Music is Muscular

Music is Muscular

Your voice is the only instrument you can’t see. This is what makes the voice so magical and also so complicated to “play“ as a musician. As musicians, we often rely on a full sensory experience. Guitarists, for instance, rely on the sound of the notes and feel under their hands. Vocal mastery is hard for this reason. When one sense is cut, such as sight, we have to rely more heavily on others such as sound and feel to forge those neuro pathways as learners. Many students come in seeking “voice control”, and really what they are lacking is not the muscular control of the folds themselves, but the discipline to visualize the voice in their minds. There is a conceptualization component between mind and body.

The more contemporary the vocal program, the more emphasis there seems to be on the fold level. This, of course, is important and consistent with science. However, classical voice technique focuses more so on the breath and “lean” (better known as appoggiare). The order of importance of these two concepts are heavily debated, but generally, there is an agreed-upon order of operations within the body: the breath (the fuel), the folds (the generator), the resonance/embouchure (the filter). Muscular mastery occurs when these three components can work in conjunction and opposition. The technical term for this is “nonlinear source filtering”. Like any other muscular workout, both strength and flexibility take time to develop and need to be maintained. If you work the process, you will see singing progress.

Perhaps the most important muscle we can exercise is the soul. Singing is a journey of self exploration. Not everyone has be to an Olympian, to be an athlete. We sing not only for muscular growth but personal as well. Too often, we forget the vocal freedom is the ability to make silly, beautiful, and harsh sounds on command. This is a discovery we typically make as kids but have to learn again along the way. True vocal masters know how to play!

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