That’s right. Some singers have to back up.
Why? Because less is more.
What? Because, singers, if you take this turn, there is a faster way to your destination.
Yes, even I back up. Quite often actually.
OK, let me explain.
I performed today at my uncle’s funeral. I sang You Raise Me Up. It went reasonably well, although my family said it was perfect. It was beautiful they said. Well, they have to say that, right? They’re my family.
Am I a perfectionist? When it comes to singing, YES! If I’m going to teach it, then I had better be able to do it damn well!
Today was a test, a sort of challenge, to see how well I could perform under stress.
Yes, I was stressed, and emotional. I felt like my stomach was in my throat! By that I mean, I was not relaxed, even though I wanted to be, and I was breathing very shallow, and unable with ease, to hold a breath deep within.
What happened? Well, I noticed a few things. First, I noticed that I was running out of breath with each phrase….at home I can do two phrases in one breath!! I also noticed my left foot was trembling and I couldn’t stop it! And, I wasn’t looking at the audience. I had my eyes fixated on a pew, unable to disconnect myself from that to look around at my audience. And, I had this unfamiliar (yet familiar) fast little tremelo in my voice at the end of each phrase. I tried so hard to control this, but my breath support was so “not there” that it seemed impossible. To make matters worse, I could barely hear myself or my keyboard, (which were both plugged directly into a floor access to the sound board at the back of the church being run by a helper). I then quickly wished I had taken the time to set up my own amp and microphone.
What did I do? Well, I quickly thought…..S—, this can’t be happening! I feel out of control!
There were some good things. Firstly, I knew my song inside and out. I had no issues with remembering the piano notes/chords, song format, words………they just fell into place like tying my shoe. Also, I had no issue expressing myself. By that I mean, when I sing, I easily sing from my heart. (It’s kind of like finding it easy to stand in front of someone completely nude)……..ha ha! Well, in fact, I find it a lot, I mean A LOT, harder for me to stand in front of someone nude, than to sing from my heart. Not sure what that says about me………but that’s the truth!
OK, back to my point. What did I do?
In an effort to relax, I quickly stopped trying. Yes, I stopped trying. I let my volume come back to a very comfortable place where I felt like I was singing to myself in my livingroom. I couldn’t hear myself in the speaker system, so instead I focused on what I could hear……..from me…..directly from me. This all happened within the first two lines of the first verse. I quickly assessed that things were not “comfortable” …. my voice was not “controlled”, and decreasing my volume gave me an instant sense of control. It was still the verse and the notes were relatively low, so that control was very helpful when I approached the chorus. In the chorus, I tried to sing with intensity without volume. It was a balancing act (and it always is) to achieve the correct amount of air release with the maximum amount of support I was able to achieve at that moment.
This balancing act went on through the first chorus. No one knew what I was experiencing………only I knew that I was trying to establishing the perfect volume condition with which my vocal cords and breath support could handle my voice at that given moment.
What amazing, is that once my voice started to feel “controlled” and manageable, I realized I was starting to relax…..my breath support was increasing as my breath intake was able to go much deeper!
By the second verse I was crooning. It was a cycle. The more I established a balance of my volume with my breath support, the more at ease I was, and then I was able to settle into a rhythm that had me belting out the finale of my song with good volume and good support.
All I can say is thank goodness not many songs require your maximum “control” as soon as you leave the gate.
Singers, what I hope you take from this post, is that not every performance is going to be the same, and you need to have a strategy to be the best you can be at any given time. When you know you are not up to par, such as having a cold, or feeling emotionally unwell…….my recommendation is that “less is more”. Back up the volume and etablish your control. You can still sing intensely and be totally engrossed in a song without all the volume. Try it……you might like it.
Comments are welcome. Go ahead, share your experience or question. Susan