''Even though I have been a professional singer and musician for 20 years, Sue's amazing teaching has really transformed my singing voice.''
''I continue to be amazed by the weekly results in my voice. Sue has been so supportive and encouraging.''
There seems to be a fairly consistent phenomenon that happens in the first while when we begin vocal training, particularly when re-establishing the natural vocal function. While not exclusive to singers, it appears more readily for them because of the greater demands they are asking of their voices.
You’ll notice that your voice doesn’t work predictably all the time; sometimes it’s great and you feel good about the vocal training you’ve done, and on other occasions you can’t seem to sing at all! I call this ‘vocal confusion’.
Think of it this way: we use our voices out of habit, hence the muscles just do what they do and we aren’t aware of it at all i.e. they are responding to our subconscious thought or habitual thinking. Generally, this is a good thing if the voice is free, flexible and well-balanced to start with. We don’t want to be having to worry about our ‘technique’ when we’re in the middle of singing in a concert, or making that important speech, for example. It is desirable that our vocal function is spontaneous and free. However, when we begin our vocal training most of us have a habit or two or more, that are impeding the ease of our voices.
As we begin to re-establish connection with the natural vocal infrastructure the physical muscle response may be good, however the old habit may still be lingering and can reappear once we’re no longer concentrating on the vocal function. In short, the ‘new’ habits aren’t firmly established yet, and the ‘old’ habits haven’t given way to the new… sometimes they have a bit of a fight with each other. Gradually this will disappear as the new habits take hold, and become the spontaneous response to our thoughts and desire to sing and speak well.
So, hang in there!
Sue is a founding member of Voice Builders, an association of colleagues who are committed to promoting functional vocal training as taught by Cornelius Reid.
Using our voices is an innate ability for those of us who have the physiological infrastructure to do so. As a result, verbal communication has become an important and profound part of our societies and even our self-identity and expression.
As stated above, vocal function is an ‘innate ability’… we are born with it. However, as we grow from infancy and early childhood, where this function is at its most natural, with greatest ease of functioning, we begin to learn and absorb the speech and singing patterns of those around us – first in our families, then the wider communities and societies of which we are a part. This is not always a negative thing if the patterns utilize the free and natural voice.
It can become problematic, however, if those patterns lead to constriction of the vocal infrastructure, shallow breathing brought on by excessive stress or fear, or if the training they undergo is not based on sound principles of vocal function. There is no special or mysterious technique – the muscles are within us, and with conscious training we can become familiar with how our voices work and how we can express ourselves with it.
That what we offer is unlike many other vocal training programmes currently in use – we work with the whole person to guide them simple, natural function of the vocal muscles. The natural beauty of the voice, and ability to express an idea through this medium only comes from a voice that is free and functional.
To this end the members of Voice Builders commit themselves to undertaking vocal training that:
- Retains or restores the simple and natural function of the human voice for singing, acting, public speaking purposes.
- While our primary focus is the healthy function of the voice for performance purposes, we are deeply aware that we work with the whole person – that who we are, and what we hope for may be expressed through our voice.
- Use as our guiding principles the practises outlined in the writings by the late Cornelius Reid of New York.
- Where we commit to regular study, meetings, master classes and workshops, both individually and together so that we continue to improve our understanding and experience. In this way our students may continue to benefit from our ongoing learning.