When you stop practicing

There was a television series from 2008-2010 called “Life After People” in which experts would speculate on what would happen to Earth if humanity suddenly disappeared. It was wondrous and spooky. Essentially, the human-built things stop working, decompose, and Nature comes in and takes over. It was eerie to watch the lights of Las Vegas go out and Hoover Dam freeze up and stop generating electricity, or see a simulated time-lapse of a beautiful mansion having its roof cave in, vines grow up the side, trees sprout in the middle, and all sorts of animals go in and out.

I have vocalized very little over the last two months until this last week. I’m reminded of “practice makes permanent”, and how not practicing causes some things to degrade. However, in voice, that isn’t all bad. My voice has “gone back to Nature” a little bit because it doesn’t have the conditioning right now to stand up to any sort of artifice. As a voice teacher, it’s fascinating. I am finding “crooning” – light singing – free and easy, and unencumbered. My low notes are better.

I have had several excellent teachers who “no longer sing” in terms of the professional work they used to do. However, each of them was able to demonstrate some wonderful things about vocal freedom when they chose to. One of these teachers told me a story about a singer he taught. He had told the singer NOT to practice and only practice the exercises in his lessons (2-3 times a week). The singer in question was untying some very serious vocal knots and had been overpracticing on his own with poor interpretations of vocal exercises. I observed this singer in some of his lessons and he did very well in the lessons, so the new exercises were good, even if he wasn’t ready to practice them unsupervised yet. Sometimes the way we hack away at our issues is not so good, and we need a significant re-set. “Re-set” has been a term I use a lot lately.

I have no vocal demands out in the world lately. I have turned down a couple of gigs this winter because I’m enjoying the break. Plunging into playing the bass again has been a great musical outlet, and I break out into song occasionally for sheer fun, not to “be in shape” for anything. Taking such a long break from singing a lot of exercises would have seemed strange and wrong 10 years ago, but now I’m really enjoying it.

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