Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Importance of Peripheral "Thinking" for Singers: A Case Study in Revolutionary Vocal Performance

You are obviously familiar with the term "peripheral vision". Every driver knows that if they don't exercise their peripheral vision they might get into trouble, as when you're driving you have to watch front, back, left and right. It is that level of attention that will help you avoid an accident because you can catch an unexpected object racing at you with just the corner of your eye. Personally, I was encountered with that situation not too long ago and if it were not for my active use of peripheral vision, I would not be writing this blog now.

Along a similar vein, while running a number of vocal workshops and seminars over the last three decades, I have learned that when consulting large groups, you have to be able to see all of your clients at once so as not to lose their attention. In the context of sports, hockey players cannot play their game well and, worse, will undoubtedly suffer an injury if they are not actively engaging their peripheral vision. I could refer you to the movie "The Cutting Edge" where that happened with a top hockey player who chose to become a figure skater in order to keep skating after his injury. Without peripheral vision there is no way to react in time to a high speed puck moving rapidly towards you. In music, the piano player has to always be looking at least one bar ahead with the corner of their right eye, otherwise the next consecutive score will come to them as a surprise. And finally, a singer has to anticipate what is coming next in a song, thinking of how to prepare and place their voice in the proper facial cavities so that they achieve the desired sonic outcome. That requires not only peripheral vision, but also peripheral thinking.

A performer should think ahead and quickly respond to changes in note height, especially notes that challenge their natural or developed range (high or low). If the singer is only concerned with what is happening in the present moment, they are very likely to falter in their application of trained technique, ultimately resulting in false notes and/or vocal cracks and inconsistency. So, the use of peripheral thinking, like peripheral vision, is a skill in itself which needs to be developed along with vocal technique, performance and style.

This was especially true for one particular case under my care, where a young and promising female singer was good in pieces, but experienced difficulties connecting it all together. She was failing to think forward and, thus, was not preparing appropriately for the upcoming vocal challenges in the song. Depending on the natural abilities of the singer, perfecting this type of coordination could take a considerable amount of time and training... as it did with this singer whose determination has paid off and is now working with high end songwriters and producers; well on her way to obtaining a record deal like many of my other clients. As such, my experience in working with this singer and overcoming her challenges is what inspired me to start sharing the concept of "peripheral thinking" and later to write this blog.

The lesson is: "Stay in the moment, but anticipate what could/will happen next and act accordingly"
That will help you keep your vocal pieces together.

Diana Yampolsky is the Master Vocal Coach, Studio Vocal Producer, and Non-Surgical Voice Repair Specialist at The Royans Professional Vocal School in Toronto, Canada. She is also the creator of the Vocal Science (TM) method and Talent Scout & Director for the 4 A.M. Talent Development and Artist Management Group Inc.
 
If you find yourself struggling with vocal technique or are in need of voice repair, you can reach Diana by email or phone, Toll Free in North America, at 1-888-229-TUNE (8863)

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