Why is it that I was so confident in my experience as to offer such a sharp, and ultimately misguided, rejoinder? Even though my ears were telling me that something was amiss, and she had a perfectly plausible reflection, something about my physical experience had told me that my singing was fine, in fact, that the problem must exist elsewhere…consider that for a moment, as, I think all voice users go through this experience regularly enough.
The thing is that I’ve been working with tongue position when singing pop music for over a year and a half. Even with fairly regular attention to renewing my resonant strategy where my tongue is concerned, when I got in the middle of recording, listening to the lead vocals, and making up a new harmony at the same time, my body went back to a former habit that (here’s the kicker) felt exactly right.
The lesson: training our ears to hear subtleties of laryngeal registration, tongue adjustments, pharyngeal shifts, resonant strategies, breath pressure, etc. is critical, but it’s only the first step.
- Next we have to guide our singers to experience a difference.
- Then, they must identify the sensation(s) associated with those differences, in their own words, and
- Lastly, they have to be able to recreate the new and old sounds based on those sensations.
If they can’t, then they are destined to fall back into the old habit again, because, even if our old habit doesn’t create the sounds we want, it is a sensation that we physically know and trust, and therefore, a sensation we are more likely to return to.
When I went back to the mic, the vocal tract adjustment was fairly simple, because I had spent so much practice time in the past working on creating new sensations around a more forward tongue placement. The new sound eliminated the harmonic conflicts in question, and, I took a step toward wanting to explore more stability and reliability in the future.
In order to overcome a habitual feeling, we need a new feeling to rely on...a new habit.