Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Getting out of the way... with a loose throat

One of the most difficult things to learn in singing is how to get out of the way.

There are, of course, a few things that need to be "done" in order to sing well. You have to know how to stand up (you can't sing your best while you slouch), you have to know how to open your mouth (if your jaw is tight, this is difficult), you have to know how to breathe (not too high, not too low), you have to know how to support (largely a matter of body response while singing), you have to remember to use your energy (a lot more than many realize), and how to move the breath (especially important in piano, where people often forget to keep the breath moving). Oh, and as I posted earlier, you have to know how to open for the upper register. Most important of all, you have to sing like you speak (assuming you speak well, without undue pressure on the vocal cords) and you have to have a spacious, relaxed throat.

A lot of our work as singers centers around loosening the throat. The key to it is that it is imaginative work, not physical work. If you "see" the palate high, you will lift the palate. If you leave out the imaginative step, and try to physically lift the palate you will most likely end up terribly stuck. Of course, the palate should be lifted in good singing, and the higher you sing, the more the it lifts: but if you try to achieve it in an overtly physical way, you are in for trouble.

Most of the really stuck singers that come to me are trying to do too much. If you look at a great singer in the act of singing, you will probably see a grooved, flat tongue, a low larynx and a lift to the cheeks. That does not mean you should flatten your tongue, lower your larynx, or lift your cheeks in order to sing! These things are an effect of relaxing, or loosening the throat. If you imagine the space of the throat, with a high palate, a low larynx, a flat tongue and a loose jaw, it is immediately there. Go ahead, try it! It is the one time in your life when just "thinking" it will make it happen.

Simply put, in singing, much of the work is "thought" not "done". Learn how to get out of your own way.
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