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Martin Swinger: Wooden Boy

Kapo and the Voice

Posted on January 16, 2010 with 0 comments
I got some interesting feedback months ago while working with vocal coach and improvisation teacher, Rhiannon, who suggested I was not exploring the vulnerable side of my voice. For a time I thought that simply meant I was singing too loud all the time (Guilty, as charged!) and my excuse was that I do a lot of un-miked performances and my voice needs to carry and be strong to be heard. Who doesn't like to belt it out once in a while? I have spent my life training my 'theatre' voice to project across the room (or campfire!) All good, but perhaps "too much of a good thing..." Also, I'll admit a personal bias against performers who sing so quietly they are impossible to hear - are they trying to manipulate me to focus impossibly hard on their song, or have they simply not learned to support their voice - the #1 tool of a singer?

Recently I was loaned a small mixer board (THANKS, ED!) which has many sound effects. I noticed using the effects on guitar and voice drastically changed how I played and sang. Effects amplified the subtleties of my voice and suddenly, whispering a song became possible and in some cases, a better interpretation of the song - mostly on intimate songs.

Further, on a self-dare, I slapped the kapo Waaaaayyyyyyy up the neck to explore what might happen. What happened was I found myself in a place where my voice was NOT the theatre voice at all, but a more vulnerable sound - literally forcing my voice into sounding more emotionally engaged and believable. I was forced to sing some parts of the song in a lower register, sounding more like a personal conversation rather than a public broadcast, and other parts forced into my upper register bringing more emotional content to the sweeter tenor register.

In a couple cases I now am re-learning the song in a new arrangement which brings it more to life, makes the message that much more powerful, and actually showcases a broader range of vocal expression.

I'm finally discovering the power of vulnerability. Lean closer, let me whisper in your ear...