Pop quiz, what’s more difficult: singing really loud or singing really soft?
If you answered “soft”, you get a gold star. If you didn’t, you go stand in the corner and think about what you did (spoken in my mother’s voice, of course). When you’re singing soft, you’re holding back a lot of the pressure that would normally be flying on out of you and, if you’re doing it right, you’ve engaged not only your abdomen but also that thing behind you that you sit on. You’re using a long list of body parts that you don’t use when singing loud because you’re exerting more control to keep things stable.
There’s a physical connection between the sound you make and your body that produces it, but singing softly requires a truly solid one. The muscles and tendons are working very hard to keep things from wavering and you can sometimes feel like the sound coming out of your mouth isn’t really yours. I’ve found a good way to make this connection is to concentrate on relaxing just a bit so that my diaphragm, shoulders, and everything else aren’t tensed to the point of being solid. Try to moderate what’s needed to make the sound you want because you’re probably overworking all of your instrument (yes, instrument). Don’t go too far with the relaxation because you still need to keep things under control, but try to avoid just going rigid inside.
Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? It’s really just a matter of being aware of what’s making the music come out of you and paying attention to it. Susie’s Wacky Warm-ups are the time to explore this (and you’ll find that a lot of the silliness is designed EXACTLY to do that…go figure). With practice you can be “one with the instrument” and you’ll find that you can sing longer, better and softer.
Oh, and letting it fly and belting out a song is fun, too!