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  • Writer's pictureJed Wylie

Episode 32 – A New Framework for Accessing Your Own Voice

For years I judged my voice according to a false set of conditions that I made impossible to satisfy.

Then one day while teaching, I realized I was NOT holding my students to the same set of conditions or standards.

I had discovered a new set of criteria for accessing my students voices in the moment, that was much more supportive and conducive to their learning and excelling faster!

I was judging myself with one set of conditions (set up to fail) and accessing my student with a much different criteria which would set them up to succeed.

Listen to the show today and discover a new way of looking at your voice and your progress.

Adapt this today and you may feel a huge difference in your singing!

If you’re anything like me, this will really resonate with you and be extremely valuable.


The Inner Singer Podcast

Episode 32 – Transcripts

A New Framework for Accessing Your Inner Voice

Well, hi there, everyone. This is Mike Goodrich. Thanks so much for tuning in to The Inner Singer Podcast. Welcome. I hope everybody is doing great.

Let me just jump in by chatting about something that occurred to me as I was teaching a student the other day and watching his reactions to the sounds he was making.

I’ve been teaching about 25 years. I was just trying to figure out—I think I gave my first paid voice lessons in about 1990 which would make it exactly 25 going on 26 years. I don’t think I’ve charged before that.

But it was interesting. The fellow who got me started teaching, I don’t know if he really had this in mind, but it was an amazing thing once I’ve started teaching because I started looking at voices differently—with the exception of my own at the time. And this is going to make sense here in just a second.

But voice teachers, good voice teachers have a certain criteria that they begin to assess voices by. And oftentimes, it has very little to do with a finished sound.

And so back when I started teaching 25 years ago, I had students that were much, much better than I was—of course, I still do obviously. But I remember—I was a tenor, I still am a tenor—I would be teaching a tenor how to sing a B flat, the B flat above middle C. You don’t consider that a high note.

Well, I couldn’t do the exercise I wanted them to do. I could not do it in the key that went to a B flat. So, I what I would do is I’d play it on a G flat. I’d play the exercise with the top being a G flat. And then, I’d give them the octave to the B flat, point at them and make them go, “Okay, you sing it now.” I couldn’t sing the B flat in that scale.

As a matter of fact, I remember the first time I discovered I could sing the B flat in that particular scale I’m talking about which is an octave scale. I got very excited. I went to the gym that day and I had a pitch pipe. I was coming home, I took my pitch pipe and I blew the B flat and I sang the octave. It was just the [vocalizing] on “mum” or something like that up to the high B flat. And it worked. It worked great. “Oh, this is awesome!”

And I remember the student that I had coming in that afternoon. His name was David and he was a tenor. I thought, “I can’t wait until this guy gets here because I can finally demonstrate this B flat. I can show it to him instead of playing the G flat and having him sing the B flat.”

So, he gets here, he comes in. We’re going through the scales and doing the listening up, warm-up activity and all that kind of stuff. I come to the voice-building aspect of the lesson and I start working the vocalizing and I figured, “I’m going to go right to the scale.” I go and I play it, I go to sing it, and I just completely blew it.

I pulled my chest voice, had so much compression. I couldn’t get to the B flat at all. I started laughing and I swore a little bit. He started laughing and I said, “You know, man, I can do this. I did it on the way back from the gym today.”

And within a few weeks, I owned it and I could do it. But it was funny.

The reason I tell you that story is because I started teaching back then, 25 years ago. And back then, when I started teaching, I was still looking at my voice the way I had always looked at my voice. I was assessing my voice and my progress the way I had always assessed my voice and my progress. And that was comparing myself to the finished product in other people’s voices. Of course, that was my model, so that’s what I had to compare.

But when I started teaching, I didn’t ultimately do that. I got away from that with my students. I was listening to something different. I began listening to different elements. My criteria for my students began to shift from performance sound, ready-to-go, “This is ready to record. This is a finished sound” to “Wow! Okay, they’re getting chord closure. That’s a solid coordination. The bridges are beginning to get intact. The voice is beginning to get registrated. It’s going through the registers. They’re dialing in the vowel. They’re tuning in the resonance.”

I started seeing, feeling all these different things and judging and assessing—I don’t like the word ‘judging’, but assessing—with a different set of criteria.

Now, unfortunately for me, I was still judging myself. I use the word ‘judge’. I was still judging my own voice according to the old paradigm.

And that’s what I say so many of my students doing—the same thing I was doing. They were judging themselves according to the old paradigm of how I judged myself. In other words, you’ve got the ideal, the model. “This is what I’m trying to live up to, I’m not there. Let’s see…”

And so instead of looking at it analytically like I looked at my students, “Okay, what’s going on with that sound? Well, they need more chord closure. What can I give them to help them produce more chord closure on that note, on that passage, with that vowel, with that combination? Let’s do this. Ooh, that was better. More chord closure. What can I do to improve that? Is there a different exercise I can go to?”

And all that is unconscious now. But back then, it was conscious, I was thinking about it. I even had things written down on the piano that nobody could see.

When I first started teaching, my main fear was, “How in the world am I going to fill a half hour?” I mean, I had all the scales written down. I thought, “Well, okay. If I just do the warm-ups, that takes a few minutes. And then, if I go here and go there, okay, I can probably do this. And then, I can get them to sing.” Seriously, I was more concerned about myself than the student, more concerned about not looking like an idiot and not messing up the piano than I was about the student. And that shifts pretty fast, hopefully.

Anyway, as I’m looking at these criteria of chord closure, of the breathing, of the registration, of dialing in the vowel, of the resonance, of all of these things I’m looking at, and they are going straight to, “Well, that’s awful. Oh, that sounds horrible. That’s miserable,” here I am over here, they’re singing something and I say, “Oh, that’s great. Awesome!” they’re feeding back, “That was horrible. That sounds horrible,” I’m like, “No, no, no. Let me tell you what I’m talking about. Let me tell you why I said that was great.”

“I said that was great because your chord closure improved. Did you see how that shifted when we added that consonant,” let’s just say. So, I’m listening for something else. I don’t care at all that it’s not a finished sound.

“Well, no, no. I sounded horrible.” I say, “Yeah, but you were judging it from this set of criteria. I am assessing it from this set of criteria.”

And the reason I bring up the past is because with this student the other day, he said the same thing. Well, I can’t actually tell you what he said because I keep the show clean. But he said something and I said, “Back in the day, when I was studying, my teacher recommended that I started teaching.” And right away, really quickly, I guess he saw that I had a bit of a handle on it. He thought, “Well, you’re going to be probably better than a lot of the teachers out there who just don’t know anything at all”—and believe me, there are some, and there were plenty back then.

So, I said, “I don’t really want to teach. I don’t really feel comfortable teaching.” “No, no. You’re going to be great. It’s going to help you. You’re going to end up building your voice and you’re going to learn how to sing by teaching.”

I said, “But it doesn’t seem very fair. I’m taking money for something that I can’t do.” He said, “Yeah, but you can help others. You watch, you’ll be able to help others do it. And then, you will learn through doing that.”

And ultimately, that’s exactly what happened. Over the years, I realized that for 25 years, I was paid to build my own voice. And I never would’ve been able—I don’t think I would’ve ever been able to do what I can do vocally had I not taught before I could do it.

Now, let me put a little bit of a qualifier in there. I understood how the voice worked when I taught even though I couldn’t physically do it because of old conditioning, I understood how it worked enough to help other people who did not have my old baggage—and then, as I worked through my old baggage, to be able to help other people who had the same or similar baggage because I had worked through it.

Ultimately, I started assessing my own voice with the same criteria that I use when I teach. And so when this fellow said, “That sounds like ____________,” and he goes, “Tell me the truth, Listen, what am I? Forty percent, sixty percent there? What’s going on? What are you responding when you’re really positive about this and you say it sounds great, and I can see…”—this is him talking, “I can see you’re legitimately enthusiastic about what I’m doing, and yet I think it’s awful, am I still locked in an old pattern? What am I missing?”

I said, “The only thing we’re doing is we’re two different sets of criteria.” I said, “What you’re listening to is you’re comparing yourself to these great singers that you love, and you hear that sound was not in that particular ballpark, therefore, that equals ‘it was bad.’”

“I’m listening to that sound and assessing based on chord closure, balance, resonance, dialing in the vowel, freedom, ease, what’s going on, where’s your larynx, all these kinds of things that I’m looking at. Are you tense? Where’s the breathing? I even asked you, ‘On a one to ten scale, ten being ‘It’s awful. It feels horrible’ and one feels like you could do it all day, it’s real easy,’ and you’re responding as down around three or four, that’s really good for me right now. I’m loving that.”

“I’m looking at all of that. So, I’ve got a different framework than you have. Therefore, everything that you are doing, I am enthusiastic about. And a lot of the things that you are doing based on the framework that you’re judging yourself within you are disappointed in.”

“So, if we could shift that and you began to assess yourself using my framework, you’re going to make much more progress much faster and be much happier. Simple as that.”

And so, this is what this podcast is about. All you folks are singers. Most of you, if not all of you—and certainly myself, and still do—judge our voice by a certain set of criteria based on how we want to sound some time in the future and we perceive that that is a good sound. And if we sound like that, we can call ourselves good singers. And if we don’t, everything will fall short of that, we are now bad, making bad sounds.

And yet, I’ve recommended this to many, many students over the years. I have said, “Get yourself an imaginary student” for two reasons. Number one, you want to get these things that you’re doing, these exercises, you want to begin to get them black-and-white, so that you can tell, “Okay, that’s in. That’s out.” You want to leave the gray area as soon as possible. “Well, I can’t tell. Was that in? Was that out?”

So, if you get yourself an imaginary student and you have to demonstrate, then you can demonstrate it incorrectly—I don’t advocate demonstrating full-on incorrectly because you can trash yourself. I did for years. It’s just not a good thing to do. But you can allude to it. You can do it an octave down. If I’m pretending to demonstrate SPLAT’ing, then [vocalizing], I have to actually sing and SPLAT in yell a G or an A flat. But then you do it as correctly as you can.

And the two things that are going to happen are as follows. Number one, you’re going to get much clearer on what is dialed in, on what is the correct production, the correct tone production that has the balance of resonance, that has dialed-in vowel, the best registration. You’re going to get very, very clear on that. It’s going to become black-and-white.

And number two, because you’re probably not at a point where you feel like your voice is finished, you’re going to be forced to start assessing what you do when you demonstrate according to a teacher’s criteria. No longer are you trying to show off to your student or your imaginary student by saying, “Look how great I am. I’m going to wail and sing the heck out of this note.” No, you’re simply showing them a balance and a coordination. There’s no showing off. You don’t care about the tone. You’re showing them a tone production, a vocal posture, a coordination. No showing off involved.

And that begins to sink in. You begin to feel, “Oh, all I need to do here on that octave is show the shift in resonance and maintain my chord closure. It doesn’t have to sound phenomenal. It just has to demonstrate a condition.”

And when you do that, not only do you become clear on what’s correct and what’s incorrect from a tone production standpoint, but you begin to assess yourself with a teacher criteria.

“Was that tone supported? Was there enough air to support the vibration of the vocal chords? Am I breathing high? Am I breathing low? Do I have my diaphragmatic breathing? Or am I breathing high in the chest? Do I have good chord closure? Are my chords working efficiently?”

“From a scientific standpoint, am I using too much pull in my chest which is a muscle within the vocal chords called the thyroarytenoid muscle? Am I using too much of that? Am I singing too heavy and thick? Or am I over-releasing too light a sound?” which is the coracothyroid muscle on the outside of the chords. It stretches the chords to make the higher pitches.

You begin to look scientifically at them—much less judgmentally, much more scientifically with curiosity. You assess much differently and you begin to really relax with what you’re doing, accept what you’re doing, value what you’re doing. And all of a sudden, “Oh, I’m doing pretty darn well here. Look at this. That had great chord closure. It had good balance. It had this, it had that, it had that” versus the comparison of “Well, it doesn’t sound like this guy or this gal. That was awful.”

Can you feel the difference in energy? It’s really profound. And it will make a tremendous shift in your progress and you reaching your vocal potential. It will be so much more fun. It’s a shift in mindset. It’s a shift by using a different framework. And now you’re looking at the proverbial glass half full. “Wow! I had this, this, this, this, this…” or “This, this, this, this, this was great. This needs a little improvement” versus just lumping it into the category of “That was awful.” See what I mean?

So, it’s of tremendous value to get a real student or to get an imaginary student. Just pretend the other student is sitting in front of you when nobody’s around and show them the difference.

If you’re a woman singing in your first bridge, and you’re singing a B flat, you’re singing it really strong, you want to show them the difference between “Here’s what it sounds like when I fall out… here’s what it sounds like when I’m dialed in.” Boom! Do it both ways.”

If you’re a man, you’re on an F# right in the first bridge, “Here’s what it sounds like when I fall out… here’s what it sounds like when I’m dialed in. In… out… in… out… see the difference?” You’re talking to your imaginary student.

Now, that may seem totally crazy, but I guarantee beyond the shadow of any doubt, that stuff really, really works because it forces you into a different place with yourself.

And if you are the kind—like I was, and still am sometimes—that finds a lot of fault with yourself, that tends to want to beat yourself up, that looks at, “Oh, that was awful,” whatever, whatever, whatever, this really will force you into a different part of the brain. It will force you to be with yourself in a different way which will be much more supportive and much more conducive to you reaching your vocal potential and way faster than the other way.

The other way is like dragging around a ball-and-chain. And we rarely will live up to the people that we think are great, rarely. As I’ve said in a previous podcast, all their imperfections are perfect to us, so we don’t even hear them.

We hear ours, but we don’t hear theirs because we’ve decided that they are on a pedestal, that they are wonderful, that they are different than we are and that we need to live up to them. So, we have a schitomo when it comes to their imperfections. It’s a psychological term for a blind spot. We don’t see them, we don’t hear them.

But boy, do we see and hear ours because of our reticular activation system (which I’ve done another podcast on). We can see and hear those and we hone right in and we tune right in on those and we go right for that, “Oh, that was awful.”

So, we need to give ourselves another framework. And this is a really, really great one to use.

So, my suggestion is if you have those tendencies, let’s say, like I do, it really, really helps to have another framework to use and other set of criteria that you can assess yourself by rather than judge yourself which is really cool and it really, really helps.

So, I just paused this. I looked down at the time. And magically, it’s 20 minutes. I’m not completely sure how that always happens. But anyway, it’s cool when it does because I think that’s a nice amount of time—not too long for you all to listen to.

So anyway, any feedback is always appreciated. Please, if you’re enjoying these podcasts, run on over to iTunes and give us a rating and a review. That would be really awesome. I would love it. We’ve got some great ones so far, but it always helps to have more especially if I’m trying to entice some heavy-hitter guests and that kind of stuff. It helps to say, “Hey, run on over to iTunes and check out the show. I have a ton of gold stars and reviews and all that.” It really helps.

So anyway, thanks so much. That’s all I’ll say about it. I hope you guys have a lovely, lovely week. I will talk to you next week. Bye bye.

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