During a recent voice lesson, my student was sharing with me her experience in performing in a jam session where there was chaotic noise and talking going on around her. She wanted to start a song and had to amplify her singing volume in order to be heard over the din. She was actually fighting her environment in order to be heard.
One big issue with trying to sing over noise is that the singer can be tempted to push or force the tone to create volume. This pushing can flatten the tone, ridding the tone of resonance, which, ironically, can lessen the audibility, making the tone less easy to hear. The second problem with pushing is the obvious strain on the vocal cords this can cause.
I advise my students to never push or put weight on their singing tone. Aside from keeping strain off of the vocal cords, this also ensures good pitch. Putting weight on singing tone can drive the pitches down into flat territory. Natural volume comes from good breath support and a relaxed jaw and mouth, creating access to the physical resonating chamber behind the mouth and sinus cavities.
The second bit of advice about the challenges of a loud environment is the concept of creating (a) room. The mental construct is to imagine that you are creating a space of quiet within the loud environment in which the song can occur. You are creating the idea of A room as well – a physical space for your song. This can be accomplished a few ways, depending on where you are and what’s going on around you. One example is, if you are playing your accompaniment on guitar, let’s say, when you want to start your song, strum your first chord and “vamp” – repeat – it for a few measures without singing. This can serve to focus those around you, calm the chaos and hopefully get the noise to die down a bit. Then – sing quietly. This will force your listeners to lean in to your voice. Suddenly, in a space of just a few measures of music, you’ve created a room, and made room for your song.
I’m a big proponent of the idea that songs deserve our best efforts, and they also deserve a respectful audience of kind listeners.
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Love and Blessings,
Award-winning recording artist, Broadway singer, journalist, educator and critically-acclaimed powerhouse vocalist, Susie Glaze has been called “one of the most beautiful voices in bluegrass and folk music today” by Roz Larman of KPFK’s Folk Scene. LA Weekly voted her ensemble Best New Folk in their Best of LA Weekly for 2019, calling Susie “an incomparable vocalist.” “A flat out superb vocalist… Glaze delivers warm, amber-toned vocals that explore the psychic depth of a lyric with deft acuity and technical perfection.” As an educator, Susie has lectured at USC Thornton School of Music and Cal State Northridge on “Balladry to Bluegrass,” illuminating the historical path of ancient folk forms in the United Kingdom to the United States via immigration into the mountains of Appalachia. Susie has taught workshops since 2018 at California music camps RiverTunes and Vocáli Voice Camp. She is a current specialist in performance and historian on the work of American folk music icon, Jean Ritchie. Susie now offers private voice coaching online via the Zoom platform. www.susieglaze.com
VOICE NOTES: A FOLK DIVA’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY Number 33
Make (A) Room For Your Song