Emotions, Vocal Freedom, and Technical Issues
Yet another wonderful series of questions from one of my great singers. I hope that you find our conversation helpful!
I’m finding as I’m doing the vocal exercises and becoming more aware of my body (and as I move toward the audition) I can get emotional. I guess it’s a combination of letting go and putting myself out there. Is this a common experience or just my own?
Very common. Often when we 'learn to sing' it becomes an out of body, disconnected-from-our-body experience. When we sing as we're meant to- connected in our bodies and therefore, with all of who we are physically and personally, the breath and vibrations and connectedness can call up emotions that we've pushed away and/or ignored. It's a great thing... an opportunity to reconnect.
As I’m practicing, should I be staying in my “head” voice throughout the songs or allow my voice to move from my chest to my head and just practice the transition exercise to smooth it out?
I say play with it! Try things in your head voice, and then in your chest voice, and then choose to move back and forth between the two with a spirit of playfulness, rather than trying to get it 'right'. Then most importantly, make creative choices about how you want to sound and learn to ALLOW the voice to follow your decisions. It's tempting to try and physically will the voice to shift from head to chest and back again, but this tends to result in throat tension and a holding of breath. When we allow the voice to take the lead, and take our hands off of the proverbial reins, it's incredible how effortless these shifts- and singing in general- become.
I’ve been told in the past to open my mouth more as I sing and that’s been a challenge for me - is that something for me to let go of for now, or should I pay attention to that in front of a mirror?
I've never liked that advice... like 'supporting', 'breathing', and 'placing', these verbal commands and instructions often don't make sense or help when it comes to practical implementation. Sometimes opening your mouth a bit more- ALLOWING it to open- can help, but it really has little to do with whether you're creating sound correctly in the body in terms of support and connection and engagement, and whether the voice is traveling healthily through the vocal tract. If the sound is created correctly, allowing your mouth to open a bit is relatively easy. If you're tight, disconnected, or crimped in any way though, it will be a struggle to do so. The same is true when people ask you to manipulate the tongue in order to help production. If production is correct, the tongue is easy to manipulate. If not, it just adds tension upon tension.