Category Archives: Voice-Nuts and Bolts

Eureka!

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I found my voice today. Just for a brief moment, and then it was gone, but I FOUND it–That elusive perfect spot where placement, air and aperture all line up and turn into something magical. I have never sung like that before, and I am HOOKED.

I have always struggled with jaw/tongue tension and a curious combination of physical habits that cause me to under-energize and over-control muscularly. I sing coloratura passages pretty well, but have apparently been achieving that accuracy with muscle alone, which is on the one hand kind of amazing and on the other totally awful. Just like the fact that I can make an “O” sound, while my mouth shape is more like “unnngguhhh.” That probably should not happen, yes? My passaggio (the place in my voice where I change from my middle range to my higher range, for non-singery types) has been a source of endless frustration. I am 29, have been studying voice since 2001, and often still can’t sing evenly across my passaggio. BAH.

And this whole time I’ve been thinking forward with my resonance. Into the mask, right? High and round and into the mask, like every teacher I’ve ever had EVER has said. And my body has reacted this way (here represented in the style of Allie from Hyperbole and a Half):

Do you guys know how big your tongue is?  Seriously, y’all, that sucker is HUGE. Look at this:

That’s one big giant muscular thing that sits right there in your mouth and gets in the way of everything. Curse you, tongue tension!

Anywho, back to my breakthrough. Tracy’s been trying to get me to create more space and release my tongue since I got here (as has every teacher before her). I’ve finally started to figure out what that acutally MEANS in my mouth. I have a really small mouth (as evident by my sad crooked teeth) and the whole tongue against the bottom teeth thing really doesn’t work for me–if it’s that for forward, it means that my tongue is, in fact, arched up in the back of my mouth. I have to rest it ON my bottom teeth and against my bottom lip. This feels strange, but works much better.

In addition to this, we’ve also been trying to find a higher resonance center for my voice. I feel like I’m sort of hitting my head on a ceiling when I sing a note, rather than having a big vaulted space and coming down to the note. Well, this has mostly been translated as “creating space”–or releasing my tongue forward and expanding my pharynx and soft palette. It’s like creating a big diagonal space from my jaw back to my ears. This has given me some success, but still hasn’t ever really hooked in–until Tracy suggested that instead of forward, that I instead try once to send my sound out the back of my head. Sounds bizarre, right? You’d think it would result in a throaty, covered sound?

Nope. The space behind my teeth just opens up like a gothic cathedral, my tone suddenly evens out through all ranges, my tongue stops fighting me… It’s like magic, people. It felt like I was throwing the sound backward, like I was singing to someone standing right behind me. But it didn’t lose forward resonance, it just…shifted. The air moved smoothly and for the first time EVER, singing was truly easy. The kind of easy that makes me think “This is ALL? This is ALL I HAVE TO DO??” It’s incredible. And sorta scary. And awesome. And I can’t wait to be able to make it happen all the time.

Of course, today my tongue is responding to its sudden unemployment from the position of Vocal Controller by staging a sit in and refusing to relax even just the tiniest bit. I actually had tongue cramps. What a jerk. I’ll have to do some negotiating with it and see if we can come to a mutually beneficial understanding. As Myron said today: vocal issues are like horror movies: you have to kill the monster at least three times before it stays dead. And if it’s a successful franchise, like Freddy Krueger, or that guy from the Halloween movies, it’s more like 10 or 12 times.


Aside

See, it's such a popular question they wrote a book about it.

Something has been bugging me lately. And by lately, I of course mean for the last 3 years or more. I am Fach-less.

When I was younger, this didn’t bother me so much. (I should stop right here and say that yes, I KNOW I’m still quite young. I’m turning 29 a week from today, and I recognize that I am really only just barely a real-live adult in some people’s eyes. That being said, 29 for a singer is well into maturity for most voice types.) I thought that I need only be patient, and my classification would soon become clear. That…hasn’t really happened.

Now, the Mezzo bit IS quite clear, and has stayed consistent for the entirety of my voice study (but for a couple of outliers trying to convince me over the years that I’m a soprano waiting to happen…crazies). It’s the sub-classification that eludes me. I’m fairly certain that, unless I find that I’ve accidentally been singing everything in falsetto this whole time, that I’m NOT a dramatic. But I’ve had people very recently tell me that Verdi isn’t out of my reach, which is much closer to a full lyric/dramatic sound than I ever imagined I’d get. I’ve also been told that I am a lyric coloratura, something along the lines of a Joyce DiDonato or even Cecilia. I do have the flexibility for this kind of singing, but I also can sing with considerable weight when the occasion calls (and the range allows–I’m still in negotiations with my top these days, though I’m winning by half-steps). I’d love to be headed to Contralto-towne, but unless hormones drop my voice another 3rd when I get pregnant, it’s just not going to happen.

So what am I? I’ve sung everything from early music to Menotti, and everything in between. And I have no idea where I’m supposed to be. And the stupid question will just keep coming up, especially since I’m striking out into the audition scene this year in a big way. I need to figure out what I ought to be singing, and no one so far has been able to give me a definitive answer.

SO. In classic internet fashion, I will submit myself to the wisdom of the masses. Let’s take a vote! What, dear readers (all 3 or 4 of you), do you think my Fach is?

What the Fach?!