Friday, October 23, 2009

Singing for skinnies

I've been thinking a lot lately about weight and how it affects the body and therefore the voice. It's all related to the fact that this is my "body year" where I've been focused on things related to my body and how that is affecting my singing. The conversation was also continued when a friend of mine lost a bunch of weight and found singing more difficult, and we started an ongoing discussion about weight and support, which I continue to ponder.

Of course, if I had a nickel for every time some stranger learns that I'm an opera singer and exclaims, "Oh, but you're not fat!" I would not only be a rich woman, but I also wouldn't feel the urge to strangle strangers quite so often for their rude ignorance. However, weight, and where your fat is actually allocated (because we all have some somewhere) does play a role in what your strengths and weaknesses are as a singer. People who have solid middles - that is they have either a layer of fat around their belly or just a really solid round ribcage, seem to have an easier time with support than those of us who have very small ribcages and skinny middles. When I gain weight it's all in my butt and thighs (thank you pear shaped genes - hello? why couldn't it just go directly to my boobs?) and my waist and rib area seem to stay tiny. This means that I need to compensate for my skinniness by thinking about support in a more specific way.

I've been continuing to have these body movement coachings with John Norris here in Berlin, and I don't want to oversell it and say that the results are mind blowing, but I have been seriously amazed at the vocal results I've been getting with body adjustments. John noticed right away that when I went up in range, I tended to pull out, up, and away from my center of gravity, and he pointed out that because I am so small in my middle, I have to affect some compression of my breath while still keeping my ribs open. I have no fat pressing against me to provide automatic support and compression, and I don't have this solid round ribcage that just stays open because of it's own design. This is not a new concept for me, but his work is very physical and hands on, and the results are immediate. In my session with him yesterday, I sang about 5 really amazing high C's after he dug his fingers into the middle of my ribs and pulled them apart, but pressed down on the top of my head so I could open and still compress. I kept looking at him after each one incredulously, and he would just laugh at me. I was like "Holy crap! There's my voice!! Here's what I'm actually capable of?? Who knew??"

In other news, I did go to Paris this week for an audition (more on that later when the results become clear) and it's looking like I have nailed down a future engagement about which I am VERY excited. Details will be forthcoming. Unfortunately, I spent less than 24 hours in Paris because of flight delays resulting from strikes (those French loooooooove to strike) but there was just enough time for me to remember how romantic and mysterious that city is, and how much I would love to have an opportunity to spend extended time there. Plus I got to speak french, which, after trying to learn german and still speaking occasionally in italian, officially made my brain explode. I'm still picking up the pieces. Aufrevoirderci!


Kim said...

This is so interesting! I've always wondered about the effect of body fat on the voice but whenever people talk about it, it's rather hush-hush wishy-washy. It was so interesting to read this and learn something (gasp!).

As for languages - I know exactly how you feel. I'm in university right now and I'm taking level three of German and Italian simultaneously. I will be doing the same next semester (only with level 4) and next year, I'll be taking Advanced German and Italian and I'll be starting French! Oh, the life of an opera singer! (I love it!) Good luck with all your auditions and such. :)

Unknown said...

Too bad you did not get my body type instead of dad's, then you would just find it so easy to sing everything, but oh wait, then you would not be so beautiful and would not fit into those long skinny geans which give you that incredible cello like sound instead of the squeaky violin.

AlisonDee said...

I lost a significant amount of weight last year and I felt the difference when it came to singing especially coz i lost a lot in my mid section. It could also have been the shock my body went through coz i had a bad car accident which left me not able to walk for 9 months. But i understand what you mean =)

C'est Moi said...

Boobs are over-rated anyway!

Anonymous said...

Where was the audition in Paris? What happened? Do tell :)

Unknown said...

Interesting thoughts about skinny vs. not around the middle. As a teacher with some "thickness" in the middle ;-) i find it hard to relate to my little students....there is no physical signs sometimes of the "support"...more info on the coach you were working with PLEASE?!?


Unknown said...

Thank you for this post! As a very skinny singer, I really struggle with breath support. Do you have any suggestions on how to track down a coach in the US that specializes in this? I'm in the NW, if that helps.

Very best wishes to you!