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Your Voice Is the Perfect Instrument!
October 15th, 2017
Blog Extract: Humans can produce convincing versions of the widest range of instruments imaginable – only the synthesiser – and possibly the lyre bird, although I doubt it - have more sound qualities available…
When ‘playing’ the voice, nimble fingers are replaced by subtle, synchronised adjustments of breath and vocal folds, however thanks to the flexibility of our vocal tract we can be a piccolo, a flute or any of the different saxophones simply by expanding or contracting our internal resonating chambers. Every note may not be beautiful, but our potential range is rivalled only by keyboard instruments, and to access it we combine adjusting the thickness and length of our vocal folds with changes in function that are easy to achieve – if you put in the necessary practice. Again, like a piano, we can coordinate our breath, vocal folds, and internal muscular sphincters to go from piano to forte in an instant…
I hope you can see the possibilities – dedicated performers put in the necessary practice to develop muscular control in vocal structures so internal they can be hard to distinguish without a bit of guidance, which is where a technique that enhances sensory and muscular awareness such as - oh I don’t know, Feldenkrais maybe – can give you a real advantage, and speed up the process of differentiation and muscular control that is a necessary part of the skill set of any instrumentalist. For more on this subject read the unexpurgated version here.
What VocalDynamix and Embodied Voice are all about…
VocalDynamix is designed to help anyone who wishes to develop a conscious, flexible, strong, healthy voice, whether their interest is singing, speaking well as an actor, or freeing their natural voice as part of a healing and/or spiritual process, or any combination of these elements. Awakening The Embodied Voice is a Feldenkrais-based vocal training process incorporating the original VocalDynamix coursework. There is no pressure to perform in my classes – the work is about understanding your voice and developing your vocal awareness so that, with practice over time, your voice can become fully integrated both physically and emotionally, and these workshops are suitable for everyone, non-performer and performer alike.
One-to-one Singing and Voice training also available:
£45 per lesson
Package of 3 lessons in a 30 day period (during normal working hours) - £105
Package of 3 lessons in a 30 day period (outside normal working hours) - £120
I also offer hands-on Vocal Functional Integration lessons at the Feldenkrais lesson rates, see above.
Please note all packages rates are to be paid fully in advance of the final session, in one or two instalments.
Here is a sample Embodied Voice lesson – it is also available on my website:
This is a segment of the VocalDynamix lesson for the true vocal cords (also called vocal folds). One of the factors that makes vocal awareness work so interesting is that we humans are usually much less sensitive to those areas of our musculature that need to function automatically and constantly. The vocal cords are part of the mechanism for protecting the airway from foreign bodies, and consequently they are not very sensitive to pain; you may have noticed that, compared to the misery of a sore throat, losing your voice is pretty pain-free. Fortunately purposeful movement gives us an effective tool for increasing muscle awareness, and thus it is possible to learn to override these protective mechanisms, with practise.
Your Vocal Folds – a mini Awareness Through Movement lesson
As with all A.T.M. lessons, find a comfortable position in which you feel supported. Lying on your back, or reclining in a comfortable chair that supports your head, will work for this lesson.
Gentle, attentive repetition is the key to creating new neural pathways, so repeat each movement for as long as it remains interesting to you, pausing between each movement and resting often.
i. With your mouth gently open, take a small inhalation, and hold your breath, lightly, for a few seconds, then exhale, and repeat. Be relaxed about it, don’t rush, breathing quickly and/or through the mouth, is one of the triggers for hyperventilation. While you are doing this, ask yourself:-
*What am I doing in order to hold my breath?
*What is happening in my throat, my ribs, my belly, my torso?
There are two basic ways to hold the breath in your throat after an inhalation; you can close the vocal cords to form a seal, or you can hold your ribcage and your torso still in such a way that the air does not escape. Can you tell which of these ways you are using? Maybe you are doing both at once? One way to sense the difference is to gently squeeze downwards and inwards with hands on your ribs. If your vocal cords are closed, the air will not escape and you may sense some pressure against the cords from below, or some downward pressure on your diaphragm; if they are open, this movement will squeeze some of your breath out.
ii. Experiment until you can hold your breath these two different ways and can clearly distinguish between them.
i. Now, continuing with the inhale/hold/exhale breathing pattern, take in a larger breath, make sure you are holding your breath with the vocal cords closed, and then release it in tiny amounts in a series of short bursts. Put your hands over your ears, and listen to the sound your vocal cords make at the instant of release. Once you have located this tiny “glottal pop” (the “glottis” is the open space between the two vocal cords), you should find that you can hear it easily, without covering your ears.
*Is your sound like a “pop”, or more like a tiny cough? The sound becomes more cough-like, the larger the amount of air that escapes through your cords.
ii. Play around until you can make both sounds, the glottal pop and the cough-like sound, and then alternate between the two.
iii. Find out how to make a long stream of little pops. You will find that so little air is escaping that you feel as if you are holding your breath, and when you stop you may release a little sigh of relief – the air left in your lungs is stale and needs to be replenished.
i. Shape your mouth as if you are saying “er” (i.e. the sound we make when we are thinking what to say next). Notice that it involves almost no special shaping of your tongue and lips – which makes sense if you think about it.
ii. Initiating the sound with your glottal pop, produce a long, steady, whispered “er”, making as little breath noise as possible. Practise maintaining your nearly silent “er” for as long as you can comfortably do so, and, using your hands as much as you wish, find out what happens to your breathing, and your torso, as you become more practised at controlling the flow of your out breath in this way.
This experiment enables the kind of breathing that singers learn to use in performance for maximum power and control.
Do let me know how you get on…
More about the origins of the Embodied Voice course here.
Testimonials for Embodied Voice – more here:
“It was liberating – discovering the connection between my breathing and my belly began the process of releasing inhibitions I had held for as long as I could remember. I could feel that my whole body was involved in my emotional expression and the sound of my voice. It was particularly exciting for me as I am a head person – I came away with more confidence to be myself – more spontaneous somehow.”
Anne Kennedy, Voice and Feldenkrais student
“I find Maggy’s workshops highly informative, inspirational, fun, and a big treat for the voice, body and spirit. Maggy has the unique professional combination of being a Feldenkrais practitioner, singing teacher and jazz performer, and she offers her knowledge and experience in a warm, relaxed and sensitive manner. I cannot recommend these workshops highly enough to anyone interested in learning more about their voice and body.”
Abi Strevens MA, BSc (Hons), State Registered Music Therapist (SRAsT (M))
Private Lessons for Continuous Learning
The workshops function as an introduction to the possibilities of VocalDynamix, but only a commitment to continuous learning and constantly increasing self-awareness will bring the full rewards of this work to the student. If you wish to develop professional speaking or singing skills then you are advised to follow a course of private study with me.