Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Singer's Struggle with the Elements

Winter really is just around the corner, in the last two days there has been frost on the grass and a dusting of snow on the highest mountain tops. Brrrrr ! I do love the winter however, and sitting in front of the log stove with a hot cup of strong Yorkshire tea is my idea of heaven!

I have noticed this week that a few of my mature students have been battling a heavy stuffy feeling, and finding it more than usually tricky to make a good and resonant forward sound. Their voices cut out for no discernible reason and they feel as if they are singing through a velvet blanket, even though there are no traces of colds or sniffles. After a few minutes of scales and exercises this struggle seems to wane, and normal service is resumed.

Somewhere, someone must have written a paper on this peculiar happening. Over my many years of teaching, this phenomena seems always to happen around Oct and April - the change of the seasons - when I can only assume that there is an air pressure drop or rise and when the transition from cold to warmer and vice versa is most prominent.

We need always to realise that how our voice works is a mirror reflection of the way our bodies feel. When we feel under par we sound under par. This seems so obvious yet only singers suffer from a direct body / sound correlation. I know, I know - if a violinist breaks a wrist they can't play and likewise any strained muscle makes it impossible to play any instrument, but ( and it is a sizeable BUT !) singers are quite different in that we must perform with many bodily aches and pains, infections and imperfections, none of which actively stop the sound, but all of which change the sound, sometimes very dramatically.

We are slaves to the way our body feels, whether we have a hangover or a heartache.

The weather makes problems for us, heat is dehydrating and cold makes the sound thinner and edgier. I have always been able to tell when 'something is up' after hearing three scales, and then I must make the decision as to whether or not I head on with the question ' so what's the matter'. My younger pupils think this is because I am psychic, but the more mature among my students realise that all emotional, intellectual and physical issues interfere with the sound of their own unique voice.

I like to go with the 'psychic' bit for as long as I can, and gain a bit of mystical street cred ! Sadly it won't last long !

Learn to go with the ebb and flow, don't worry too much about it. In fact it is this very struggle which makes us so vulnerable and strong at one and the same time, and what gives each voice it's own perfect and touching individualism.

The changing of the year.


  1. That the singer performs with their whole body has always been something of wonderment to me.

  2. And a wonderment to singers! One never really knows when it will work perfectly and when it wonton !