Using resonance sensations in singing

There is little doubt that 99+% of singers feel specific sensations in their bodies when they sing. These might include resonance vibrations anywhere in the head or torso, or feelings of stretching, contraction, or kinesthesia anywhere in the body.

Voice teachers are constantly tempted to believe that their students should feel what they feel. If they succumb to the temptation, then the students who react like they do will agree and have similar experiences and beliefs about what is required to make singing happen. But what happens to the students who don’t feel singing the same way their teacher does? If the teacher insists on a match between their own guiding sensations and what the students must feel, some students will suffer. Can teachers help singers who feel things differently to  use their own physical sensations productively?

Of course they can! However, the teacher needs to be willing to explore with the student, and not insist on sensations that don’t exist. If you see a teacher who is a lyric soprano who only has success with teaching lyric sopranos, you may be witnessing a lack of ability to go beyond one’s own experience and facilitate others’ differing experiences of singing.

Lead the singer through exercises and observe when an improvement, no matter how small, has been made; stop immediately and say “That was good. How did that feel?” Keep asking. Some singers don’t feel much, and some feel a lot. Keep the questions broad, because the “feelings” may consist of bodily sensations, mental concepts, emotions, or calmness/ nothingness. The point is to encourage openness to feeling oneself when singing. Raising awareness is always a good thing for the practicing singer. As ability improves, continued inquiry will help the singer to learn the associations between good singing and the correlating feelings. This leads to more security, progress, and enjoyment.

Ongoing inquiry is as beneficial for the teacher as it is for the singer. Over time this inquiry leads to trends in what a majority of singers report, and also an understanding of outliers who can be respected and helped just the same. Continually investigating and validating the singer’s experience will build trust between teacher and student, and trust between singer and self.

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