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  • Writer's pictureJed Wylie

Episode 34 – Do You Think About Your Vocal Technique When You’re Singing?

Do you listen to your own voice while you’re singing?

Are you thinking about your voice while you’re singing?

Or, is your voice totally automatic – like driving?

If you’re like I am, I love to hear and feel my voice when I’m singing! Why the heck else would I sing?!

There are those who say, “Don’t listen to yourself while you’re singing!”….or, “If you’re listening to yourself while you’re singing you should be in the audience!”…

There are definitely times when we listen to our own voices during a song, and it’s OKAY! And many time when we give “some thought” to our technique while we’re singing. Again, it’s OKAY!

Listen and enjoy this episode as I dispel some silly beliefs!

The Inner Singer Podcast

Episode 34 – Transcripts

Do You Think About Your Vocal Technique When You’re Singing?

Well, hey there, everyone. This is Mike Goodrich. Welcome to The Inner Singer Podcast. Thank you so much for listening. Thanks for being with me again here.

I would like to take a second to thank all you folks who have left really kind reviews and ratings for the show. We’re getting there with the ratings review, and I really, really appreciate it. It helps people find things in iTunes and it helps iTunes place the show higher, so that we can get out there and help more singers which is always awesome.

So if you’ve left a review and a rating, thank you so much. If you haven’t and you have a chance to run over to iTunes and do that, it just takes a second, I’d really appreciate it. So thank you so much for those who have done it. And thank you in advance for those of you who will do it at some point. I appreciate it!

Now, let’s talk a little bit about the inner singer. I have a question. Why don’t I have a question? I always have a question. My question is as follows:

“Do you think about your voice? And do you think that thinking about your voice is okay or do you think that thinking about your voice isn’t okay?”

And what I mean by that is when you’re singing. For example, you’re singing a song while you’re tihnking about your voice.

I used to have a wonderful teacher. She was a performance teacher. She was an acting teacher, performance teacher. She was awesome. But she used to say, “If you’re listening to your voice, you should be in the audience.”

I don’t agree with that 100%. I agree with it in that if one is listening to one’s voice and that is taking one out of the moment, so that all we are—let’s say if I’m up there and I’m singing, I used to be afraid I was going to forget the words. If that’s all I’m thinking about, yeah, then I’m not present. I’m not in the moment, and I might as well be in the audience because I’m not having a whole lot of fun being on stage.

But there is an aspect of us. We singers love to see. We love the feeling and we love the sound. There’s just no denying that. I think to deny that is to deny a really important aspect of the joy of singing.

I mean, I used to have a buddy of mine. When I did Evita, I did Che, the role of Che in Evita years ago. There was a guy. The guy that was doing Peron became a really good friend of mine.

There was a point in the show where he would be singing this particular thing, and I’d be on the wings, one of the few times chasing that onstage. I’d be on the wings. I’d be watching him. He’d get a hold of his note.

I wish I could remember the line. I can’t remember the line. But he’d get a hold of his note in his line and he was like a dog with a bone. You could just tell he loved singing that note on that vowel. He was totally present, totally in the moment. He was a great actor, a great singer. And he would just latch onto that and just hold that like a proud dog holding a bone.

I used to love that. I’d crack up. Every night, it seemed like it got longer and longer every night and I’d say, “Kevin, you’re really falling in love with that note, aren’t you?” He would laugh like crazy. “Yeah!”

But again, it wasn’t showing off. You could really feel the joy of his singing. You can really feel how much fun he was having in sharing that note and landing on it and feeling it and listening to it and all that.

My opinion, my humble opinion is that’s okay. As a matter of fact, it’s more than okay. It’s really fun. It’s what adds a tremendous amount of joy to the singing.

Now, again, I’m not saying that if we’re thinking about our voice and we’re worried about, “Did I SPLAT that vowel? Was I sharp? Was I flat? I think I sang the wrong word? I hope somebody likes this. Oh, my gosh! I can’t believe I sound like this. I hope that person wasn’t in the audience tonight.” None of that really is terribly supportive or that much fun when we’re thinking about it.

Thoughts can come and go, of course. We just be with those thoughts and let them come, and let them go, let them float by. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

I’m talking about making sure that we don’t deny ourselves the joy of our own voice and listening to our own voice.

And you know what? To go back to what my teacher said, my acting teacher said, maybe it’s okay to allow part of yourself. We’re multidimensional beings.

Did I just get too heavy again? But I mean there’s a lot to us.

Allow a part of yourself to be in the audience, listening. Why not? I mean, you’re up onstage, you’re in the audience, who knows? It’s awesome to be able to be there and be with that and have an aspect of you listening and enjoying and actually singing and having it pour through you.

So, I think that that’s fabulous.

Now, there are a lot of people, a lot of my students will get to the point. And too soon, they get to the point, they look at me and they say, “Well, I don’t want to think about my voice. I don’t want to have to think about my voice. I just want my voice to do what it’s supposed to do.” That’s all well and good. It’s slightly idealistic, but well and good. But I think attempting to get to that aspect too soon is really detrimental.

Number one, it’s a huge negative feeling on us. “I shouldn’t have to think about my voice. It should just work.” That’s just really being unkind to ourselves, and I think, really, unrealistic, honestly.

I mean, when you look at great athletes, great musicians, anybody who’s great at anything, yes, there are those wonderful times—and sometimes many—when we’re in the zone. And there’s this real presence, there’s this real oneness. It really is almost as if we’re not there. We’re just this instrument through which the voice comes, the piano gets played, the basketball gets shot, whatever, we’re just completely in the zone—the painting gets painted. That’s why they call it the “zone,” you’re so in that. You’re so, so incredibly present and awareness. You’re in the zone. And it’s really as if the piano is playing you, the music is playing you, the song is singing you. We love that. Those are magnificent times.

Now, do we live in that all the time? Generally not, some people more than others. But I think there’s this misconception amongst singers that we should never have to think about our voice.

Now, this is another aspect of thinking about our voice. There’s the aspect of listening to ourselves and thinking about ourselves and just loving that. Then there’s the aspect of saying, “You know what? I just really don’t think I should have to think about my voice. I think my vowels should go where they go naturally. I think that I should get in my mix. I think I should find my head voice. I think all these stuff should just happen naturally, so I can just enjoy the lyric, enjoy the emotion, enjoy all of that.”

And again, yes, in a perfect world. Idealistically, yes. And we do get to that point, and sometimes we may sing an entire song, where we don’t have to think about the voice. But wanting to be like that all the time and prematurely is unrealistic.

Now, what I mean by prematurely is if your voice is not to the place where you can go vocalize on automatic pilot and then begin to sing in rehearsal on automatic pilot, but you find yourself needing to think about this vowel and dialing in that vowel and where this resonancy is and “I’ve got to make sure I breathe” and everything like that, you’re thinking about all these components of singing, you’re still at that stage, be at that stage. It’s totally okay.

Don’t try and play where you’re not. Just be in that sandbox for a while, and let that be okay. Think about your voice as much as you have to. And then, you will eventually transition to the point where many, many things begin to happen naturally.

I often use the driving example, when we’re driving a car. I used to have to think about everything. Now, I think about nothing. I just drive. If you drive, I’m sure you’re the same way unless you got your license yesterday. But if you’ve been driving for any particular length of time, then it’s automatic. It’s in the implicit memory system in the brain. We figure out a way to do it without thinking about it.

And the same thing will happen to your voice. But perhaps not on every song all the time every time you sing.

We have difficult passages in songs. We have particular things that are maybe harder to us than to some other people. I have things that are harder for me. Maybe the same thing for my buddy who sings, that isn’t hard for him, but maybe something else is difficult.

So, whatever those things are that are challenging to us, let’s be okay, allowing ourselves to think about those a little bit, and really hone in our concentration and our presence and our awareness during those passages, during those notes, during those transitions or vowel changes or whatever, interval changes. It could be timing, it could be everything that has to do with the song, whatever demands a little bit more of your concentration.

A wonderful singer that I’ve mentioned many, many times on this show, Franco Corelli—he’s not with us anymore. He’s a phenomenal opera singer. And again, as I say, you should listen to him if you’ve never heard him even if you don’t like opera just to hear one of the most amazing voices of all time.

I thought he said this very well. People were asking him if he thought about his voice. He said, “Yeah, of course. It’s as if I’m walking in Central Park. I’m just walking around and I’m enjoying the day. I’m not paying much attention to my feet. I’m just walking around”

“But up ahead, I see that I’m coming to a flight of stairs. All of a sudden, just a little bit of attention goes to the fact that I’m about to walk downstairs, and a little bit more goes to the fact that I’m now walking down the stairs.”

“Now, I don’t stop stair after stair, take them one at a time and move really slowly, get pulled out of the moment and get all freaked out about it. Just a little bit of my attention and awareness goes to the fact that I’m walking downstairs.”

And the same thing if you have a passage or a high note or something. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to get all freaked out, lose the moment, completely drop the emotion and everything, and go into some fear about singing this note, no. It simply means that a little bit of your attention now, and your concentration gets honed in to focus on that particular passage, that particular note or a particular timing in a song that you have to be with a little bit more. Maybe it’s not in your body yet or it doesn’t come totally naturally to you. And that is okay.

Too many of us beat ourselves up for that feeling like we should never have to think about our voice ever. I really just want to emphasize, that’s really unrealistic. Don’t do that to yourself. It’s completely normal to have to think about your voice a little bit just as if you would give some attention to walking down some stairs.

So, when you have a particular passage, there’s a timing or anything with a song, be okay with that. Just realize, “Well, that’s where I am, and that’s where most people are.” We give a lot of credit to all these wonderful celebrities that we generally see at their best. And like I said at another podcast, we also accept their imperfections as part of their perfection. We look at them through rose-colored glasses all the time. I do it myself.

Franco Corelli is a great example. I can listen to Franco Corelli. And I used to listen to him for years. So many people would criticize him because of his—they talked about his musicianship, “Oh, he does this, he does that. He slurs too much” or whatever.

I not only couldn’t hear that or didn’t listen to it and paid no attention to it, I actually copied all that stuff when I sang. So, anything that people found fault with, I copied!

And then, they found the same fault with me when I was doing it. “You’re slurring all over the place.” I was like, “Yeah, yeah. But what’s wrong.” And I even hear it in me at that point. It was like, “Well, I’m just doing it like he does”—not that I ever sounded like Franco Corelli, mind you. I just picked up his bad habits.

But anyway, it’s totally okay to think about your voice, totally.

So, I have another quick question.

“How open and receptive are you generally?”

Are you a pretty receptive person or pretty open person? When somebody expresses a new idea, do you take it openly and think about it, ponder it? Or do you reject it immediately?

Now, of course, I know we’re all both. Of course, we’re all both. If somebody says something just ridiculous to you, yeah, I’m sure you reject it immediately just like I do. But I’m talking with singing. If somebody tosses something out—like me in a podcast—do you take it and kind of live with it, feel into it a little bit or do you push it away? Do you ever feel yourself doing that?

For example, with what I just said about thinking about your voice, did you feel, “Oh, yeah. No, I really relate to that. Oh, that sounds good” or did you feel like, “Oh, no. I totally don’t want to think about my voice. I never want to think about my voice. No, this is not where I want to go.”

So, where did you go? Did you go to, “Oh, that sounds pretty cool. I’m going to live with that for a while. I think I’m going to be okay thinking about my voice or allowing myself to hone in some of my awareness to particular parts of a song. I’m going to be okay with myself for that. I’m not going to think it should be otherwise”?

Or did you push it away and say, “No. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no. I do not want to think about my voice. I don’t care what anybody says.”

So, I’m just curious because for singing in any capacity, especially approaching any kind of professional aspect, a real open and receptive attitude is really, really necessary.

I’ll give you an example back when I did Evita. I wish I had been more open and receptive back then. I was –ish. I kind of was, but I really—you know, I’ve been studying voice a lot. I kind of thought I really knew more than I knew.

I remember the director was—the director was really cool. There was a move I was doing as Che all the time. He brought it back to my awareness, and I sort of discounted it. I may have said this in a past episode. I just sort of discounted it like, “Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, sure. I’ll do my best not to do that” kind of giving lip service to it.

But I really didn’t sit down with him and say, “Okay. Now, will you show me exactly what I’m doing, tell me where I’m doing it. Help me change a little bit. If one move is dominating my performance, that’s not going to be good.” But I didn’t do that. I didn’t want to know any more about it. I figured he was wrong.

So, off we go. We start the show. We started the performances. Somebody does a video of the show, and I get to see it. I’m horrified! That might be slightly dramatic, but I was shocked because I’m looking at myself and I said, “OM gosh,”—as they say in Book of Mormon—“OM gosh, I’m doing the same move every five seconds. Is this the only move I know? Why didn’t somebody tell me?” And then, I remembered, “Oh, yeah! Somebody tried to tell me. I just totally didn’t listen.”

And so, a picture was worth a thousand words at that point.

Now, it might have been wise for him to video me and show me. But you know what? That’s kind of going above and beyond the call of duty for a director who really should not have to do that. Really, a director is supposed to just make an actor aware of things and the actor is supposed to say, “Okay, thank you for that. Now I’m aware. I’ll make some changes” or “Can you help me make some changes?” or whatever. But I was not there.

So, anyway, an open and receptive attitude to ideas, constructive criticism is really important. And you know what else is important that I did not have? A thick skin to not take things personally. I not only wasn’t open and receptive to this fellow’s direction, but I was taking it personally as a slight against my performance. And why in the world would I have expected back then to be able to go without any direction at all?

It really is the height of ego. I wasn’t walking around egoic, but really, if you look at it deeper than that, what it looked like is the height of ego. What it really was is the height of insecurity because I couldn’t look at myself, I couldn’t bear to not be wonderful. So, if somebody was telling me that, “What you’re doing is less than wonderful,” I couldn’t listen to it.

That actually reminds me of my mother who’s not with us anymore, but she was a phenomenal singer. My dad and my mom met at their singing teachers years ago. Oddly enough, my wife and I met at a performance class taught by the woman that I was speaking of previously in the podcast.

But anyway, my dad at the time was studying with this—I’m experiencing a complete déjà vu. I’m having a feeling I’ve said this before. But anyway, it bears repeating.

He was studying with this phenomenal soprano. He said, “Let me take you to her,” so he takes my mom to her. And the woman didn’t fall all over my mom, so my mom would have none of it and didn’t go back to it. And my mom needed exactly what this woman had.

So, I really encourage you to have an attitude of an openness—did you hear that doorbell? I really encourage you to have an attitude of openness and receptivity in all of these.

Now, clearly, I have to go watch my son perform. So I’ll see you next week. I hope you enjoyed this. Bye bye.

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