Performance Skills

I found this the other day and thought it needed another airing, I prepared it for a workshop on performance skills some years ago.

Knowing WHY helps the HOW so I can DO the performance and BE the singer!

Why vocal anatomy, vocal health, vocal acoustics and vocal psychology can make a difference to vocal performance? It has taken singers and musicians a long time to catch up with the sports athletes in terms of taking an all round approach to performance.

  1. When I understand where my lungs are, the shape of my diaphragm etc. I will breathe more efficiently at an optimum rate. My lungs reach down to my low back, my diaphragm is a dome…when I walk on to the stage I breathe deeply and this also helps with nerves as it balances the body and means I have core strength. Do I sing with my whole body or just the upper half? What are my legs and knees doing?
  2. If I am in panic ‘fight or flight’ mode I will lock my knees and my lower abdominals will tighten the diaphragm so it is not free to work properly. Knowing my own psychology will help my anatomy do what I want it to do. Knowing I have done my work will help too…worrying about my memory  will produce a worrying timbre- not good.
  3. If I have kept to a good diet and drunk water regularly I will arrive at my performance hydrated and at an optimum state of well- being. Andy Murray won Wimbledon after 6 years of regulated diet and specific training.
  4. Knowing that my vocal mechanism is mostly cartilage and very bendy I know it will work however I hold my posture  but I also know what is the most efficient balance for good production! Know how your larynx works even if you can’t remember how to spell crico-thyroid.
  5. If I know something about vocal acoustics, both the internal and external feedback/perception of the singing sound and the colours of vowels, this will help me use the acoustics of the performing space most efficiently. ‘They pay you to sing if they can hear the ring!’
  6. Knowing how to deal  with the symptoms of colds, flu, sore throats, back ache, tiredness, hormonal changes, medication side-effects is essential knowledge for the performing artist. Knowing how to deal with mucus in the middle of a recital is a bonus.
  7. What is my identity as a singer? Do I really know what I am good at? Have I a style of my own or am I just a clone? Do I sing as someone else or is it the real me? Can I be the vessel of the music without compromising my own self? Can I lose myself on the operatic/music theatre/recital stage so I become the character I am to inhabit? Am I flexible enough and can my vocal technique adapt to the changes necessary?
  8. Have I done my homework, do I know the back story, do I understand the translation, the view of the poet and composer and have I memorised the words?
  9. Have I thought about my image, what I am wearing, my shoes? Do I use the mirror enough? Are my facial and articulatory muscles really working? Can they hear my words? Do I have disturbing habits when I perform? How do I walk on to the stage?
  10. What is my tongue doing when I sing? Have I lifted the soft palate? How open is the back of my throat? Where are the tight spots in my body? Is there unwanted tension even in my toes?

You may find this an impossible list but these are the reasons why it takes 10 years to train a professional singer – it doesn’t matter which genres you sing. Develop your unique identity as a singer, follow your musical passions but with discrimination. Look at your body, can it cope with Wagner? Tone and Focus are important in terms of muscle quality and musical quality. Space and movement are important in terms of acoustics and psychology. Vocal Health is a full time occupation for a singer. You are in charge of your destiny, so Practice and Preparation are in your hands.


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