Over the next few months I am training to prepare for my black belt test in Kung Fu. In a way I feel I am also training for a black belt in singing! I know what I have achieved over nearly 7 years of retraining as a tenor and I am happy, yet I am not nearly satisfied yet. As I train more and more high level singers, I become aware of native strength vs. acquired strength! I’m convinced they are more similar than different! I teach a heldentenor who has the core strength of a Theban bull. When he first joined my studio and I would demonstrate for him, I felt like the gentler tenor next to him, now he remarks that my sound exhibits a kind of metal he associated with his own voice. I believe I owe that to greater core strength acquired in practicing Kung Fu and Tai Chi. Yet when we practice high Cs and above I feel he has an extra gear I have not yet reached. I sense my core buckle a little under the compression of a sustain C5 if I use greater fold resistance. Allowing myself more and more a lyrical approach requires a gentler phonation mode and stronger core to maintain the compression of the breath. This requires greater strength in all muscles, such that no one muscle carries the burden of what should be a shared process.
My experience with my “robust” instrument is that it require a more robust body under it than I ever imagined. To be able to phonate gently and create robust sounds require a stronger laryngeal structure and a powerful breath source.
Many singers I encounter equate laryngeal tension with efficient closure until it stops working! Tai Chi has taught me that fluid motion requires very strong leg muscles and my black sash training is teaching me I am not strong enough to make the most difficult things look easy.
This is an inspiring and frustrating period. I was never interested in being just good enough! It has always been my aim to be the best I can be. When you see the door to the next chapter of your life, turning back is no option! When you’ve gone way past the point of no return, you are in a scary place when you wonder if you have the strength to swim to the other shore. What choice have you?
Mine is simple. Just swim harder!
I CAN ALWAYS DO BETTER THAN I THINK I CAN!