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by Caitlin Smith

Finding Your Voice: Great Vocal Technique – 25 Principles of Voice & Song Craft

by Caitlin Smith

Finding Your Voice: Great Vocal Technique – 25 Principles of Voice & Song Craft

My full title for this Finding Your Voice column is ‘Technique Almighty: 25 Manifestations Of Universal Spiritual Principles Applied To Voice And Song Craft‘. Being blind, I don’t find it hard to believe in all-powerful forces unseen. This 25th anniversary NZM column is dedicated to the notion that you can believe in, if not worship, the power of great vocal technique and creativity.

NB: My definition of God is ‘love’. You may prefer: ‘perfect design’, force, zone, right path, Great Creator, mother nature, higher self or Tao. They all work! Great Vocal Technique (GVT) is vocal production including copious amounts of: twang, open-ness, ‘ng’, body connection and free-breathing.

Here are 25 ways you can experience the divine through your singing and writing.

1. Miracles happen: Never underestimate the power of the force! Allow miracles to happen (eg. songs that were difficult become easy). Be amazed by unlimited possibilities and the wonderful way creativity works through us.
2. The power of love: There’s no such thing as too much love, or, too much GVT. You can always be more loving – and you can always use more ‘ng’.
3. Patience is a virtue: Especially when recovering from injury or warming up your voice. Allow as much time as it takes to heal, learn, memorise, practise and write.
4. Gentleness and compassion: The way we beat ourselves up when suffering a creative block, or the glottal attacks we use when singing from the throat, pushing/forcing are nothing short of brutal, abusive, pathological self-harm. We get more roughness and volume using ‘gentle’ onsets and more written when we go for a walk (rather than chaining ourselves to the piano). We learn profoundly from mistakes, illness and injury.
5. Faith: I’m not confident but I have complete faith in GVT and the crazy-ass creative process. No need to doubt yourself, it’s not about ‘you’. It’s about how much technique you can use. You might not understand it completely, but that doesn’t mean the system doesn’t work perfectly.
6. Surrender: Making the forehead the steering wheel for the sound and your heart the compass to your songwriting. Don’t tell technique what to do, it knows way more than you do. Surrender the sound to the tools you’re using.
7. Use parable: Metaphor is called the language of God. Using analogy and simile help guide our practice, and better recognise the indicators steering us in right and wrong directions. Thinking figuratively as well as literally, allows us to see the bigger picture. Think of yourself and those around you are archetypes and ‘examples’.
8. You are a manifesting generator: We create what we think about. Worry about the break in your voice and you make it worse. Obsess about faults and blocks and you won’t allow solutions.
9. Use affirmations: Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and power poses remind us of how powerful we actually are. Talking positively really helps build confidence.
10. Visualisations and other sensory guides: Translate your favourite colour into vocal tone. Taste the sound of each vowel’s different mouth shape. Sing with your ears. Become aware of the miraculous around you.
11. Technique almighty: There’s nothing that GVT can’t do. A little goes a long way. Every problem dissolves in its light.
12. Ask and it is given: Specify exactly what qualities you want in your voice and what you want your songs to achieve.
13. We learn most from what we find hardest: Don’t avoid the things you struggle with, they will be the tools most likely to set you free. For instance I was scared of twang. But when I engaged with it, it became my number one means of controlling the voice: pitch-wise, dynamically and to reduce breathiness.
14. Fear is an illusion: Our fears subconsciously drive our thoughts and actions. It’s never helpful to worry about people thinking you’re ‘over the top’ or ‘up-yourself’. However, harbouring fears like this dull down your voice and make you self-conscious in performance. We aren’t fearful for the reasons we think, so, try to uncover the deepest fears that fuel your unconscious core belief system. Become aware to the way you operate and you’ll be less likely to self-sabotage.
15. ‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.’: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Willaimson
16. Love is letting go of fear: We don’t function well with a conflicted mind. You cannot love and fear simultaneously. When you sing or write, are you loving the process?
17. Humility: Allow yourself to be humbled and inspired by music and great singers rather than intimidated and negatively comparative. To be guided by a force greater than yourself is comforting rather than shameful. In our vulnerability, lies our strength.
18. Infinite source: We have an infinite source of energy and inspiration which connects us with the divine. Singing heals and gives energy, especially a good physical warm up. You don’t have to receive feedback from an audience or even need one present to be energised.
19. The deepest well: Singing, supporting and breathing from the belly connects us with this infinite source. We draw our emotional histories from this bottomless well, allowing us to write/sing with guts.
20. Personal salvation: We need to take full responsibility for our GVT and creative process. Blaming or shaming ourselves, circumstances or others doesn’t cut it. Don’t wait until touring or a recording session to lose our voice. Take care of yourself and let GVT take care of you!
21. Read the signs: We receive feedback physically and creatively 24/7. If we become sensitive to the ‘still small voice’ of intuition/inspiration, we won’t need nodules or writers’ block to teach us though suffering.
22. Grace trumps karma: No matter how bad you’ve been in the past, GVT is immediately accessible and applies the instant you choose to use it.
23. Divine design: Simple universal truths underpin our deepest understanding of any discipline (be it science, high performance athletics, psychology or spirituality). The body’s acoustic engineering works best with GVT not violent manipulation. So too with horse whispering, management, architecture and intimate relationships.
24. Seeing as God sees: We are all innocent people trying the best we can. We don’t need punishment, judgment or teachers telling us we’ll ‘never sing again’ if we don’t use GVT. Everyone is talented, significant and worthy. Seek to understand rather than condemn.
25. Losing the ego: Allows us to bounce back from mistakes and failures without taking things so ‘personally’. We’re not supposed to know everything and it’s okay when we don’t. If we experience difficulty, there is no need to feel embarrassed, humiliated or shamed. It’s nice to feel a part of something mysterious and powerful. That’s music folks. Enjoy!
Twitter @BraveCaitlin
BraveCaitlin@gmail.com
www.caitlinsmith.com