I went to a bodybuilding competition a few years ago.
One of my husband’s friends was competing in the Masters category – that is, the over-50 age group. I don’t have to tell you he has one helluva good looking 50-plus-year-old body. I think he won his category.
Where was I? Oh yeah…
There were some celebrity weightlifters strutting around, too. If you’ve ever opened a musclemag, you know what these guys look like. The ones who eat a dozen egg whites for the first of six daily meals. The ones who stretch their XXL clothes… at the arm and leg openings. The ones whose arms don’t rest straight down to their sides because their lats are so damn big.
Well, those guys are great at lifting heavy things and putting them down again, but how do you think they fare for… reaction time? Balance? Speed? Throwing Frisbees? Chasing their dogs? Going for mountain hikes? Mountain biking? Swimming? Waterskiing? Surfing? Windsurfing? You name it, most of them are probably at a disadvantage. They’re good at the one thing they train for, but their bodies are completely unbalanced.
You can be an unbalanced singer, too.
A lot of pop and rock singers don’t want to sing in a light, floaty, clear head voice because they believe their music doesn’t call for that open, floaty, soprano-like sound. And besides, singing in a choirboy’s head voice on one of Slash’s or Guns ‘N Roses’ tunes is just wrong!
But it’s still important to practice this side of vocal balance, even if it’s not your primary way of singing.
If you only practice belting, yelling, powersinging, screaming, growling, whatever – your voice won’t be as flexible, agile, open, or even as powerful as it could be.
I worked yesterday with one of my male students who sings a lot of classic and hard rock songs. He’s working on a song that takes him up to high D above middle C… and those notes are climactic notes, they have to be strong! They simply can’t be sung in a light flutey head voice, or a falsetto. But we worked on singing open, easy, head voice notes for most of the lesson, and then when he went back to sing the song, those high notes were easier and even louder and more powerful than I had ever heard him sing before!
So, if you’re working on extending your upper range for power singing, make sure you don’t just belt as high as possible. Balance it with some light, clear-toned head voice work and see how it opens up your voice.
For example, sing a 5-note scale (1-2-3-4-5, such as C-D-E-F-G) on “ee,” in your high range, nice and easy. Watch for any engagement of chest-voice musculature, and let it all go! Think choirboy, think Kate Bush, think of a flute, whatever you have to think, just sing in a completely released, relaxed voice. Work the area for a good long time – a half hour at least. (Mix up the vowels and patterns so you don’t get bored.) Then, try a song that requires you to powersing in a high range and see if it got any easier! I will bet you it did!
And then your voice won’t be the vocal equivalent of the bodybuilder who can do nothing but (cue Arnold accent) “pick up heavy things and then put them down.”
Thanks to R.M. for the inspiration for this article. Great job last weekend in your lesson!
(c) 2010 Adrienne Osborn