Each year during Wimbledon I am reminded how so much of tennis performance is parallel to the singing world. So here are some of the tips I have picked up from hearing the commentators on the tennis.
I loved Billie-Jean King’s comments on the ‘intensity button’ that all great athletes seem to have, the control over the emotional intelligence of a performer, being able to calm down when the emotions are running high, and then when things are getting dull and dry in performance to be able to turn up the intensity button. I shall use that when I am teaching voice!
Then I heard how the speed of the serve really surprises players when they play at club level and then play with a Grand slam champion. It reminded me of a concert I did for my teacher Mollie Petrie and the wonderful Susan Chilcott, also her student, sang and I heard that sound, how huge and resonant and loud it all was and then I realised how much I had to learn about singing at a professional level.
Watching Andy Murray play with his hip injury, how the upper body was weakened because of the weakness in the lower body and how he couldn’t get any speed in the serve, and how the core muscles need the strength from the pelvis. So do singers, so many ignore the whole body awareness which is fundamental to producing a great performance.
Acoustics of air is something tennis players know, and they feel when the ball is fast or slow depending on humidity, heat etc and singers need to be sensitive to the air and how acoustics affect the sound we make. I have also been reading “Sound” by Bella Bathurst describing hearing loss and gain and how she learnt the particularly qualities of air for sound. We still do not know enough about the ear and acoustics for singing.
So apart from singers becoming athletes and learning from sports psychology, I also learn a lot about Singing when watching Wimbledon, crazy but true!