In-Depth Post #6: Going for It
Here is my final In-depth post – ever! (At least I think it is, but I also said that last post too ?)
Over the last few weeks, it’s been hard finding time to practice singing, but that’s definitely not because I don’t have enough skills to work on! I met with my mentor Margo twice, and we once again covered a wide breadth of topics and exercises that I could go home and work on. First of all, we continued to sharpen and improve my breath support. She reinforced the fact that the breath is connected to nearly everything else in a well-developed voice. This week, Margo encouraged me to energize my voice with more support BEFORE I ever jumped to a high note (like exercise 1). This would help engage my upper abdomen area, and help me strain and ‘reach’ for high notes less often. She also asked me to sing louder on my exercises, because singing quietly is actually not a natural skill – but singing loudly is! It helps magnify what problems a singer has, and encourages better breath support. We also focused on my vowel shape, and making sure I continued to form vowels farther forward in my mouth, and used my tongue to make the vowels.
As for actual repertoire I was learning, I sang Concone #2 for Margo, and we worked on improving my phrasing and incorporating quiet notes (see above) to create a more varied and interesting interpretation. However, I had to make sure that even though I was singing quietly, I had to keep the intensity of my breath support, and not collapse in my chest area. This also applied to larger leaps (4th or more), because I needed to keep my breath support for the low notes in addition to the high notes. We finished off both of our lessons with Silent Noon, which I am still working on! We started to work on the musical aspect of the song, i.e. finding different emotions in different verses and phrases, while still keeping my vowel shape, enunciating clearly, and having proper breath support.
At home, the major struggles I encountered were mostly concerning consistently following what Margo asked me to think about. Sometimes, when practicing is difficult, it’s much more tempting to stop self-policing myself and revert to the bad habits that I’ve had ever since I started to informally sing as a kid. I know that this is wrong – and the way I’ve tried to combat this problem is by focusing on quality over quantity (this has helped with my piano practice too). By slowing the exercises/pieces down and making sure that I am aware of all the moving parts of my voice (breath, intonation, vowel formation, etc.), I can progress way faster than if I was just rushing through my exercises several times without paying serious thought to what I was singing. As for positives, I’ve definitely heard progress in my voice in all facets, particularly making sure that my voice is in tune.
Recently, I have been investigating my In-depth Contract (written in January) and comparing my goals to my progress. First of all, I have clearly met four of five of my objects (proper breath support, tuning, phrasing, and diction), but obviously only to the extent that one can learn these skills in four months – they are so difficult to learn and master!! The only skill that I haven’t focused on is ‘stage presence (maintaining proper tuning/breathing on stage)’, which I will discuss in the final paragraph of this post.
I also thought that I’d answer (briefly) some questions that I asked myself in the same In-depth Contract:
- How important is proper breathing technique to developing a voice with better tone?
SO IMPORTANT!!!!! Breathing is the biggest reason why any voice sounds good, because by properly freeing our throat up so that we don’t have to stretch for high notes, our tone will inevitably improve.
- What are some ways that I can properly and easily sing in tune?
First, by focusing on my breath support. Next, by making sure my vowel formation is near the front of my mouth and I am properly resonating.
- What are some of the difficulties of playing different notes on the piano than what I am singing?
I have not encountered this yet, because of the difficulty of the songs Margo has been me. As a result, I have only been singing with an instrumental version. I imagine, though, that the more confident I am in the notes I am singing, the easier it will be to play the piano at the same time.
- Is my vocal range confined to a specific range for the duration of this project, or will I be able to extend it further?
So far, I haven’t been able to extend my vocal range, but by regularly practicing my exercises, I have become more comfortable in the extreme ends of my vocal range.
- What is the difference between projecting and shouting?
Very different! Projecting uses proper breath support and shouldn’t place any stress on the throat, while shouting and singing uses no support, and doesn’t sound good at all (trust me – I’ve done it).
- How important is vibrato to a strong singing performance?
Pretty important – as a secondary skill, though. Vibrato is natural for a singer, but breath support should always be a priority.
Finally, I reviewed the “expert” section of my evaluation plan in the Contract, and, well, I seem to be meeting everything so far!
“I accomplish/learn all of the skills I outlined in the “Objectives” section of this proposal, and to an excellent and noticeable standard by my mentor and experts in the field. All facets of my singing technique have definitely improved. When I meet problems, I have taken note of them and tried to confront them with help from adults and my mentor. My blog posts are introspective, honest, and a very good indication of my progress throughout the project. Most of my blog posts are accompanied by a recording of myself singing. My final performance is excellent and very successful, as I have spent multiple hours preparing for it.” – In-depth Contract
Despite stating in January that I wanted to perform for my final presentation, my mentor and I decided that 1.5 minutes was simply too little time to show my skills. Instead, by utilizing the recordings I made throughout the stages of my project and the final recording (which I will finish in a few weeks with my sister at the piano) of Silent Noon, I will make a progress video that will still fall within the allotted timeframe. Therefore, because I am not performing live, I will not need to work as much on the “stage presence” objective.
“Singing is hard. But so is life. The difference? Singing’s worth it.”