Singing is deeply personal. It’s meant to communicate something that can’t be said with just spoken words alone. Most of us are masters of speaking - in that we know how to let certain bits of information out, while guarding others. But with singing, it’s not so easy to pick and choose what parts of ourselves are exposed, and what parts are guarded. The whole veil pretty much gets lifted as soon as we open our mouths, whether we like it or not. I believe we sing because we deeply desire to lift that veil, yet oftentimes we still try to guard ourselves right in the midst of our attempts to be vulnerable. Freedom for your voice lies right in the middle of your surrender to vulnerability. Exposing the parts of yourself that you feel are ugly is actually one of the most beautiful things you can do.
This surrender can start in the smallest of places. I remember when I first began learning proper singing technique, one of my big paradigm shifts was realizing that singing higher does not mean I have to sing louder. Mind blown! I remember experimenting by raising my pitch very quietly without tightening my throat or raising volume, and I felt my voice wobble a little bit. Immediately I shut my mouth, crossed my arms, and squirmed like a little kid. With my face cherry red, I tried again, only to hear my voice crack and fail. I laughed and squirmed again. I was struck by how deeply vulnerable it felt! I notice this in my clients as well. The idea of letting me hear their voice crack feels like showing me an embarrassing picture of themselves. Little do they know that my whole goal is to get them to release their neck tension/throat tension/emotional tension enough to let their voice wobble and crack. We all want to have strong, sturdy, reliable voices, but we can only get there if we stop trying to force that strength by straining.
This means celebrating voice failures. If you find that you tighten or strain your upper body when you sing in the higher parts of your range, you are probably trying to avoid ugly vocal sounds like cracking, texture, or hissing. Those “ugly” sounds are actually where the magic happens. Every wobble and break takes you one step closer to vocal freedom. The key is in releasing the “control” over your voice, to gain a different kind of control later. When you feel your voice begin to enter into a register that will make it crack, instead of taking control and pushing more sound out in order to avoid that, simply let your voice do whatever it does when it goes into uncomfortable territory. Only then can you strengthen your voice from that place.
I know it’s scary, and understandably so. It certainly was for me. Our voices are very much a part of who we are - but isn't that the reason why we sing in the first place? To show people who we really are? The lie is that imperfections are negatives. We should seek vulnerability and failure... it’s where growth lives. It’s also the foundation that any compelling performance is built upon.
Good luck experimenting, and if you want to share your journey with us, tag us on social media @sophieshearvocalstudios. Can’t wait to hear how it goes. :)