Your way of singing works until it doesn’t

sailing-ship-285336_960_720Do you have favorite feedback sensations that tell you that all is well? I do. You may feel your upper range flying out of the back of your head, or you may feel that your chest voice resonates against your hard palate or that you feel your back expanding every time you breathe or that your tongue needs to feel heavy and forward or that you need to drink water between each set when you perform, or that you are this or that kind of singer.

Then something happens. You grow older, your hormones change, you have a long illness, you get divorced, you become injured, your vibrato becomes a wobble, you lose some range, or you feel yourself slipping. The little things that always “worked” now don’t. Or maybe they never were the reason you sang well and you were just lucky? Or maybe this is permanent decline? Or maybe it’s so confusing and frustrating that it’s time to stop?

If you were taught to visualize, feel, or imagine things in order to learn how to sing, and they worked for you, but now they don’t, what should you do? Do you need to find a teacher who is more creative with visualizations and conveying sensations? That is an option that many take. There are legions of teachers with many theories, both popular and obscure, of how the voice should feel, or where to put it, or how to “produce” it. They will be happy to show you “their way” of developing a voice.

But there is another way. Rather than shopping for a new bag of tricks, you can explore vocal function and exercise the basic movements. You can do a variety of exercises using patterns of pitch, vowel, and volume, and find out how to elicit the easiest, strongest reflexes of the voice you have today. While executing these elements of singing, you can make friends with new guiding sensations and new sounds. As you improve, you might find that your voice sounds like the former you, but the way you are singing is different. Or you might find that with new strengths and balances, your vocal sound is different. You might go from soprano to mezzo or vice versa, or you might need to change repertoire. Perhaps you will need to develop markedly different concepts and habits related to singing. As long as you are getting vocal function back, rejoice! Learn to love this capable, healthy voice with the increased potential for musical expression. For your happiness and musical life, I urge you to not argue with reality. If your voice asks you to change, change!

You may have to re-find your voice several times over the years. It can happen when you’re 15 or 30 or 50 or 70. With a functional approach to voice training, the process is similar each time, even though the result may take you to new places. If you are willing to face your own reality, experiment, and change, working with a functional voice teacher can be a fascinating and satisfying process. The voice never truly stops changing. Fear not! Or feel the fear and do it anyway!

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