One of the reasons people like singing in a choir is that they don’t hear their voice on its own. Many singers like to be reassured that I will never ask them to sing a solo.
The sound of a choir is always greater than the sum of its parts. This is part of the special sensual experience we are missing so much at the moment.
One of the challenges of singing over a video link is that we are all singing on our own. Each singer can only hear themselves and the sound file, and sometimes me as well. This can be unnerving, like hearing your own voice on an answerphone message, and some people find they are too self-conscious to enjoy it at all.
This week I’ll talk in general terms getting more comfortable with the sound of your own voice. Next week I’ll move on to some specific tips to help you get a sound you like.
If you don’t like your voice, you are likely to sing timidly. But if you sing with fear, your voice will not sound its best. Poor airflow will make it wobbly. Apologetic body language – hunched shoulders, for instance, – will inhibit your singing. So stand tall, relax your shoulders, and take a breath right into your centre. Call for your dog as though it is across the park. (You can use any dog: alive, departed or purely imaginary.) Capture this quality of sound, its loudness and strength, and sing the two words, “Hey, Jude”. How was that? Pretty good, I bet. Try it on another song.
We can all do different voices. Teachers will be aware that they have a teacher voice that they rarely use with their partner. Do you use a special voice when you talk to the dog? We can choose to sing in different ways, too. People will sing Happy Birthday in a different voice from “Come on you Blades”. If you are brave enough to try a few voices, you will realise you can choose the one you like best.
Imagine you are on Stars in Their Eyes. Tonight you are… someone whose singing you really like.
When I sing a line for you to copy, take a breath and sing it in your chosen singer’s voice. How does that feel?
Your voice is uniquely yours – but it can and will change. You are not stuck with it like the colour of your eyes. It is affected by the size and shape of parts of your body – your larynx, your tongue, and your teeth, for a start. You don’t have any control over these. It’s also affected by things you can control – like hydration and lack of sleep. Beyond that, you can always improve your singing by listening and singing – and the two have to go hand in hand.
Remember, your voice is worthwhile. You have a right to sing, and a right to be heard.