I’m going to share this incredibly useful breathing image with everyone. Got it the other day in a voice lesson and I’m finding it works like gang busters.
The longer the lever the more power it has, right? We learned that in 1st grade. Well, our breath works the same way. The deeper we breath the greater length our breath travels from the base of the sound to our vocal cords. Thus, we have more vocal power.
Of course, that’s not actually how it works. The true mechanics are that when you deeply breath, from way down towards your groin, you are activating the intercostal and transverse muscles with greater intensity and they can support the release of air for a longer period of time. But, that’s too much to think about. This is where the lever comes into play.
Try it! Simply envision the long, wide channel of air beginning below your belly button and traveling all the way to your mouth. It’s like a shotgun barrel. The longer the barrel the more force behind the bullet. The great thing about this barrel is that its musculature allows for an incredible level of control. The bullet can exit elegantly like a perfectly poured wine or quickly and with great power.
That’s what $75 an hour can buy. Thus far it’s money well spent.
Another good meeting today. This one was a singing and talking meeting. This time I used the song and the monologue, just as I did the introduction and the conversation that followed, as an opportunity to show a bit of who I was rather than how well I could act or sing. Phew, what a load off.
It’s much easier to be myself then to try to show how good I am at being myself. When I do that, I’m acting an audition. The result is much more like what I’ll actually do on stage if I get cast.
Consequently, and I owe much of this to a wonderful voice lesson I recently had, my vocal audition never felt better. I’ve never felt more relaxed, more on voice or more connected with the material. I wasn’t singing at all, really. Nor did I feel I was giving a vocal performance. I had a conversation in an imaginary world which happened to be accompanied by a pianist. Being a good sport, I decided to sing the words on pitch along with the pianist, which consequently made the imaginary conversation more vital and engaging.
The next time you watch a musical or re-run of Smash, watch for the difference between someone singing and someone acting, or talking, on pitch. (It’s what often makes Ivy better than Karen, which of course destroys the entire show.) Someone singing at you might sound very pretty, but it doesn’t grab you and it doesn’t feel real and vital. When someone communicates on pitch, with the same level of engagement and need they attach to non-musical dialogue, the music heightens the vitality of the words and deepens the emotional life of the character. Simply put, the singing becomes the result of the character’s necessity to communicate in a different way. That necessity is just as freeing for the performer as it is engaging for the audience.
My successful vocal audition today was a result of trusting my voice, demanding of myself and the material exactly what I would demand from non-musical dialogue and relieving myself of the obligation to “sing.” I acted on pitch. I’m sure I’ve been told that’s the way to sing musical theatre a hundred times. I never did it until today. Why are the simple things so damn hard?