Singing your heart out

By Pradichaya Poonyarit Date 2017-05-01

Singing your heart out, there is more to this expression!

Pradichaya Poonyarit Voice Studio | Lehigh Valley, Easton, PA

Do not skip the first step!

We often hear phrases such as, "Just sing," "Sing to your heart's content," "Sing your heart out," and "Sing out loud." All these phrases suggest that we just need to open our mouths and let out the sound as a means of expressing ourselves. Following our favorite pop singers on You Tube, iTunes, and other media, it's easy to notice that the main -or only- reason we become fans is because we "feel" them through their singing. If you have ever watched popular television shows like American Idol, you will see clearly that most of those who want to make their dreams come true follow this same approach to singing to their hearts' content. The same thing happens in school choirs and church choirs: the music directors often -if not always- tell their choristers to believe what they say and that the sound will then be truthful and, therefore, beautiful. This is similar to the saying, "True beauty comes from within." Nevertheless, unless the physical aspects of singing -those which manage and maintain- are fully understood, the pure intention of singing one's heart out is simply not enough to allow the beauty of the sound to shine.

I believe one should say what he means and mean what he says which, in this case, means singing directly from one's emotions. However, one can't act on feeling alone: Singing, like other lines of work and activities, must be understood and practiced from the ground up, with knowledge and experience being added gradually as skills are honed.

Remember the first time you got on a bike? Did you take it around the block without falling off right away? What about your first job? Did you walk in knowing exactly your routine, or did you have to learn the ropes? What about taking up a sport? Were you born playing tennis, hockey, or football? Let me tell you something: should you, under any circumstances, think that you come in equipped and on top of things, watch out -you are acting under a false assumption. Your confidence may be real, but the ability is not and it is not here to stay.

Everyone -myself included- takes for granted the ability to make sound, both on the subconscious and conscious levels, from the moment we catch our very first breath outside our mothers' wombs. This makes singing (which, otherwise, is not unlike those examples I used in the earlier paragraph) more prone to harm.

If touching someone's heart with our music is one of the objectives of our singing journey, naturally we want to sing from our hearts. In order to do that and to do it well, while at the same time do it for a long time -and hopefully, for as long as we live:

  • -- First, we must recognize and understand that it takes learning how to sing.
  • -- Second, we must seek knowledge by finding the voice teacher who has it; not only in theory, but also in practice, and who has the ability to teach us and to help us come to an understanding of knowing how to sing.
  • -- Third, we must train ourselves, both physically and mentally, until the craft of singing becomes second nature. Like a physical trainer, we must train, and as long as we want to stay healthy and in-shape we must not stop the training.
  • --When all is accomplished -but never before- we can then add the artistry -the sing-our-hearts-out part- to our singing.

This is how the ability to sing to our hearts' content is here to stay.

Singing: why must we learn how?

One looks at a grand piano and must understand that it takes more than the strings that are attached to eighty-eight keys, and more than the hammers to make the sound. One also sees that those keys, strings, and hammers are nestled securely and protected inside a large strong shell -its container- which is resting on strong, sturdy legs. We must ask, Is it a single thing that is responsible in creating the sound; or, is it that every part shares in the responsibility, more or less according to shape, size, and strength?

Find other instruments and the answers to the same questions. Then, let's stand in front of a full-length mirror and look at ourselves.

Which part -or parts- of our bodies are responsible for making sound: the vocal cords, aka vocal folds, voice box, et cetera, or the wind pipe? What about the lungs? If we sing in a choir, we have heard of our diaphragm. (What and where is the diaphragm, anyway?) We also have had the music director talk about pushing out the stomach -the gut- or, in some cases, holding it in firmly. My students will also be aware of the head, the neck, the back, the hips, and the legs.

Think back to the piano: Have you found the answer? Look in the mirror again.

The answer is that the whole body shares the job and responsibility when it comes to singing.

You -from your head to your toes- the whole you, your whole body, is your own instrument -the sound making machine.

Now that you understand your whole body is your singing instrument, there is another point which needs to be addressed.

As much as you can open the lid of a piano while it's being played, it goes beyond looking inside your mouth to see your body at work. True: if you are so curious you can go to an ear-nose-throat specialist to ask to be scoped. Some singers get a kick out of watching their vocal mechanism at work on a small screen. You may be able to see the function of the throat, but what about the functions of other parts of your body -lungs, diaphragm, sternum, intercostal muscles, back, etc.- how do you see them at work?

You don't see them; instead, you learn how to feel them.

This is where a good voice teacher comes in. She will teach you what to look for and where to look. She will teach you how. She will be your ears and eyes. A good teacher will give you the tools and teach you how to use them. She will also teach you the tools to teach yourself.

Please also understand that a voice teacher is not the same as a vocal coach. Some singers misinterpret the definitions of these two separate roles.

When you are at the beginning -or somewhat mid-level- in singing, you need a voice teacher, but not a vocal coach.

One needs a voice teacher to learn singing technique, to solidify his singing foundation, and to add more delicate techniques as he continues his progress. Strengthening, training, and stamina-building are taught and drilled in the voice lessons. A voice teacher suggests and assigns repertoire; first, as a learning tool, later as a showcase to be added to the student's own portfolio.

One seeks a vocal coach after she has mastered, more or less, the techniques of basic singing. A singer brings her repertoire to a vocal coach to develop performance practice, taste, and style -musically and artistically- also, extra "flare," and other styles as suggested.

A vocal coach is not a voice teacher, and a really good coach will not teach a singer or interfere with her singing technique.

A smart singer almost never goes to a coach when she is in her early days, the "raw" stage of her technique.

A good singer must be at a mid-high level of technical reliability, be able to hold her own -to the point that she knows what to do to overcome any obstacle and save herself in all situations. (When you are performing, all kinds of situations arise, and they are almost never the same.)

Once you are there, then you can start adding the artistic aspect -the true to yourself part, the sing your heart out part, etc., to create your own unique style. This is when singing your heart out truly takes place, and you get the most joy, as well as being able to share the joy of singing to your audience -to all who listen.

Pradichaya Poonyarit. Pradichaya Poonyarit Voice Studio. Lehigh Valley, Easton, PAPradichaya Poonyarit is a professional opera singer and voice teacher. She has performed and taught in both the United States and Southeast Asia and is dedicated to bringing the art of singing to everyone through performing and educating the public, and in teaching her voice students both singing technique and style.

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