My voice can be so fickle. I depend on sleep, good diet, exercise, hydration and confidence. On any day it can take on a different quality. I spent years forcing my voice when it didn’t want to be forced, and I paid for it later.
I work in a fuming chemical plant every day. My voice isn’t as elastic as it used to be. The more I recorded myself, the more I realized that I was hurting. Some gigs were 4 hours long, and I could hardly speak afterward. I wanted to preserve my voice for the long run. I also wanted to be able to sing well any time, every time.
So I signed up for singing lessons with Chip Dugan, who is a faculty member at the University of Tampa. He is a phenomenal singer and teacher. He’s also a really nice person. He made me feel comfortable in all our lessons, which is so important. He had a systematic, yet personalized approach to lessons. I would record our sessions on my phone and listen to them again later in the week to review.
At first, it was very difficult, because I had these intense muscular habits and I didn’t know how to sing without them. When singing a high belted note, I would squeeze my throat to create air pressure instead of using my breath and resonators correctly. Working backwards from these habits and “re-tuning” my voice was a painstaking process. Chip taught me to become aware of my tongue, jaw, throat and breathing muscles.
A single habit takes weeks to develop, and I had several habits to work on:
- Lifted soft palate
- Relaxed, mobile tongue and jaw
I struggled every day for months. The most frustrating thing is that you can’t just think about doing these things while performing. Chip told me it takes about 300 ms for the brain to respond. Singing correctly is a habit. And if you lack in one thing, all of the others suffer. It was a matter of daily troubleshooting, reviewing, calming myself down with hot baths and starting all over again. My singing definitely got worse before it got better, but it was so worth it.
I hurt less at gigs now. I definitely enjoy singing more, like it’s less work and more fun. I have better control across my whole range, as well as a more relaxed and clear tone.