Some Ways to Practice without Phonating

A gifted and diligent student here at our program, Vienna: Language of Lieder, recently asked for ways to constructively use coaching times, even though the voice is inoperable (laryngitis).

A few strategies came right to mind, and here they are. I’ve suggested them before to others, and have used some of them in voice lessons (even with the voice in 100% condition).

This is not an exhaustive list of options. Surely, silent practice is always a good idea, with or without engagement of breath/support/appoggio or articulators. Consider.

1. Steady, non-pressured breath stream, through loosely u-shaped lips, one cycle per phrase. Always hear yourself in the inner ear, singing beautifully and freely. Obviously, let the entire breath cycle be full, engaged, fluid, yet balanced as you want your singing to be.

2. As music plays, let all your articulators – the entire vocal tract, not merely the mouth – organize your most beautiful, imaginary tone into language, with very gentle breath. As long as the breath is focused up onto the hard palate, you’re good, but don’t whisper.

3. Experiment with changes of pace, tempo, etc. – things that you might find more difficult if you were distracted by your vocalism.

4. Simply mime singing, with no thought to technique, putting face and body language in the spotlight. Lip-syncing with the best of them: Marilyn Horne, Kiri Te Kanawa, Dmitri Hvorostovsy…!

5. Combinations of the above.

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