Without knowledge there is no understanding.Without understanding there is no knowledge.
~E. ben Azariah
Voice, breath and speech were the powerful tools of creation. Voice is a pure creative force, the inarticulate sound which is beginning and end at the same time. Speech is the opposite; it is articulate. These two are connected by breath, which is in some ancient languages also translated as divine inspiration or spirit.
As long as knowledge has existed from the earliest beginnings of culture the correct utterance and efficacy of the spoken word have always been regarded more than just useful elements of communication. They were seen as charged with divine intervention or 'magic' which brought all of existence into being.
Learning to Listen to Your Inner SelfIf you want to use your voice to the full you must learn to listen to your inner self, and rid yourself of behaviour patterns which keep you from enjoying your true potential.
Scientists sometimes suppress their intuition and inspiration, often out of fear that their colleagues might laugh at them. Before a timeless truth becomes scientifically validated, it has most of the times long been grasped and beautifully expressed by poets, artists, mystics and philosophers far ahead of their times.
Once newly-found knowledge is officially confirmed scientists or the authorities then transform it into strictly defined laws which they believe and want us to believe in.
As each truth leads us to another dimension mankind is always waiting for the next visionary mind who has the courage to cross the borders to the unknown. All methodologies need to renew themselves continuously. Otherwise, the scientist, teacher, therapist, spiritual director or artist runs into danger to become rigid and removed from truth and reality. Without wisdom there is no knowledge, without knowledge there is no wisdom, the Old Testament tells us. We should always be alert and seeking for the next piece of the puzzle called life.
Visionary minds have almost always been ahead of their contemporaries. It is thanks to those, who take the risk to stand up against a vast majority for the sake of timeless truth, even sometimes at the cost of their reputation to the narrow-mindedness and inertia of their time that mankind has so much knowledge and wisdom at its disposal.
Voice and Speech TherapyThis also applies to the fields of singing, voice and speech therapy, drama, rhetorics, pedagogy, psychology, linguistics, medicine, arts, theology and philosophy, in which I had the privilege to have been taught by inspiring and enlightened teachers.
In these times of unlimited offers and easy access to methods and philosophies it can be quite daunting to find the right approach and teacher, once you have decided to finally wanting to discover your voice or to refine it together with your musical and communication skills.
Numerous schools promise easiest and quick access to your voice, body, and soul. Some are based on religious or philosophical ideas, others come from a more physical or musical background. As human flesh is weak it is very tempting to look out for that particular method that promises you easy solutions with beneficial long-term effects in five easy lessons. Learning is about movement and changes. It is a lifelong process, and it is path and reward in one. If it is your true desire to learn, then you must be prepared to wholeheartedly commit, take responsibility for your chosen path and possibly change some aspects of your life in order to reach your potential and to draw on the richness, power and inspiration of your voice.
Caring for Your Body and VoiceYour voice is the mirror of your soul! Just bear this in mind by whatever you are doing. You only have this one voice and one body. Treat it therefore with utmost care, sensitivity and respect. No athlete would dream of going into a competition without having warmed up because the muscles need to be systematically prepared for their tasks. I am often amazed, when I see singers, performers or speakers going on stage without having warmed up. Your body (i.e. your skeleton) is the instrument, which helps the voice to resonate. In order to project your voice with the least effort but with the maximum effect your body needs to be flexible at all times.
Body and Voice ConnectionEverything you do with your body has automatically also an effect on your voice. Therefore, you need to focus on your every-day-life routine and rid yourself of patterns that sabotage the natural coordination of your body movements, posture, breathing and voice.
The slightest tension in the body will automatically restrict also your breathing and your voice because if one muscle is tense all the others are out of balance as well.
There is no point in doing elaborate voice exercises or other body routines, if you do not treat yourself and your body well during the rest of the day. Also, exercises and principles are only helpful and valid as long as they lead you to deep insight and new horizons in your development. They are but means to come closer to the truth. 'What truth', you might ask. Truth is the one light that keeps us going as artists, scholars and human beings. Truth is the beginning and the end. Its light is always there for us to shine but sometimes we might not see it because it is clouded through restricting circumstances in our lives, such as grief, too much comfort, laziness, materialism.
Your heart might sink in the face of all the challenges and obstacles ahead of you, and of the sheer flood of information and knowledge you have to conquer. Be reassured: Once the initial confusion or obstacles are overcome you will realize that you have come closer yet again to something you have known all along, deep inside you. Everything else you have learnt and experienced so far in your life makes suddenly sense - you are catching another glimpse of the beautiful sparkling bright light of the truth.
Being truthful to our work, to ourselves and to others means that we all have the chance to learn from each other. No field, no discipline is complete in itself. There is always something left to discover.
The complexity of the body, mind and spirit and its effects on your voice is an ongoing challenge and invitation to keep an open mind to everything that happens to us.
In the Beginning was the SoundThe training of the voice is at the same time training of the ability to listen. The more refined your ability to listen the richer is the sound of your voice. The ear of a trained musician is working in an even more refined way than that of a non-musician. Your ear is also the organ for your body-balance.
Voice problems are often the result of imbalances in your overall psycho-physical state.
- Are you under a lot of stress?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you drink alcohol?
- Do you get enough sleep?
- o you take medication that might affect you physically and/or emotionally?
- Are your movements tense?
- Do you carry them out with only as much effort as is necessary or with too much effort (f.ex.: How do you brush your teeth, hold your cup, sit at the computer etc.)? Or maybe your ability to listen is restricted for some reason.
Balance-Organ in the Inner EarThe ear is the most important organ amongst all your senses - one of its responsibilities is the exchange and supply of energies: The brain needs sugar and oxygen but that alone does not make it think. In addition, it needs stimuli from all sensual organs. The ear provides ninety percent of energy for the brain. This happens through the perception of high frequencies. There are more sense-cells for these than for low ones. Therefore, high frequencies transform into a higher number of impulses for the brain-activity. This means more consciousness, intelligence, memory, will-power, alertness, vitality and creativity for you.
Your ear is also the organ for your body-balance. The balance-organ in the inner ear controls every muscle of your body. The muscles communicate with the nerve of the balance-organ via the spinal chord. The nerve of the balance-organ collaborates with the nerve of the hearing-organ. Your body-consciousness is based in the ear: Tension and relaxation, too much effort or too little with the muscles, posture, movements - all are controlled by the ear as the control-organ. It is a cybernetic circle: Brain (command) - muscle (action) - ear (control) - brain (correction of the command).
You must not forget that originally none of your organs had been constructed for speech as you know it today. You use them primarily for breathing and digesting. In that mankind is not much different from other mammals. But there is one huge difference: You have a more developed brain and an extremely complex ear. Their collaboration enables you to use your body for such complex activities as speaking and singing. The better the coordination of your muscles, the more stimulation you have for your brain, thus the results of practising are better, and quicker at the same time.
Vibration AwarenessAlways be aware that the vibrations of the sound you produce need time to travel to your audience. Whilst you are already in the process of letting the breath find its way into your body again, after you have finished with the last sound (vowel or consonant), this sound is still traveling to the audience.This takes a split second - a precious moment that gives you automatically new breath and the ability to focus on the continuation of your next phase, while it holds the chance for the audience to reflect upon what you just said or sang, and then they are with you for the next bit. They are literally hanging at your lips.
This is key to true communication between you and the audience. Initially it can take a great deal of courage to give yourself and the audience this short but invaluable moment because you might be anxious of losing control over your body. Once, you have found the courage to pause you will notice that your body is working with you, and that all your actions are supported by your ability to let your body do the involuntary (natural) coordination. By so going 'back to nature' you find peace of mind to focus purely on the music or message you want to bring across.
You will then feel waves of breath and positive energy coming back to you from a listening audience - a wonderful experience! By taking your own well-being seriously your are able to give others the same freedom and respect, and you can therefore communicate freely, carried by your breath.
Before you sing you should speak your songs aloud first. The quality of the sound is very much dependent on the coordination of your muscles. Only if you can produce the sounds efficiently and wholeheartedly with your speaking voice you can master the even more complex facial movements and shapes on different tones.
By speaking you will quickly find out, how well you are able to coordinate your muscles with your inner intentions.
You will also develop a closer relationship with the poem or the story, you are about to sing. Because that is, what songs are. To me, singing means telling a story, with the help of tones. They can make a message even stronger.
If you produce the sounds by using all the muscles in the direction nature intended them to move and with only the minimum effort involved, then your voice will sound powerful and subtle at the same time, and without any strain on your vocal chords at all. You will also be able to use your whole range without any 'breaks', when you change from low to high tones and vice versa.
I always found the use of the expression 'register' very confusing because it distracted generations of singers and singing teachers from the fact that the body, breathing, movements and voice are directly interdependent. They form a wholesome and well balanced unit, which is able to interrelate and to respond automatically to our needs, if we do not sabotage our bodies.
Instead of teaching the concept of registers I prefer to put the focus on the coordination of the whole instrument, which includes the work on the body and on the whole person.
Never forget: Your voice is the mirror of your soul.
About this Contributor: Sigrid (Ziggy) Agocsi is a passionate singing teacher, voice & drama coach, speech, breathing & movement therapist, classical & contemporary singer, poet, author, scholar, mystic, and mother. S.A.M. Voiceworks Founder & Master-Teacher; also Master-Teacher for Reiki-Seichem & Melchisedec-Reiki; Principal, World Academy for Interdisciplinary Training. She is a member of the London Therapists Forum, the European Voice Teachers Association, the Musicians Union, the Equity, the Reiki Federation.
- ~Contributor Article Dateline: Mar 29 2006