It can be helpful when studying singing to remember that expressing one’s self through vocal sound has many applications outside of performance. One of those applications that can also benefit your singing is a kind of meditation where we focus in on the sounds emanating from our self, and allow the hustle bustle of the world to fall away for a while.
The value of exercises involving Tonal Play is meditative for sure, and is also helpful for developing your imagination and one becomes more and more free and comfortable with the interesting and cool new sensations. This benefits all people, whether goals are for stress reduction, expression around the house, or for some form of performance.
What in the heck is tonal play, you ask? It is any sound that you want to explore, ideally with an ear and feel towards healthiness. It other words you are making sounds and allowing those sounds to be fun, relaxing and exploratory rather than perfect and beautiful and all the things we demand when training for singing.
For me, it is in the morning when I am putting my face on for the day that I embark upon a bit of meditative exploration. I come at it without any expectations, usually choosing a pitch in my medium to lower range. Then I come in with a relatively full voice and sing an [i] vowel on that one pitch. When I need to, I breathe in and sing out again, varying how loud or how soft I sing. I start to slide up and down, letting my intuition take me where it wants to go.
While paying attention to what the body needs, I allow the voice to move. I experience and enjoy the sounds and sensations without any pressure. It feels relaxing and fun. As a bonus, it is benefiting my mind, my breath and my singing muscles.
In tonal play we do not focus on productivity. We focus on being and allowing and paying attention. If this becomes a regular habit you will develop a new relationship with your voice and with singing which can’t help but affect your performance. When in a lesson or performance, when the pressure is on, you’ll have a much closer relationship to what is happening in your throat, breath and mouth. The voice will be more responsive because we have spent time listening and feeling and getting to know it! And the “work” you did to get there will have made you relaxed and happy rather than stressed. It’s a great setup for success!