Sunday, May 04, 2008
Singing with longevity in mind
Singing is very much like the performance of an athlete. The primary difference is that the singer's instrument is made up of very small, very fast muscles (thyro-arytenoid and vocalis) adjusted with only slightly slower musculatures (pharynx, mouth, soft palate, and tongue) and powered by much larger and slower muscles (abdominal and diaphragm). And, as with all athletic activities it is the coordination of this muscle energy that provides the instantaneous control which brings a great singer or great athlete to prominence. This, of course, also requires the will and desire to excel and to be "of the best".When a voice declines in its skill and abilities, that experience is also similar to those of an athlete. The skill-of-use for the singer is defined as technique and all technique is founded on basic principles but also on unique individual characteristics of technique necessary to meet the anatomical qualities of the singer. While the basic technique principles are universal the technique needs of the individual singer are not. For that reason evident differences while singing can be noticeable such as size of mouth opening, position of head/neck, visible breathing characteristics, etc.But as the the singer grows older the reaction of muscle fibers change and so also must the coordination necessary to maintain control of these altered muscle actions. The singer blessed with an understanding of basic technical principle of singing is better able to understand such changes and develop changes in technique that address these alteration and, in so doing, maintain a similar vocal quality and artistic control as that of a younger instrument. Singers who attempt to maintain the voice through q technique that was adequate for the younger form of the voice will experience an aggravated vocal deterioration as they age.All of this assumes, of course, that the singer has maintained a good basic health condition and has not abused the vocal instrument through excessive demands on the voice such as singing when ill, singing when the voice is tired, singing with a darker or brighter vocal quality than is native to the voice, singing a bigger or smaller vocal quality than is natural to the voice, etc. etc.Ultimately, it is the singer who must determine this regardless of the help received from voice teachers, coaches, conductors, impresarios and, most important, the adoring public.