The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How Acting Saves the Voice

I'm no pedagogue, I don't consider myself a voice teacher or an expert in singing or technique. I believe I'm immensely proficient at the art of singing and I have enough performance experience, academic and professionally to state my case.

During my days of initial learning I heard many a voice teacher state that delving too much into the acting side of being a singing actor in the moment can leave you vocally wrecked. And considering this advice was generally given after a poor soul decided to become a weeping mess in the midst of an emotional song, I do generally agree that a person can really screw the pooch in terms of giving a "powerful performance" at the sacrifice of the music. Ugly crying in front of an audience can make them immensely uncomfortable, which for the right situation can be 3 different kinds of awesome sauce. But, like most sauces, if overused can ruin the hotdog.

However, there is a great deal to be said in terms of trusting the instrument, the muscle memory, and the knowledge you've acquired and ignoring the vocal technique and surrendering to the moment, the words, the colors of the language and observing the tone of the scene. Otherwise known as "acting."

The past year I've wondered why any time I performed in a language other than English I'd appear so distant and cold in my performance. I had memorized both the words and translations and thought a great deal about the characters and their "wants" and how they would go about getting them. Along with this emotional distance was also more vocal fatigue. Not to the point of being unable to complete the show or scene, but a little more noticeable exhaustion. 

The cause? Preoccupation with vocal technique. 

Its easy to do when singing in a language other than your own native tongue. It's easy to hide behind meaningless gestures and crooked eyebrows and generic anguished facial expressions. Especially if you're singing to a crowd of opera newbs. 

It was the moment that I dropped the pretense, the forced focus vowels, trying to be overly protective of the music and began to find the color of language and the moment that I discovered a different level of expression. It's not only made singing much more enjoyable, but it's made it easier. My endurance is at it's highest, and I'm getting noticeably more compliments over the quality of my singing and performing.

Now, is this a starting point? No.

I'm only able to drop pretense because I spent years developing my abilities. Locking myself into practice rooms, spending sleepless nights over worrying about how something sounds. Listening to hours and hours of other singers. Lessons, coachings, fiscal investments that total well over 100,000.00. Pretense and preoccupation slept next to me at night. Obsession was my best friend. Vocal fatigue, exhaustion, injury were the people I spent holidays with. You're not ready to forget about how the voice works until you've soaked your pillow with sweat and tears. You have to earn your confidence with the leathered years of self torture. Then, once you've obsessed as much as you can possibly obsess, try chilling the fuck out and moving that focus elsewhere.

Until next time,

Lift Big, Sing Big, and Look Great Doing It.

The Opera Bro

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