Building the Momentum Muscle

Man lifts tractor with one handOften when we start studying voice, we get a bit hyper-focused on technique and details. This is normal and good for us and our voices.

Bringing focus and attention to detail to our practice sessions is necessary and important to improving our singing. However, this focus can get in our way when it is time to start performing.

Some examples?

  • Your working on your song and you don’t hit the high/low note with the technique you have been practicing, so you stop.
  • Or you miss your entrance, so you stop.
  • You get lost during the instrumental section, so you stop.
  • You forget the words, so you stop.
  • You forget to cue your player(s), so you stop.
  • (And, hey, we don’t only stop for mistakes; we nail the technique we’ve been practicing and we are so thrilled that we stop –  to congratulate ourselves.)

Now, I’m not saying stopping is bad or should never happen. But if we always stop, we never figure out how to … well … figure things out. We lose momentum and so do our songs. And, momentum is what makes an audience want to hear the whole song. Momentum is what gives the song – and its story – shape, arc and direction.

As you get ready to perform, stop stopping. *smile*

I know this sounds simple (maybe even simple-minded), but one of the most useful skills a performer can develop is how to create and maintain momentum.

  • Can you keep going when you forget the words?
  • When you miss a cue or entrance?
  • Can you find your way back into the song if you get lost during other people’s solos?
  • What if your accompanist plays something weird (or wrong)?

Don’t think so? Well, have you tried?

Learning to feel calm and in control despite these things is the key to performing well (and, I believe, to enjoying your live performances).

The next time you make a mistake during a song (and we ALL make mistakes during songs), KEEP GOING. What you’ll learn — that you can trust yourself to get “back on the horse” — is invaluable.

So, in addition to practicing diction and dynamics and the notes and breath control and phrasing and interpretation (and, and, and … *smile*), be sure to practice singing the entire song. From the beginning to the end. Without stopping.

Your rehearsal or (heaven forbid) the gig – should not be the first time you sing your song all the way through. (Note: I have done some gigs where I met my player(s) on site and we talked through how to start and end without going through the whole tune, but I had sung the song all the way through many times on my own.)

To prepare to perform, shift your goal from doing a bunch of separate technical things well to giving your best rendition of the entire song. You will figure out things about breath support and phrasing that you just can’t when you stop and start all the time. Singing through will improve your concentration and strengthen your “momentum muscle.”

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