Create a Safe Environment for Experimentation

Weekly Teaching Tip – Nov. 20, 2017
by Teri Stock

Last year I broke both sides of my left ankle. It required surgery and some extensive recovery time. Part of that recovery included physical therapy where I first worked on strengthening muscles and re-stretching ligaments and then I had to work on balance. None of the therapy was fun but having to do exercises where I felt I was out of control and was going to fall, scared me. After all, that is how I broke my ankle in the first place. That bobbling, and feeling like I was going to fall, however was a necessary part of the healing process and allowed my body to readjust itself, and regain the strength I needed, to stay balanced. When I bobbled, my therapist praised and encouraged me. He let me know it was a process my body needed to go through and I had to be patient.

So what does this have to do with singing? Finding the balance between air flow and muscle in the bridges can often leave the beginning or injured singer nervous as they bobble, crack, flip, and feel out of control. As a teacher, it is important to create an environment where experimentation and non-perfect sounds are encouraged. The singer needs time, a safe place, and a patient teacher to really explore the hard parts of their voice and give the intrinsic muscles time to make the necessary adjustments to maintain this difficult balance in the bridges. Applaud their efforts and bobbles!

Don’t let your students cheat this process. Obviously start with bubbles and vowel consonant combinations that will build confidence, but to really test balance use glissandos starting with a fifth and eventually move to an octave. I did a video on this a couple of years ago and have attached the link. The trick is to go slow. Most singers will try to rush through this and try to hide their instability. However if they go slowly their body will usually make the necessary adjustment for a smooth transition between registers .

Remember that developing balance in any part of the body requires strength, coordination, and most of all patience!

Here is the link to the video. The demo for this exercise is about minute 13.

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