A great singer has said that all great singers sing with their mind first (Jerome Hines in The Four Voices of Man, if I remember right). McKinney has also said in Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults that singing is 90% mental, that’s what makes imagery such a powerful tool for teaching singing. So, when my voice teacher challenged me to try finding a quiet place and “practicing” my literature mentally, I was eager to try it.
He suggested the mental thing because I’ve been relearning some fundamental things and letting go of some tremendous tension, so I’m not controlling pitch the way I used to, and I’ve been singing pitchily quite a lot. But, when I sing in my mind, I can be perfectly free of tension and perfectly on pitch at once.
Today, I began my mental practice session by aurally imagining a new exercise I’ve been really pitchy and tight on, then the etude I’m learning for my semester exam. I found myself imagining the out-of-tune notes I was singing all last week, so I used the piano to remind myself what the pitches sounded like and imagined them right. Then, I worked on my “How Beautiful Are the Feet” from Messiah. I’ve been struggling to keep the high notes free and in tune with the gentler color I want, and I’ve been dealing with really noisy inhalation (always an indicator of tension) but, I imagined it perfectly with silent breaths and free, shimmering G5’s.
Tonight as I finish a mental and physical practice session, I am much more aware of the power my mind has over my body. I can use my mind to control and manufacture a stiff, tense sound, or I can use my mind to completely let go and let my voice sing itself. Oh, and those high notes in “How Beautiful”? I just let my voice do them freely with all the shimmer it wanted.