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e_moon60

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On Wings of Song [Nov. 18th, 2009|11:15 pm]
e_moon60
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[Current Mood |accomplished]

In the past week I've fixed one vowel (closing off my "o" too soon) but another is being difficult. My eyebrows are so far untameable and jerk upward when I sing higher notes, despite my stern silent orders to them to Hold Still. The jaw, however, if held firmly by one hand, wiggles less.

What, you wonder (if you aren't another singer) does this have to do with singing? Lots, according to my voice coach, because unnecessary and unwanted twitches and jerks indicate tension, and tension is Bad. Tension disturbs the instrument and can make icky sounds where the vocal cords aren't doing anything wrong.

Despite this, things are already changing for the good in my voice. (Ritual disclaimer--no, I don't think I'm the next Jessye Norman or anything. But having discovered, via my voice coach, that I've been unfairly ignoring a good chunk of my range, I'm now working on getting it into useful order.) Week by week, the upper range is "waking up" and I'm learning to hear what's going on up there. Of course I've played with singing high from time to time, but I didn't know what to listen for, and suspected it was all squeaks and creaks.

The good news (for me, anyway) is that when singing properly (not tense, not doing something weird with my mouth) I sing on pitch, even at the margins of my range. That's one thing I don't have to "fix" as long as the rest of the technique is correct. It's also handy that I have fairly decent music memory...I can repeat things I just heard, or heard five minutes ago, etc.

An hour lesson is fairly strenuous--mentally and physically--and about an hour and a half after the end of my lesson I was singing again--in a Messiah rehearsal. My voice coach is the director. So a little over 2 hours of that rehearsal plus my hour lesson and...yes...I'm tired. But also exhilarated. Because I touched--just touched, very breathily, but on pitch and with the right vowel sound, the high A. I also got to work on the "pieces" I was given...a deceptively simple folksong and Purcell's "If Music Be the Food of Love" which doesn't even make a pretence of being simple.

It's very different singing a song for a voice teacher than singing in a group...or alone in the house...there's the awareness that a very educated ear is listening, for one thing. And will notice if a breath is misplaced, if a vowel goes off, and so on and so on. But--somewhat to my surprise--I felt a bit as I did the first time I faced one of the better fencers in our group as a novice fencer. It was scary but then came that rush of excitement and--there I was, singing.


Singing Messiah in the choir is very different again--familiar, in that I've sung with many of these people before, was sitting beside Carolyn, in front of Nancy, etc., and familiar in that I've sung Messiah quite a few times. But different, too, right after a lesson--he tunes my ear as well as my voice--the one being necessary to accomplish the other--so I am hearing more about the other voices in the choir, details of how they sing. Everyone in "our" choir--the parish choir--has constant nudging from the director and some of them take lessons from him, as I now do. It annoys him that we still need reminders, but it usually takes only one or two before we're in synch with him. Choristers from other groups often take much longer to grasp what he means, what he's striving for. I remember being that confused, feeling that helpless. Our director doesn't want an ordinary Messiah--he wants a knock-their-socks-off-and-wake-them-up Messiah. So his markings are very individual and make the most of the music & words.

Need sleep now. It was a long, long day.

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Comments:
From: (Anonymous)
2009-11-19 05:45 am (UTC)
<<...My eyebrows are so far untameable and jerk upward when I sing higher notes, despite my stern silent orders to them to Hold Still. The jaw, however, if held firmly by one hand, wiggles less...
...according to my voice coach, because unnecessary and unwanted twitches and jerks indicate tension, and tension is Bad. Tension disturbs the instrument and can make icky sounds where the vocal cords aren't doing anything wrong.>>

LOL. Don't ever watch Cecilia Bartoli. She is like a giant moving eyebrow, one that appears to be in pain (unless she's changed over the years).

This is something I always had trouble with. Not the face so much, but staying still while singing, another no no. Does your teacher/director address posture, toe-tapping, hands, and body movements?

Sari
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-11-19 06:03 am (UTC)
Posture, yes. Toe-tapping while in group rehearsal, only if someone's doing it on the wrong tempo. So far I haven't toe-tapped in a lesson. Hands, only if obviously stiff. Body movements, only if inexpressive...in fact, in the first lesson he had me walk around the room while free-singing. However, today my upper back and shoulders did something (I felt it afterwards, of course, not with any warning so I could stop it) when I was higher up in my range and approaching the top of the exercise...and that he commented on.

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From: (Anonymous)
2009-11-19 06:09 am (UTC)
How lovely that he lets you move. My second teacher in college put a piece of tape on the floor and made me stand on it. At attention. With my elbows out and hands clasped over my middle (the traditional stance). He could not deal with me pacing while doing (boring) warm-ups.

Did you lift your shoulders and arch your back while going up? Did he tie it to sound production?

Sari
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[User Picture]From: keristor
2009-11-19 09:02 am (UTC)
I've been told that raising the eyebrows is good, it alters the shape of the face for the higher notes, along with smiling[1]. Raising the shoulders, on the other hand, gets me told off (it tenses the throat I think). I don't have the problem of raising my shoulders when I breathe in, I have breathed from my lower diaphragm since I was a kid; whether it was natural or it was drummed into me when I first started singing I no longer remember, but the traditional "breathe in" to make yourself smaller has always sounded really odd to me, when I breathe in I expand.

[1] I was reminded by something this morning of the old Boy Scout (as in Baden Powell) Law: keep your shoulder to the wheel, your nose to the grindstone; keep a stiff upper lip; smile and whistle at all times. Quite apart from the pain of having one's nose on a grindstone (where on earth did that image originate?), have you ever tried having a stiff upper lip and smiling and whistling simultaneously? Or even any two together? He must have had a really strange idea of anatomy...
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[User Picture]From: filkferengi
2009-11-27 04:25 pm (UTC)
How exciting, excavating & renovating all sorts of creative things about yourself! Thank you so much for sharing your creative dynamos with us.
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