What a gift it is to be so present in our listening that we don’t hear all the voices of the judging mind, the wounded heart, the tired body. What a gift to hear only the precision of the phonation, the ring of overtones, the fluid stretch of the breath over the soft beating of time in the phrase of expression. What a gift to be so wholly concentrated in creating that we feel we are being played as an instrument by some inspired and compassionate part of our selves that has no desire but to uplift.
This is the true purpose of technical study: to be so immersed in this gift that it is all we share every time we speak or sing. No matter what archetype we are animating, no matter what story we are telling, no matter what jagged or liquid melody we are offering, its potential is to be medicine. An accomplished performer can share treasures of the heart and throw open the doors to unlimited imagination.
This, and nothing less, is what happens when vowels are complete and resonant on every pitch, when the breath is quiet and perfectly paced, when the body is aligned and engaged. The hours of practice are not to gain recognition for excellence, but to disappear behind excellence so that a deeper creative spirit can emerge to enrich first you, and then others.
Give no mind to the voices of misgiving and concerns that tempt you to diminish your message. Listen today for the alignment and congruence of your one beautiful voice so that it may be free to give, with joy and humility, what you have been privileged to experience in your hours and life of practice.
“Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.” – PHILLIP BROOKS
Performances by eloquent speakers and accomplished singers seem effortless. More often than not, the apparent ease is the result of hours of preparation. Practice is often seen as a necessary chore, something endured in order to get to the more pleasurable art of performing. I have noticed it is most powerful when practice is also embraced as an art in and of itself.
Painters have exhibits, but painting is their art. Singers have performances and speakers have engagements, but the creation of sound is vocal art. The transformational art of voice is practicing with such concentration and passion that it feels like the personality yields to some profound creative inspiration that is singing or speaking us.
Here are some suggestions I think make for more joyful, inspired practice:
- Practicing as exploration and learning.
Mastery takes time so if we practice to get things right we often end up frustrated, disappointed and feeling hopeless. If we are playfully trying new things and allow ourselves to celebrate what we are learning, at some point we will notice that the voice and expression are better and easier.
- Practicing for limited time periods.
If we overwork the voice it becomes tired and unresponsive. Concentration dwindles in long practice sessions and we can end up reinforcing limitations rather than developing new capacities. It is also useful to change what we are practicing every few minutes. Frequent, short practice builds the kind of endurance and flexibility that sustains a career.
Too often we go straight to vocal problems with an intention of fixing them. It can be more efficient to take what works and make it grow. It also builds confidence and hope. For example, if the “ee” sound works well for you, but the “oh” doesn’t, start with “ee” and move to “oh” changing as little as possible. When the two sounds are equally good you will have solved the problem by reinforcing what is right about your voice.
Of course there are other ideas, but my final suggestion today is to limit what you try to incorporate or master at any given time.
For many people, noticing that they are in an inspired state is something of an accident. It seems special, maybe even mystical. For the artist, however, this state is a practice and it is entered into daily.
Throughout my life I have explored many paths. However, on my personal journey nothing else has opened or deepened me as much as singing does. It would seem to be my “way” through life.
Practice is the essential element that has made singing a reliable creative ally — rigorous, intentional, daily practice. I have given years of my life to practicing details like perfecting the overtones of an “AH” vowel on a certain pitch, or mastering the articulation of a consonant so the high note is easier. Mundane details that require such intense concentration that my mind is scrubbed clean of every other thought. My heart is open and receiving because I am submerged in curiosity and not replaying a past encounter or projecting a possible future.
All misgiving disappears and without a single strategy or logical calculation I seem to know what to try next. It is not necessarily the key that unlocks the doorway to “success,” but it always opens into the next thing I need to learn. I emerge renewed, inspired and ready to interact with what life brings my way.
Singing becomes an inspirational practice when it is done with the kind of concentration and awareness that stops time and opens into unbounded creativity, when it focuses the mind and liberates the heart from its brokenness.
You do not have to have any special powers to enter into this state. All you have to do is practice every day with focus, intention and curiosity instead of with drive, urgency and expectation. This is the difference between perpetuating what is known and creating something that moves everyone to perceive life as never before. It is the difference between pushing to achieve ambitions and tuning-in to inspiration.
Here is a link to Tony Robins interview with 108-year-old Alice Herz Sommer, a pianist and holocaust survivor. She inspires my practice!
I meet countless people who feel they do not have a voice in matters that profoundly affect their lives, whether it is politics, finances, working conditions, family dynamics or all of the above. And an awful lot of people tell me they love singing but don’t do it because they have been shamed about their voice. There’s more than enough shame to go around when it comes to the speaking voice too, for that matter.
I hold as truth that all people are kept alive by the same life force, a creative impulse that generates every involuntary breath they take. And every voice that sails on the outgoing tide of that breath is meant to be heard.
There are way too many people in our world who are imprisoned or dying not because of their beliefs, but because they dare to express them. It is understandable that people keep silence rather than regret having said things that they cannot take back. And yet, it is devastating to live with regret for things not said that would have made all the difference in the world. Sooner or later, everyone is in the right place, at the right time, to be the one life has been waiting for.
Meant 2 B Heard is a conversation about having the authentic power of one’s voice.
It is a forum to discuss how work with breathing and the voice can support purpose, relationships and dreams.
It is a place to entertain questions and to share the best of what I have learned about the voice.
When is the last time you sang your heart out or laughed your head off? Singing and laughing will stimulate positive endorphins,improve concentration, boost emotional intelligence, invigorate physical function and help you feel vibrantly alive.