Waiting For The Power! by Keri Hughes
May 27, 2019
We all have determined, energized students who come to our studios wanting the powerful voice they admire in their colleagues or classmates and they want it now! This often results in the singer choosing volume over freedom, pitch, and vocal health. To help the student find ease and balance at first, we often need to back off the volume and power. How can we keep our student from getting discouraged when the sound we are asking for seems so far away from the sound they want?
1. Have at least one song in their book that they can sing powerfully and be fairly successful and safe on while their technique is developing – a song like this would likely stay in the lower part of the voice and have a limited range. For example, a student who came in for help with rehab from vocal nodes and was very discouraged, was thrilled to discover that she could sing Bubbly by Colbie Caillat which goes to an F#4.
2. Focus on function. Remind the student that what is important at this stage is how it feels, not how it sounds. We need good form to build the right coordination. Power will come later. You have to be able to walk on the balance beam before you can do flips on it!
Celebrate the good form – ask them how it feels and how it is different from their
previous approach. Chances are they might say, “yes, it feels a lot better but it’s not very
strong…” reassure them that this is a necessary stage in their development and the
strength will come. Help them notice that the pitch has improved- that is usually one
thing even the most resistant singer can agree with their teacher on – singing in tune is
3. Pressure does not equal power. Pressure does not equal emotion. Pressure is just pressure. Help your student understand that the sensation they associate with power is really just strain. They might worry that their balanced singing isn’t exciting or emotional enough when they lose that sense of pressure and force. When a voice is balanced its true color and personality come through, making the singer a more compelling performer. Voices that are loud and out of balance are just loud – it starts to sound like generic noise and loses the unique quality that makes a singer memorable.
4. Sometimes the best thing you can do for the singer is help them sing a “little less wrong.”
I learned this from Dean Kaelin and it has served me well when a singer has a
performance, show, or audition in the next few days and will fare better singing with
imperfect technique than they would focusing on balance and having a potentially less
exciting sound. This is a good time to differentiate between short term and long term
goals. Help your singer navigate the difficult part of the song the best way you can, even
if it is a bit strained or under pitch. The most important thing at this point is to help them
feel secure and like they can trust their voice in the performance. You can introduce the
long term goal and help them get a glimpse of what is possible in the future while
supporting them in their short term goal of being as successful as possible in the