Release as a skill

As we work to improve our vocal technique, we will use exercises and perhaps musical pieces (in whole or in part) in order to strengthen a targeted vocal response or skill. While we execute the exercise, we usually need to be present in the moment and paying attention to what we’re doing and how we do it. However, when we perform we must not be thinking about “how”. We must “do” in a spontaneous manner.

How do we get there?

The singer – mind, body, and soul – will gravitate toward making freer sounds when given the opportunity and encouragement to do so. In other words, if exercises uncover a better vocal function and are continued over time, the singer will naturally move and continue in that direction, unless there is significant resistance to change. However, incorporating a new vocal response into the singing of songs may take a while. An old habit may dominate for a long time, before it is replaced by something better.

One skill that singers need to develop is release. This word is used in many ways by many people. I would like to use it here in a specific psychological way, especially in the context of the practice room. The trick to acquiring better technique is to alternate between thinking about the technique and then letting it go, repeatedly. If the exercise or concept is truly leading to a better technique, eventually the voice will move in that direction naturally because it feels and sounds better. In the alternation between exercise and performance, we must also alternate between thinking about how we’re doing something and not.

It can be difficult to just “not”. It often helps to replace the technical thought with something else in order to release it. Some possibilities:

  • Concentrating on the meaning of words
  • Centering one’s self on a nonvocal part of the body
  • Moving while singing
  • Listening objectively to “see what happens”
  • Role-playing

Moving from the psychogical space of “thinking” to “letting it fly” is a skill in itself, and one that must be practiced in order to improve one’s performance. This can be cultivated with exercises and in music. Eventually the skill of releasing technical thinking becomes easier and more automatic, especially as skill improves and a musical stimulus leads to freer and spontaneous responses.

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