I find it astonishing how singing has become a perfect metaphor for my “new life.”
When I first began singing again after 30 years, I was afraid to sing strongly – I was told I sang too high and it was shrieky. So to avoid that, I softened my voice and sang with a breathy tone. I did not use my vocal cords at all.
When I began working with my second voice teacher, Kimberly Haynes, she taught me how to actually connect with my vocal cords and use my “red voice,” which is sometimes referred to as a “chest voice.” Blue voice is the higher end of my voice and that is sometimes referred to as a “head voice.”
It has been hard for me to stop singing breathy and to use my red voice.
Initially, it was wonderful to reach low notes and hear resonance I never had before. But the transition has not been easy. The notes in the middle of my voice can go either way. I often have pitch issues and croaking because my muscles aren’t yet strong enough for me to choose which way to go.
In order to develop this part of my vocal range, I have to use it and “allow it,” even though it often sounds croaky. I cannot control it. If I avoid using the muscles for red voice, my voice won’t improve.
I want my voice to have more of a dynamic range and most importantly, I can’t learn something that I’m not willing to try because it’s uncomfortable. This singing concept is an amazing metaphor that easily fits into my personal life.
Change is possible with the willingness to take chances and do things differently.
Below are examples of singing as a metaphor for my life:
1. I overcome fear and anxiousness by accepting change and allowing myself to grow and make mistakes.
2. Softening words and stuffing feelings has been my method of operating for such a long time. Suppressing my voice by not saying my honest feelings left me numb and without emotion.
3. What might sound harsh, is something I must explore in order to find out what true expression is. It is completely new for me.
I plan to continue singing my heart out and learning how to use my complete voice. And at the same time, I plan to navigate my new life with the expression of my true feelings.
One of the most difficult things that I have dealt with is the amount of energy I’ve expended trying to please and make everyone around me happy. For years and years, my entire life was devoted to meeting the needs of others – especially my family.
Taking care of myself is a new concept. I am learning!
I often post audio excerpts from my voice lessons. I record them and enjoy sharing what I am learning. It sustains me, because I live in a musical world that is uplifting and joyful no matter what other circumstances I have going on in my life.
Music truly has blessed me.
I realize that many people are busy and don’t have time to sit and listen to my banter with Kimberly. For this post, I want to open a door into the world of singing and the metaphor of how my life is about trying new things and allowing for change.
Staying with what is familiar isn’t necessarily the best thing.
Therefore, I’ve transcribed those excerpts, but the words alone do not adequately convey the inflections, laughter, hugs and tears that can be heard as Kimberly and I share our passions.
I am a passionate songwriter.
Kimberly is a passionate voice teacher.
We both love singing.
What a great combination!
To play audio, click the blue links:
Kimberly’s words are in brown.
K. So tell me about your voice. What’s going on; how are you feeling?
J. I’ve been editing a lot. Actually there’s stuff I did a month ago that I haven’t even looked at yet, but it’s always hard because when I go into the studio I want to edit what I’ve just done. And I also want feedback from it.
K. So is there something in particular that you want to work on first?
J. I want to be a better singer! (Laughter) Help me with everything! I know all my flaws because I listen to them. I go, “Why did I sing it like that?”
K. Well, your vocalizing is going well.
J. I do the exercises before I sing because I want to be sure I’m warmed up. I sing in my car, though it’s not “mindful.”
J. I have not had alone time. I have to be honest. My daughter is still home and my son is usually home. There’s never any time when I’m alone. I can go to my car, but when it’s hot – I don’t want to sit in my car. So I have allowed myself to sing a little in my bedroom. I just think, “So what if they don’t like it.”
K. Oh, so you feel like you can’t sing when they’re at your house – because they complain . . .
J. Yes. When I talk about suppressing my voice – I have a big problem here. But thank god I have music; I’m telling you. This editing is tedious, but when I’m done and I finish a song, I just can’t believe it’s mine. There was one day I was just singing and I had warmed up a lot and I was singing some older songs; I thought, “I’m going to go back and just see how it’s going to sound.” And it was open and it felt so good! It’s like I’ve become a singer! (This was obviously on a day when my teenagers weren’t home!)
K. Awwww . . .
J. Because I always say, “I’m not a singer, I’m not a singer!” I go, “Okay, I’m a singer,” because I could sing it the way I wanted to sing it. It was so great!
J. Thank you. We’re sharing our passion.
Judy does a vocal exercise.
K. That’s empowerment.
J. I’ve been practicing.
K. It’s empowerment for you to know how to fix your own problems.
J. This is what I love. Yes, that’s actually the whole point; it’s so great to have control!
J. I love it.
K. Excellent work, Judy.
J. You’re the best teacher – what can I tell you?
K. I mean to me . . .
J. Oh, my god you’re crying! I love you! You’ve changed my life! All I can think of is what if I had put out my music before I met you. Oh my god, the difference! It is so amazing. Every day I kiss the ground and say, “God, thank you!”
K. Oh, Judy . . .
J. And it’s so funny, the day that you were singing – what was it about you that made me want to be a singer like you? It was your joy. You had a great voice, no question – and I’ve heard great voices. But you were like a light bulb; you were just shining and singing. That’s how I felt. And that’s what stuck with me. Isn’t that great?
K. The joy that it gives me to see you capable, not just capable – but knowledgeable about what to do to fix what’s happening. You know that’s like teaching your baby bird to fly and then there they go! My job is done!
J. Well, you’re in my head. I hear you. What do I hear? You’re singing to your baby; cooing. I mean I hear that word, because I have it recorded. I really am more than a model student. I’m like an obsessive student. (Laughter) – But look at the payoff!
For this clip, I share my vocal work with the new arrangement for “Music From My Heart,” which I am currently working on.
J. (Discussing my red voice) I’m so determined to get it that I just lay into it and I know that it’s part of that process. I love the metaphor when you said to me, “We have to allow and not control the transition; to let it happen.” That is such a metaphor for my life, because I’m trying to find my voice in my life with my teenagers and I’m thinking, “Just allow it! Just let it happen and then it will iron itself out. Get used to it! ”
K. I know. I’m dealing with stuff like that, too. Allow, allow, allow! You know, and not to be gripping – onto the way it should be! The way I want it to be!
J. Connecting is big. Softening things sounds better, but it isn’t the true voice. Isn’t that the case?
K. And I don’t think it does sound better.
J. No, and actually it’s not healthy.
K. And when you soften the way you deliver your songs, it doesn’t sound committed.
J. It adds something interesting, drama. It’s boring, otherwise.
K. No, I don’t know if it’s boring. If you’re a person who’s listening to the song who doesn’t listen to the lyrics the way that you and I do, that person who doesn’t listen to lyrics will hear the dynamics of a song.
K. So you want to add that because then those people who are not necessarily listening will all of a sudden go, “Oh, she sang something different now. What did she sing?”
J. Yeah, it makes it interesting. (We work on a song) It’s fast and I have to navigate it quickly. This is all hard for me.
K. Because you’re singing with blue voice and you’re trying to hold onto it.
J. Oh god, I have to think when I sing about everything and it’s all new. I’m getting there, but it’s frustrating.
K. You’re doing so great.
J. I don’t find it critical. I know what my problems are and I have to fix them.
Kimberly demonstrates a line in Judy’s song that is loud.
J. I don’t know if I like the sound, so I hold back – I’m holding back. Because I want to let it out – but’s it’s like the vibrato starts shaking . . . I sound like Tarzan!
Judy’s laughing and Kimberly makes a sound like “fffftttt”
J. I was actually thinking with all the time I spend on editing, if I was spending less time on editing and more time on singing – it would be better!
K. It would.
J. Yes, because I don’t have as much time to work on everything. I go into the studio and it’s “let’s record.” And then I’m done. Like I said, I can’t sing for more than half an hour and that’s it.
K. So then, if you spend your time being really mindful of how you’re singing each song and memorize the feeling, then you go in there and you sing it three or four times and that’s it.
Judy demonstrates a line in her song where she croaks.
J. This is when I have this problem – this is exactly what it does and it’s so frustrating on songs. I want to use my red voice and it’s like the larynx is not listening. I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t want to push it down; I try to set it up. The muscles I use, they aren’t behaving.
K. Okay, it’s not a question of opening your mouth bigger. You’re voice is here – not in your mouth.
J. I’ve always thought I have a “biologically challenged throat.” Remember when I told you I thought I had tightness because I have a small opening? I’ve always said my larynx is different from other people’s larynx – it doesn’t want to listen! It wants to be tight!
K. No! Everybody’s larynx has to be trained to listen.
K. Just like you have to train the muscles to be a tennis player or any other kind of athlete.
J. But there are those people who just open their mouth – it’s all open. Why couldn’t I be born like that? Come on, we know!
K. Pfft. I know – but they’re few and far between.
J. You say “You and I,” but it’s hard for me to imagine you with a tight larynx.
K. Oh, but I had so many issues with my voice over the years and frustration.
J. I don’t see that side to you at all. You’re going to have to explain it, because to me you have the perfect voice.
K. Oh my god, I had extraordinary issues and that’s how come I know very well what it is to sing only in blue voice.
J. I love you. You know me – sister!
K. It’s scary to train yourself to sing in red voice. It’s scary to hear that grinding sound at first.
J. It sounds great when I get it. I love what you said – you can rely on it. It’s scary to try something that doesn’t sound good at first.
K. It is. And it has to grow in its flexibility. The thing about your red voice right now is that it doesn’t have that flexibility. It’s very rigid; like a board. We want flexibility like a stick of bamboo.
J. You know a vocal exercise is like walking and a song is like running. I’m so quick to want to run into my song – but I’m still walking! And I have to translate that and I’m just not fast enough.
Judy and Kimberly work on a song.
J. I feel like for a second, I’m getting it! I just felt it!
K. It was better.
J. It took practice.
K. Well, yes.
J. But I had to suffer and listen to how bad it sounded until it came through. I just have to stick with this.
Judy and Kimberly continue working on a song.
K. You see now how you were out of pitch?
K. You were out of pitch because you didn’t use your vocal cords.
J. Right – I was going to blue voice, something old. I heard it come right out.
K. Good! Being really aware of your habits is the key.
J. It’s just such hard work.
K. I know.
J. It’s okay, I’m not complaining. I just want to get there.
Judy starts singing and croaks.
K. That used to happen to me all the time. I know that feeling so intimately.
J. I can’t believe this.
K. I did!
J. How many years? Tell me.
K. It was quite a while ago. To be honest, it was ages ago. But I know that feeling and the whole key to this is strengthening the vocal cords. They don’t know how to stay taut yet.
J. They haven’t learned.
K. Because you’re singing these notes (she demonstrates) right here. Not only is that a transition area – where you can go either way with the voice there, but you’re handing the baton off from one set of muscles to another set of muscles and they’re not strong enough yet to know how to negotiate with each other. So the connection falls apart.
K. But it will not be that way always.
J. I love you. See, this is what is so great about you. Am I one of the few students that sings in blue voice that you could relate to? Like when you found me – I did what you did?
K. Yes. I haven’t actually had that experience before.
J. I am so lucky to have a teacher that has gone through this and come out the other side! I mean how miraculous is that, Kimberly?
K. Yeah, it’s pretty good.
J. You have personally done this – I love it!
K. Yes, I have personally done this.
J. So I can believe you, I believe you!
K. I sang my whole young life in blue voice and I didn’t use this strong part of my voice, but I’ll tell you when I started using it, everything else became stronger, too. You’ve got to strengthen your voice from the ends.
Kimberly points to notes on a keyboard.
K. So the ends are here. This is the middle. And when we come into the middle – it’s like quicksand. In the beginning, it’s like you’re on a tight-wire.
J. But I think what I’ve been doing is – I’ve been a good student doing exercises, but then when I’m singing my songs, I’m not applying it. This is a perfect way to do it.
J. I can take these songs that are low and force myself.
K. To sing with this muscle group.
J. Okay, I haven’t been doing this. I can see now, why. It’s hard work. Thank you.
K. You’re so welcome. It is hard work, Judy. But you’re a great student. And you’re a trooper, honey. I just flog you all the time!
J. No, this is so exciting. Because I want to get to the place where this becomes more natural. Is there surgery for a larynx that doesn’t listen?
Judy is laughing.
K. Oh, my god. No, it’s work.
J. I’m teasing you. Everything in this society is fixed with either surgery or a pill. “Open my larynx – can you please fix it?” Oh, god forbid – exercise!
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