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Episode 29 – Do You Sing For The Sound Or The Feeling?

It was way back in the 80’s when I first realized how easy singing was supposed to be.

This was a HUGE shock!

I used to be the “push a piano with your diaphragm” type.

I pushed my voice beyond ALL realistic proportions and didn’t even know i was doing it.

Eventually, I woke up to the idea of singing for the feeling.

When it feels easy it will usually sound great.

Now, I’m not being “Pollyanna” here. But usually, if it’s pretty easy, that suggests pretty balanced which will result in a nice, authentic  sound.

If you’re one that sings first for the sound, this will be VERY important for you.

Anyway, listen and enjoy.

Download this episode!

The Inner Singer Podcast

Episode 29 – Transcripts

Do You Sing for the Sound or the Feeling?

Well, hey there, everyone. Mike Goodrich here. Thank you so much for listening to The Inner Singer Podcast, episode 29. And welcome again.

Today, I’d like to talk about something that was inspired by a student and friend. He started out as a student, as a buddy of mine, but also a student. This was inspired by something that he said the other day that I thought was really great. And I don’t know if enough singers look at this particular thing that I’m going to talk about this way.

He said, “I’m not so concerned right now with the sound.” He’s doing some things. He’s doing some wonderful things. But some of the sounds that he’s doing right now are unfinished sounds because it’s not all put together, it’s not all matured, it’s not all grown up. So, some of the sounds are unfinished. In other words, really not performable, but establishing a kind of a condition in his voice that will eventually produce great sounds. And sometimes, he does produce great sounds. But the ones he was talking about were not great sounds yet.

But he said, “You know, what I’m more interested in—and the reason I love to sing—is because I love the feeling that I’m beginning to get where I feel like I’m flying. I love the feeling.”

I said, “That’s really, really good because so many of us—and certainly, I fell into this category for years and years—I was only, only concerned with what it sounded like. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even have a frame of reference what it should feel like.” I mean I was in the era where people were pushing pianos with their diaphragms and there were all these muscles involved and all these strength and this kind of thing.

This completely reminds me of years ago back in the ‘80s when I went to New York for the first time I’ve ever been to New York. And as I’ve mentioned before, I love these two tenors—Mario del Monaco and Franco Corelli. You actually should YouTube these guys even if you’re not interested in opera just to hear two of the most amazing voices that ever lived.

But anyway, I was convinced that I could become one of these. And I’ve never seen them sing. I’d only heard them on record. And because their voices are so huge, and because singing was so much work for me, I just put two and two together, I thought, “Well, if they’re singing that big and that loud, it must be that difficult. They just must be really strong.”

So, I just tried to get really strong—and stronger and stronger and stronger. Sadly, that became sort of like dumb and dumber because strength wasn’t what it was about. Anyway, I digress.

So, here I am in New York in about 1985 or something like that. And I go to the Metropolitan Opera bookstore. I said, “You guys have any videos…”—this is back in the days of videos, right? “You guys have any videos of old opera singers like del Monaco, Corelli and these guys.”

All of a sudden, I was in a movie. The guy kind of motions me over with his fingers. He says, “Come here. Come here.” He writes down his name, and he hands it to me and he says, “Go run over to Paddleson’s—that was the most famous bookstore at the time for music scores. And even now, to this day, I don’t know if it’s pronounced Păddleson’s or Pāddleson’s. But anyway, it was really famouns—and it probably still is—in New York. Any of you from New York know probably what it is, and what it’s called, how to pronounce it.

Anyway, this guy says, “Here, tell him Jim sends you” or whatever. He says, “But keep it kind of on the down low.” I’m thinking, “What is this?”

So anyway, I head on over to Păddleson’s/Pāddleson’s and tracked this guy down. I said, “Hey, listen. This guy, Jim, from the Opera shop over at the Metropolitan Opera sent me over for some videos for del Monaco and Corelli and some old videos?” He’s like “Oh, shhh… okay, come here.”

He takes me into this back room, and opens his drawer, this file cabinet of all these videos. I guess they’re bootleg videos. I don’t know they are at the time. But anyway, he’s like, “I’ve got del Monaco doing this. I’ve got Corelli doing that. I’ve got this, that, the other thing.”

I think each one was $100 at the time, and I bought four of them. I said, “Yeah, I’ll take that, that and that.” So, I bought $400 worth, not having a clue what I was getting, not knowing if they were going to be any good. I don’t know if I was being scammed and they were going to split the money. I didn’t know what was going on.

Anyway, I take a chance because I’ve never seen these guys seen… ever. This was like obviously 30 years before YouTube or any of that. And so, I got them.

Off I went home. I flew home to San Jose at the time. I unpacked my suitcase, and headed over to my dad’s and said, “Dad, look at this. Look what I’ve got.” We popped it into the VCR. And there it was! It was legitimate.

I don’t know if they were mislabeled or what. I don’t know why I happen to watch this first. But I think I popped in something that had an old Italian tenor named Beniamino Gigli who was fabulous. He lived to be well into his ‘80s, sang great forever even though in his mind, he said he was only in good voice three times in his whole life. So, this is kind of the standards this guy had I guess, rather perfectionist. But anyway, he’s fabulous!

So anyway, I’m watching him sing. My jaw is just dropping. He sings an aria from Cavalleria Rusticana. It doesn’t matter if whoever listening to this doesn’t know opera. It’s of no consequence at all. Suffice to say it’s a difficult aria. He sang really strong and really high. And when he went up for the high note, he looked like he was doing absolutely nothing.

I was just watching him. My dad was watching him. And I’ve never seen up close these kinds of guys at this caliber. So, I had no concept of how easy it was. I was like, “Oh, my… what’s going on here?” He just pops out this note, we rewound it a bunch of times, trying to figure out if he’s lip-syncing. He’s not, he’s singing live. I was just totally stunned.

And at that time, the thought that went through my mind is—and I’ll keep this totally clean—“What the heck am I doing? I’m over here with elastic bands around my waist, pushing against them, trying to support, trying to move pianos, acting like I’m lifting a 300-lb. weight. And this guy, you can’t even see him breathe. He stands there and looks like he’s doing nothing, singing these high notes that are just glorious.”

And then, I watched Corelli, I watched del Monaco and I saw the same thing.

What the heck have I been tricked into by not being exposed to how easy this actually is?

So anyway, I tell you that story because I really, really want to drive home, number one, how easy singing is when you’re balanced and coordinated. I have sung the loudest, strongest—the loudest, strongest notes I’ve ever sung in my life have been the most easily produced as if I was doing nothing. And when that’s happened to me—and it certainly doesn’t happen all the time, but when that’s happened to me—I’ve just been blown away.

And I remember my dad used to have an expression. He says, “No, it’s really easy for them.” He goes, “They’re stealing the money,” meanign that it’s so easy. When they’re singing an opera, it’s so easy that all the money they get paid, they’re stealing the money because this is so easy and they’re making it look hard.

So anyway, number one, it is supposed to be stupidly easy. Now, that doesn’t mean that there’s not energy involved, but it’s supposed to be very easy.

Now, what my friend and student said about flying, he says, “I feel like I’m taking off. I feel like I’m flying.” And that’s the feeling I want.

I want to come back to that because so many of us are concerned with the sound. “What’s the finished product like? What does it sound like? What does it sound like to me? What does it sound like to other people? What’s going on with the sound?” That’s all I care about. “Let me balance this vowel. Let me do this, let me tweak that, my tone quality. Let me get this going. Let me get that going.” We lose complete sight of the feeling of it.

I’ll go out on a limb here. Generally, if we’re not being tricked—now, I’ll tell you another story in just a second that will make sense. If we’re along the right lines, if we’re studying or if we have an idea what balanace is in our voice, and we’re really working towards that, and we have the proper wiring, so that we really, really do understand when we’re tensed and when we’re not tensed—

Like I said, most of the people that follow my stuff are intermediate to advanced. That doesn’t mean that some of you can’t be beginners as I’ve said in the last show. And that’s totally fine. I welcome everybody. But for some reason, most people are intermediate and advanced that manage to find me. So they’ve been around the block a few times with this whole singing thing.

And most people, when they’ve been around the block with this whole singing thing will finally come to a point where—if they’re looking at my stuff, they’ve already come to that point where it’s not just about the voice. They realize it’s about some deeper things. But now, we’re going deeper into the voice and the feeling of the voice.

Now, let me digress really quickly here. Let’s sort of sidestep into a story of a buddy of mine that I knew years and years ago. When I was studying opera down here in the ‘80s in Los Angeles, another buddy of mine—just a phenomenal guitar player—he was studying voice, but pop. He says, “My teacher gave me an aria.” I said, “Oh, really?” “Amor ti Vieta.” I said, “Oh, cool, cool, cool. Sing it for me.” So he sang it.

And I thought it was kind of like—and this guy was a good friend, so I didn’t know what to say. I’ll tell you this in a minute. So, he sings. It’s kind of like that Michael Bolton take-off on Saturday Night Live—you know the guy who imitates Michael Bolton? His veins were sticking out so far out.

This is nothing against Michael Bolton. I think when he does what he does, it’s great. It’s a great sound. It’s great music. He’s a great songwriter. So, I’m just saying the Saturday Night Live skit thing where the guy’s veins are just sticking out and it looks like he’s killing himself .

That’s what this guy look like. He managed to scream his way through it. I was like dumbfounded. I had no idea what to say. So, what I actually said was, “Man! You made it. How did that feel?”

“Oh, great!”

I’m like, “Really? It felt good?”

“Oh, yeah. It feels like nothing.”

And mind you, this guy’s head was about to explode. He was so tense. His veins were sticking out. His larynx was going up through his nose.

But the reason I bring this whole thing up is because in his wiring, he didn’t feel that. He was not aware of the sensations involved with singing. To him, that felt good.

So, I’m assuming that probably most of us are past that and we’re actually dialed into, “Okay, this is tense. This isn’t tense. We’re more aware of what’s going on in our body and our instrument as far as our voice goes.” So I’m presupposing that you are probably there, and not back where this fellow was.

Clench your arm. Take your right hand and clench it. So you’ve got a fist, but your arm is really tight. Imagine that it had always been like that. Somebody said, “Hey, man—“ or woman—“your arm is really tight” and you say, “No, it’s not.” “No, no, really, it is. Let me relax that.” So, they start massaging it, your hand opens up and you let go of the clenched fist, and you say, “Wow, man! My hand was really tight. I had no idea.”

I pretty much think that that’s what was going on with this fellow. That’s just how he always sang. So, he wasn’t in tune at all with anything other than that. That’s how he was wired. I’m assuming and supposing that we’re kind of past that with our voices.

So, I’m assuming we’re presupposing that, we are past that with our voice, we have a framework now. We have a sense of what is easy and what isn’t easy. And what would really serve us is if we began to drift away from “What does this sound like?” into “What does this feel like? How can I get this to feel even easier like I’m flying, like I’m soaring, really bouyant, really spinny, really light?” any adjective that you can think of that describes the feeling of real freedom in your voice. That’s what we want to begin to focus on.

And that’s how I bring the voice technique back into the whole inner singer right now thing because we’re going to make a mindshift from “How does this sound?” to “How does this feel?”

I can almost guarantee you, once it feels good and easy and balanced and lighter and bouyant and free, the ultimate sound and the resulting sound from that feeling is going to be terrific.

But if it’s feeling tight and heavy and stuck, then the ultimate sound is probably not going to be very good.

So, what is the use of focusing on the sound, trying to get it focused and trying to do this and trying to do that? Who cares? Let’s focus on the feeling, and then listen to the sound after that and say, “Wow! This feels great.” And the ultimate sound is amazing!

I guarantee you, the people that you like, the people that you idolize, the people that you want to be like, generally, if they’re great singers—and I’m assuming again, if they’re great singers—it feels good. It feels easy, it feels free.

Now, I’m not necessarily talking about people that are great singers and stylists, but don’t necessarily have good vocal techniques. That’s a whole group of folks that I love as well. I don’t feel it appropriate to really name names or pass my judgment on that in a public forum. I don’t think that that’s kind. But you know who I mean. Think of singers that have phenomenal techniques.

I mean, in pop singing, Beyonce is one. She has a great technique. She’s awesome. She’s a really, really terrific singer. Think of some opera singers or some Broadway singers, phenomenal techniques!

And then, you move into other people that we love to listen to, we’re huge fans, their songs are great, they have great voices. But from a technical standpoint, you wouldn’t call them technically good singers, you’d call them great singers, but not if they’re being judged by “Are their voices balanced? Are they making the bridges?” all these kind of technical jargon that some of us really care about and have to care about with a particular genre of music.

So, I hope I’m being a little bit clear about that. And what I mean by that is the ones that are balanced, technically, it feels great and it’s easy and it’s bouyant and it’s light and it’s free.

The ones that are great singers, but it’s not balanced from a technical standpoint, it may not feel that great. And we may like the sound. The sound may be like, “Wow! That sounds really, really cool. Great sound.” But that’s not what we want to go for because if we go for that sound, maybe they’re particular sound based on things that they don’t even do technically correctly, and what we’re going to do is we’re going to imitate their bad habits to try and get a sound that may work for them.

And they may be able to do that forever and not hurt themselves just like I know a buddy of mine whose mother is 88 years old and smokes like crazy and drinks like crazy. She just went to the doctor, “Oh, she’s fine. She’s doing great.” It kind of baffles me.

So, if you listen to a singer that seems to be breaking all the technical rules, they wouldn’t be the one that you really wanted to emulate from the sound standpoint. What you want to do is find what feels great, and then see what your ultimate sound is—at least that is my suggestion.

So, go for the feeling and not just for the sound. And when it feels great, listen to what it sounds like.

So, that is it for today. I think that’s a really good thing to do. If you’ve been listening to the sound—and we’re singers, we’re always listening to the sound. That’s why we sing. We love to sing, we love to express. We want it to sound good.

But let’s make a little bit of a shif tfrom the sound to “What does this feel like?” and then see what the ultimate sound is once we’re really free and balanced and connected and coordinated. And then, let’s see what the sound is like. Cool?

So, let’s do that for a little while. I will see you or talk to you in the next episode. Thanks for being with me. Comments are always welcome. Feedbacks are always welcome. If you have any questions or anything, anything you’d like me to cover in a podcast, please don’t be shy and let me know. I will talk to you next week. Bye bye.

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