We spend a lot of time as artists trying to recreate a moment that worked. We look for that feeling when our voices felt free when we connected to the breath, and we rode it like a gentle sailing wind into shore. As singers, we train to find the optimum sound, that beauty in honest production, free from unnecessary tension. But, sometimes, the training is causing us to lose our connection to the only thing we have control over. The voice of "now." Right now.
We dabble with breath support. Adjust the pressure in our support and buzz more in our resonance. Listen for distortion, too high, too low. We repeat phrase after phrase, hoping to layer in some nuance. Do you find yourself grabbing for the past? Yesterday's sound? Last week's phrase length? The ease of support you had in graduate school?
Showing up to what is in front of us each day, however different it may be, is truly the practice. Sure, notes, rhythms, and text memorization will get us further down the road of learning a piece, but the true practice for a singer is to learn to pay attention to the nuance of the voice as it changes day to day.
How do I do that?
Establish a daily practice centered on the quality of your mind and body. Of course, notes and rhythms and deadlines are lurking. But, slow yourself down a bit and add to the list of to-do's an element of your practice my teacher called, "Who am I today?"
After many years of practicing this question, I've come to understand it more in-depth.
Did I sleep well? Did I eat well? Did I drink enough water? What is my spirit like? Am I worried, hurried, anxious, or angry? What's at the forefront of my mind? What stories am I telling myself at this moment that I can let go of? What do I believe about myself that is true? What do I believe is untrue? What is in my way? What do I want most in this practice today?
Once I've centered on these questions, I can move to the more active physical aspects of my practice.
What is my jaw doing? Are my legs active? Can I tell where my tongue is in my mouth? How deep is my breath? What can be let go of in my body that isn't serving me? What does my body feel like when my sound is the freest? What needs to move? What needs to stabilize?
As you start to layer in these questions and assessments, stay present. The final question is the most important.
Do I love what I hear?
If not, get a little love for yourself. Meaning, take care of yourself to love what you are feeling in this process. You see, you have to love what you hear because it feels good. You have to accomplish the feeling good of your voice before you can actually love it. That means feeling good emotionally as well as physically. That practice is more than notes. It's deeper than complex rhythm.
How? Make sure all the answers to the questions are positive aspects. And if they aren't, make sure you are taking care of the core of who you are. Make sure you aren't just showing up to a voice and beating it into submission. Your voice is connected to a soul. It's related to your inner qualities and beliefs. Try starting there daily and begin to notice how the qualities of your inner feelings reflect on your outward sound.
And then repeat.
"Get a little love for yourself. You know where and how."