Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it is fair to say that I am a massive CONTROL freak. There I said it – not as ashamed as I used to be as I am now one with my flaws and strengths after more than four decades on this planet.
Secondly, I STRUGGLED to learn new things and apply them to my existing singing style and habits, formed over roughly 25 years. Like, REALLY STRUGGLED.
I hear you saying “well, you can’t teach an old diva new tricks…” and that’s just the kicker.
As singers, we can and should be constantly researching, self-assessing & applying new tricks to our toolkit.
In this game, it is a use it or lose it situation, ESPECIALLY as we age.
When I began to learn about the voice, I thought I was prepped mentally and physically to studying and open myself to all that was thrown at me.
Learning new things is hard work!
What I wasn’t prepared for was the battle that ensued taking in the new and making it work within the existing framework.
Every gig felt like I was THINKING so hard about the technique that I almost felt disconnected from the lyrics, audience and band as I was trying too hard to apply the new skills I had learnt (i.e.: tone, placement etc).
My singing felt heavy and CLUNKY when submitting assignments, my voice cracked, I couldn’t get my vowels to sound the way I wanted them and so on and so on…
It all culminated in having an assignment to sing of my own choice. I decided on “Let it Go” (yup, life imitating art imitating life strikes again), the Demi Lovato version.
I was sure it would be a piece of cake. Well not so as I bombed!!
I had a vocal meltdown where all my functions, old and new just had a massive standoff.
Turns out, music was NOT the winner at the end of the day.
It was unbelievably humbling.
I felt so out of control. I could not get my body to do what I wanted. All this after CHOOSING to advance my learning because I finally felt in such a good place vocally!
My lecturer was so kind & my lovely classmates supportive as always with their comments but I knew… it was not my best work.
I carried that with me until I stumbled across that little paragraph.
It’s all about the balance
The gist of it was this: “there is a fine balance between releasing your body to allow it to function freely, and still maintaining control”
It was a lightbulb moment. I was expecting the study process to make me soar as a vocalist, the wind beneath my wings (see what I did there…) with no lightning to strike me down!
Not the case as I now know. That paragraph allowed me to let myself off the hook knowing that others before me had also found it all a bit hard!
The moral of the story is…
Whatever level of vocal development you are at, be it the first stages of learning to sing, adding new tricks and developing your voice or keeping gig fit as a professional singer, it’s a life long process.
A challenging but very rewarding one! It just simply isn’t a singular assignment, singing lesson or four-year degree. It’s a LONG end game.
Highlighting our singing wins and commiserating over the ‘draws’.
Fueling that passion for our craft & creating momentum to learn new things to apply, share, rinse & repeat for the long haul.
I hope to share stories that turn a few lights on & encourage you to sing your heart out daily with good technique, challenge yourself and enjoy the process, all whilst not overthinking too much! 😉
What is a singing challenge that you have overcome or are currently still trying to find that delicate balance of letting go and staying in control of?
Let me know!
Go forth diva, the force is strong in you.