There is nothing so strong as gentleness and gentleness is real strength.
(Francis de Sales)I once asked my very first voice teacher, “Do you have to be really strong to sing high notes?”
She answered, “Yes, but it’s not the kind of strength you think.”
I have always remembered that answer as something of a mystery. And finally in my life I’m beginning to understand the mystery.
Don’t manhandle your voice. A soft sigh is the way to great resonance and sound. This is what I’m discovering. A very gentle beginning will carry you very far.
Did you ever watch the classic scenario of a child with a toy that wouldn’t go? At first she tries to get the object to go every which way, and then at some point – when she can’t figure it out – she starts slamming the toy harder and harder and trying to force it to perform the desired action. The frustration becomes enormous and the effort grows greater and greater. The child doesn’t seem to understand that her method is wrong. She makes the mistake of thinking she is not powerful enough to make the toy work, and she concludes that she needs more strength and more and more force to achieve her ends, and doesn’t understand that what she really needs is a new approach.
I have been down that path and made that mistake as I’ve literally engaged in a wrestling match with my voice over the years in my attempts to master it. Buy nowadays I have been discovering that what I perceive as small is actually the key to getting big and beautiful sound. I think this “smallness” is what Jean-Ronald Lafond refers to when he writes on his blog about “the little voice.”
I have recently been doing some exercises to find my falsetto voice. Apparently women have falsetto too but it isn’t as obvious because of women’s head voice. I always thought that falsetto, if I would bother to play around with it, would be something that would occur in my higher range. But I have been experimenting with finding it throughout my entire range, including the lower. In the process of doing these exercises, which I shall post in Frescamari’s Practice Room at some point, after only a day or two I was surprise to find this soft little cooing voice.
This is a voice that many women singers may already be aware of, but I -- with my big loud voice, coming from a family that spoke very vigorously because we had to compete to be heard -- was not accustomed to nor familiar with this soft approach.
I have begun to use this little voice to sing songs. To my surprise, when I played the recordings back, the sound was big, resonant and beautiful. The wobble or distortion that often crept into my singing has receded, because the forcing that was causing it has ceased and my apparatus is responding to the more gentle approach.
I do find that I have to be very strong to use this voice. Even stronger, in fact, then when I mistakenly let loose all the other kind of strength that I had. The strength is hard to describe, and it is not what I thought it would be. I’ve heard some singers say it is isometric strength. At any rate, it is not for those that cower at the thought of using great effort. But it is finally an effort that is being used constructively, as opposed to destructively, like the child banging the toy to try to get it to work.
I am very excited about this discovery. It is leading me to a greater versatility.
Click here to hear some samples.