Happy New Year!
Here comes the audition season in full swing!
So - how's your terminology?
This is why I ask: there is a great deal of terminology in craft, and singing is no different. We toss around words like "belt", "mix", "placement", and hear "breathe low", "project" and on and on.
Do you REALLY know what these mean? Or are they just getting in your way.
First thing, you have to know your instrument. Your physical instrument. Where are the damn parts? What do they actually do? How are interconnected? How athletic do you have to be to access what you need?
Second thing, you have to figure out how to translate what you are being told. Many of the words we use, or the words we hear, are not literal, but as singers, many of us translate literally. At least I am guilty of that. It got me into lots of trouble.
Then I studied anatomy and acoustics and said "DUH".
I am not saying you have to do that - but I am saying that if you say you are a singer, you better know some stuff, not just toss around the words.
So many of the terms we use as ass-backwards anyway. Just like stage direction. Until you really understood "down stage right" you went the wrong way and had to think about it!
The "terms" are thrown around by singers, teachers, coaches, casting directors, directors - everybody in the industry. You are not going to tell me that they all have the same definitions. They don't. After 30 years in this business, THEY DO NOT.
So, what's a singer to do?
You MUST find the reality of your instrument. What happens physically? How do I translate that? How do I access that?
You ask questions: of your teacher (you DO have a voice teacher, yes?), and then translate with your coaches and then further translate when you are in the audition room and a casting director, or music director, or director asks for something and you have to be present enough to figure out what they are asking and then what they are REALLY asking.
You have a set of vocal cords. One larynx. Resonators that are shaped by YOUR body structure and soft tissue. Breath. Physicality.
You don't have a bunch of "different" voices to "put it into". YOU HAVE ONE VOICE. You have numerous registers, but ONE VOICE. Until you fully discover how to access this, you can be frustrated when you are asked to sing in different styles.
Style informs tone. Your voice FIRST. Wrap the style around that. Don't think you have to change your voice to access a style!
Learning to find this authenticity gives you authority in your audition and in your performance.
So, I dare you to toss out terminology that is getting in your way; embrace terminology that allows you to access YOU fully and consistently; Develop the physical awareness of HOW you sing; Explore what defines a style as opposed to "putting it into an xyz voice" to sing a style. The stylistic definition will then give you permission to still sound like YOU!
When you are given an adjustment or asked for something in the room, be present enough to figure out what you are REALLY being asked to do.
Industry/Casting are not pedagogues. We cannot expect them to have the detailed knowledge of how a voice functions or how it develops or how it works. So guess what? YOU have to have it. You have to know how to translate casting language, which often uses the same words pedagogy does, into the language YOU understand to access the end result they are looking for.
An ongoing issue is being asked "can you belt that?"
What do they really mean? Really belt?
Not necessarily. If you try to do what they SAID, you will often be met with "no, that's not what I wanted."
So, guess what? YOU have to figure out how to translate what is being asked.
Often times, "belt" is associated with a vocal INTENSITY. If the voice is lacking energy/intensity/vibrancy, casting or a coach will say "you gotta belt that more". They don't know what they are asking, but they know it if they hear it.
YOU have to translate that, figure out how to discover that intensity and vibrancy, and adjust to show them you can translate it.
And on and on it goes...
Make a list of those "terms" or those "adjustments" you are told or being asked for; then see if you can explain them out loud or in writing for yourself. If you can't, take them to your teacher and riddle it out together.
You aren't in this alone! We all want you to succeed! Casting wants YOU to be the person they can hire - they really do.
If you aren't prepared, if you can't translate, if you haven't found your authenticity yet, you need to keep discovering that. You must learn to KNOW YOU; to DO YOU; to BE YOU in the audition room and in the coaching studio and in the voice studio.
Learn to listen; learn to translate; learn to stay present; learn to see exactly where you are, and
what you need to do in access everything you are growing into.
Your voice and where it resides is all about YOU. It's not about mimicking a voice; it's not about putting it into a voice; It's about finding YOUR voice and how your voice can begin to inhabit the styles you wish to sing in.
Do you and keep committing to that while you study and discover, while you audition and discover, while you perform and discover. Don't dial it in - stay present and engaged!
Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking.
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