Photo: Michael Gold
Song-Lines
... a few words about music.

Important note: this work makes no medical claims, and it is up to you, dear reader, to use any information you find here responsibly and intelligently, toward yourself and others.

All material ©Sing into Joy

Recent Entries

Your Essential Voice, Part 2 – Sounding “Just Like Yourself”
September 23, 2020

Last week, I wrote about our Essential Voice: the voice each of us was born with, to express our unique selves.  It’s such a vital topic, I want to add another piece: about uniqueness, not sounding like anyone else.

 

When I was in high school, I sang a lot of folk music.  People used to compliment me by saying things like, “Ooh, you sound just like Judy Collins,” or sometimes “…just like Joni Mitchell.”  Yes, I was a young woman with long blonde hair too, who sang a lot of the songs they had recorded.  I loved those songs, and their singing.  But I wasn’t trying to sound like them!  Though the comparison was kind of flattering to my teenaged self, I never aspired to sound like anyone else, so I always found it uncomfortable too.

 

One of the reasons I might have unconsciously taken on something of their sound, is the physical phenomenon known as entrainment.  It’s when, without our consciously intending or trying to, our bodies come into alignment with other bodies around them.  (A typical example is when young women go off to college, and after a while most of them in the same dorm find their monthly periods have synchronized.)  Choral singers notice they tend to sing better if a really good singer is standing next to them—or worse if someone with a lot of tension or constriction is next to them instead.  They may not realize why, but their muscles, and their ears, are unconsciously mirroring the sensations and sound production around them.  By learning some of my folk repertoire from recordings by singers I liked, I probably did start to sound a bit like them. 

 

Meanwhile, there are many singers and aspiring singers who feel genuinely uncomfortable with their own sound.  So they might be pleased to be told they sound “just like…” –but there’s always a level of awkwardness with that.  Remember what I said last week about the Not-Me sound produced by tension or old habits, the sound that’s less beautiful than it can be when those habits begin to dissolve?  Not-Me can also apply to a beautiful sound, if it’s Not-Your own beautiful sound.  It’s still not your essential voice.

 

Lately I’ve been back in contact with a woman who studied with me 7-8 years ago—we’ll call her Dee.  Dee shared with me about the long-lasting impact of an exchange we had during an early lesson.  Around that time, someone had told her her voice sounded “just like” a certain well-known opera singer.  She wondered if that was true, and then probably had been trying to encourage her voice to emulate that sound.  (A famous opera singer has to sound better than little ol’ me, right?)  During one lesson, she asked me, “Do I sound like _____?”  Apparently I said emphatically, “No, Dee, you sound like YOU!”  And what she tells me now is that that response was profound for her, for the way she felt immediately and still feels about her voice.  She wants to sound like herself.  And she does.

 

This week, I was teaching a young woman who’s been working beautifully with the self-confidence issues that affect her singing.  The singing and the confidence are improving all the time, and she enjoys starting to sing now with others (in safe spaces, of course).  Her concern though, like many people who are shy to share their singing, is still that the voice isn’t “good enough.” She’s getting over it, and was helped when a new singing-friend said to her the other day when she was feeling shy: “You sound great!  But anyway, look at people like Bob Dylan.  He doesn’t sing well at all, but people love his music.  You have your own voice, that nobody else in the world has.”

 

Exactly.  Just as there’s no one else in the world who is just like you, there’s no one else in the world who sounds just like you: your unique voice, carrying your own vibration and soul out into the world. 

 

So sing out!

 

 

To respond to this blog with your thoughts or questions, go here.

A workshop, "Finding Your Voice," is one I've given often, and have now moved online. 

 


 
Finding Your Essential Voice
September 16, 2020

 

How do you feel about the sound of your own voice, singing or speaking?  Do you love it?  Do you judge it?  Sometimes one, sometimes the other?

 

I have a radical proposition for you. The things we enjoy, accept, love, even thrill to, in the sound and sensation of our own voices belong to what I call the Essential Voice, the voice we were born to express ourselves through.  The moments when we feel “that’s me!” are the moments we are singing and speaking in that voice.  And the parts we find hard to accept are the Not-Me.

 

What’s the Not-Me?  The tension, strain, fear; the old habits that don’t work anymore and maybe never did, the lack of body and breath support—you get the idea.  Those impediments too are expressing themselves through the vocal sound, and sometimes they dominate it.  When we get frustrated, judgmental, or feel like we’re dealing with a stranger inside ourselves…well, we are.  That’s the Not-Me.  We’re right to feel uncomfortable with it, and in a way it’s a gift.  What?  Yes, because something else is yearning to come through: our own shining truth in physical form.

 

I’ve often said to students that about 50% of learning to sing well is acquiring new knowledge and skills, and 50% is releasing the “Not-Me” elements.  That’s a bit of an exaggeration for the sake of simplicity, but it’s not far off the mark for many voices.

 

The corollary to this 50-50 observation, is that if we’re shy about singing in front of other people, that shyness—a.k.a. fear; let’s tell it like it is—exerts less and less of a hold on us as our technique improves.  We like hearing ourselves sing, more and more, and we stop picking on our voices every time we let out a sound.  We try out songs with other people.  We’re even getting compliments when we do!  What accounts for this magic?  Better singing-and-speaking habits are gradually releasing the Not-Me elements and letting our Essential Voice come through. You know, the voice we were born to express ourselves through.

 

The sensations are more enjoyable, too, aren’t they?  The body lined up comfortably, the breath supporting the sound, the shoulders, neck and jaw free of tension, the sound coming through a more open relaxed throat and mouth.

 

And this all means that we can really turn our attention to meaning.  What’s this music I’m singing?  What are the lyrics, and how do I relate to them? (I probably chose this song or aria for a reason.  There are lots of wonderful songs out there.)  What does the melody do, and how do melody and harmony and rhythm combine to fulfill something more about those words?  Then, how do all those elements together make you feel, and what do you want to express through them, both of yourself and of how you interpret the poet's/composer's/songwriter's intention?

 

Singing freely and fully is one of the great joys of human existence.  Find your Essential Voice.  The world is waiting, longing—needing—to hear it.


To respond to this blog with your thoughts or questions, go here.

A workshop, "Finding Your Voice," is one I've given often, and have now moved online. 


 
The Joy of Singing Together--Online
September 9, 2020

Yes, it can be done! 

 

Last evening, I had the pleasure of presenting about Sing into Joy to the Ulster County Women’s Network, as its September guest.  The organization, based in NY’s mid-Hudson Valley, now holds all its meetings online.  We sang, as part of our hour-and-15 together, after a focused, short warmup of bodies and voices.  Later came the talking part.  We need to sing, first. 

 

I had assumed the women—just under 20 participants including guests—would have to use their mute buttons most of the time.  We’ve all experienced the latency and overlap problems with even speaking at the same time in a Zoom or Skype conference, let alone singing.  Heaven forfend.  During the warmups, everyone did use the mute option.  For one thing, there’s a need for safe space in those exposed moments when people are finding their own (un-warmed-up) voices in the privacy of their own homes. 

 

But when it came time to do a song together, there we were: smiling happy faces, voices ready, hearts with a song to share.  It was just too tempting not to try leaving those audio channels open.  So we did.

 

And it worked.  Not with the polished perfection of a “virtual video,” where people record their solo musical parts to a conducting track at home, and then someone edits it all together into an impressive whole that can be shared on YouTube.  (This is in the Sing into Joy plan for later, BTW.)  We’ve all heard and often marveled at those.  

 

What happened last night was a different kind of magic.  I had divided the group loosely into two halves, to trade lines back and forth.  And because we were alternating, and because several voices were singing at once each time, something else had to happen.  We paused, and we listened.  Some people’s internet connections were a little faster or slower than others.  Some women started singing a little earlier or later than others in their group.  It didn’t matter, for what we were doing.  We were hearing each other’s voices, sometimes individually for a few seconds, mostly as a texture.  We waited that extra second for one group’s sound to complete before we answered.  And thus we caught those unpremeditated little vocal moments lingering in the air, too.  

 

There was a collective joy in this, as homespun as the technology necessitated.  We were singing together—for everyone (I think) for the first time since quarantines began.  What a wonderful experience! What a thing to share again!

 

The talking part followed: I explained how “Sing into Joy” came to be and what it’s about, and we had a Q&A at the end.  After some very good questions, one woman asked: “Do you think we could sing another song?”  Of course we could!  And did. 

 

It was a little hard to push the “Leave Meeting” button after we all said good night.

 

This morning, I received a lovely email from one of the board members, that read in part:

“I love what you are doing and was inspired by the UCWN event, which was fun, informative and empowering for each of us individually and as a group bonding for the UWCN participants.”

 

The thing about getting together to do things like this, is that we ALL can be empowered.  And have fun.  Thank you, Ulster County Women’s Network, for the opportunity to bond with you through the power of song.

 

To respond to this blog with your thoughts or questions, go here.

 


 
Why Sing into Joy, now?
September 1, 2020

Q:  Why was Sing into Joy—suggesting singing as a pathway to wellness—created during the coronavirus pandemic? 

A: So many reasons, and not just for musicians:

Q:  About the breath:  Isn’t there a certain irony in starting a singing program while we’re being told we should not sing together because we’ll spread those legendary aerosolized droplets that travel far and linger long in in the air?

A: There’s so much we can do that’s positive and also safe!

If you’d like to explore the possibilities, contact me.

My plan is to post a new blog each week.  Stay tuned, and sign up for the email list!

Sing on!
Danielle

 

P.S.  To respond to this blog with your thoughts or questions, go here.