The Connection between Speaking and Singing

Weekly Teaching Tip – July 6, 2015
by Jay Lemon

Hello all, Jay Lemon, Musician and Patriot here…I confess I’m a little intimidated giving you guys “tips” apart from “buy low, sell high” and other trite absurdities you already know…the “preaching to the choir” conundrum! I’ve been thinking on it a bit, and I guess the best I can come up with is a more philosophical observation.

A lot of my students come to me as novice singers (in a community college, many have rationalized “hey, I don’t really want to actually work at anything, so I think I’ll learn to sing!”), and I’ve made general headway by getting them to realize that people often have this “partition” mentally that divides “singing voice” and “speaking voice”. Even advanced singers fall prey to the split-brain phenomenon. That’s why in your assessment, you should spend a bit of time in conversation…not just to get an idea about goals and preferences, but to really hear adduction, speech patterns, pitching, etc…then you do the evil 5-tone “ah” diagnostic.

What’s interesting and consistent is that most students utilize aspects of “mix” very often in their normal speech and have NO IDEA that they can do it because it’s not internalized to them as “singing”. That’s when emulating cartoon voices (Sponge Bob for high larynx, Patrick for low, etc) and other “tricks” can be useful.

I’ve found that listening to their own patterns particularly (in more animated or excited speech) reveal ways to get their brains to recognize sensations in the mix and accept them in singing more readily. For example (and it’s weirdly true), the average Texan will enter mix when they say “what the hell you talkin’ about?” Any speech tendency that lends itself to approaching the sound and sensation must be leapt upon with great enthusiasm…”that’s it, THAT’S IT!” you reply utilizing mix registers. Get the student feeling the SPEECH aspect of the sensation, then immediately get it into exercise….”Ok, what the he….mum-mum-mum-mum”…you know what I mean.

When you start to breech the mental partition between “speaking” and “singing”, you’re heading in the right direction! Uh…shrimp sandwich, shrimp stew, shrimp burger…that…that’s about it.

Jay Lemon

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