Cleaning windows

Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Clean them once in a while, or the light won’t get in. (Asimov / Alda)

In the spring, I had a Canadian family staying with me. While they are at the breakfast table enjoying typical Dutch treats, I catch the following statement ‘Belting is awful, I hate belting!’ (Luca 10 yr). I am surprised because although his father is a musician, there is no singing in the family so where does he get this idea from? Unfortunately, even after some urging, he doesn’t want to explain that to me. I realize that apparently even children can have a strong dislike for a certain voice color.

How we experience a certain voice has everything to do with where you come from. What country and region did you grow up in, how do your parents speak and what kind of music did you hear at home and at school? This affects not only your judgment of other people’s voices but certainly your judgment of your own.

Once I had a student who spoke and sang remarkably softly. If she said hello when entering the classroom, I barely understood her. She agreed to work on her expressiveness and volume and after a while could sing and speak at a volume that I would call average. When I asked her how she experienced this she told me that her parents would never have allowed her to speak like this. This use of the voice was considered brash and not modest enough. So for this student developing more expressiveness and volume turned out to be not just a vocal technique task, but a total recalibration of what she had been taught as being normal and desirable. Consequently, her louder and more expressive voice did not feel ‘her own’ to her.

The above teaches us that the concept of ‘own’ in relation to the voice is very relative. It just depends on where your bed is. At the same time, when you consider how much there is to discover, develop and enjoy about a voice, it is a pity to let the ideas you may have about your voice -what is own and what isn’t, what is good and what isn’t- stand in the way of these developments. So if you notice that your vision is a bit clouded, go and ‘clean the windows’. With some humor, guts and confidence, your voice can be an inspiration and interesting friend for life!

Column Zing Magazine 2018