Voice Lessons – Breathing Deep

I am finally back in regular voice lessons with my teacher! Well, not quite regular, but… as it turns out, you can get a lot done over the internet including working intensively on the voice, once you’ve made peace with the fact that all of your more traditional options have been removed. I would have made use of this technology years ago, had it not been for a stubborn and persistent vision of myself sounding like a screechy cartoon character over the computer; and I did not want to torture myself or my teacher, whom I adore. Full disclosure: I may still have some childhood technological trauma haunting me from the time I sang Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Memory” into a very live and terrible microphone with even worse speakers in front of hundreds of people at a local talent competition on the blacktop of a Philadelphia playground. (My mother insists that I was actually standing on the grass and I that was better than sliced bread, but we all know how mothers are…) It turns out, though, my non-imaginary, real life online voice lessons are a joy.

With all of my current performances cancelled or postponed (Coronavirus), I now have something I haven’t had in many years – a bit of time on my hands. I am no longer rushing from gig to gig and repertoire to repertoire, always preparing the next project for the immediate future. I have the time (when my family agrees!) to practice little details and tricky phrases for hours on end, experimenting with the music until a certain flexibility becomes almost second nature. Having finally given online voice lessons a chance, I am also no longer limited to working with my teacher only once a year (we live in different countries), cramming as much vocal growth as possible into a few days of very intensive sessions.

Now that I have this unexpected, concentrated time at home, my teacher just on the other side of the screen, we are going back to basics, and I’m remembering what it was like to study as a girl, learning for the sake of learning. Spending hours practicing minutiae like singing a true “ah” vowel in the lower register and releasing the back of the tongue on my lowest notes (despite said tongue’s pesky inclination to hang on for dear life) may be a bit absurd in the grand scheme of things, but it’s also inexplicably thrilling when it finally works and the sound is free.

Life is slower these days, and picking out which repertoire to work on, not by what is coming up next but by which music has the technical issues I most want to delve into, feels like I’m choosing my own adventure. Focusing again on breathing low and deep and keeping the breath flowing as evenly as possible beneath the sound is helping me remember to try to do that with the other parts of my life too. This is a moment when I can take stock, look in the mirror, and practice the small changes I can make now that may grow to have larger effects over time. I feel these little, concrete changes adding up. Soon enough (please let this be true!) the day will come again when I can throw myself back into the music on a real stage with a living, breathing audience. I can hardly wait to let it all wash over me, soaking up the energy of the audience and releasing my adrenaline back over the footlights. Even the small part of me that is now in its glory, learning for learning’s sake again, longs to know finally which of these small changes will have added up to something that sticks.

4 thoughts on “Voice Lessons – Breathing Deep

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog. I too experience learning for self improvement by auditing college classes.

  2. Robin, thank you again so much for another excellent blog. Not quite in the getting back to basics category, but I was chatting to a singer friend in the US on Skype this afternoon and was saying how it is such a pity so few singers use the messa di voce, which, like Tosi (just to name drop!) I find is such an exquisite embellishment. I’d be interested to know your feelings

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