Loving YOUR Voice
Updated: Feb 15, 2019
By: Shanelle Woods
“Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.” - Miles Davis
Ok, so Miles Davis was a famous trumpeter and renowned jazz musician, but this spoke to my little vocalist soul! <insert praise hand emoji!> Sometimes you have to grow into your voice.That’s ok. Trust the process.
Confession: For the longest time, I didn’t like my own voice. I idolized certain singers and styles, and would get *so* frustrated that I didn’t sound like them. What am I doing wrong? Why is it so hard??? Why can’t I just sound more like [insert name here]?” I remember being told to record lessons early in my studies, and I’d do it to fulfill the requirement….but I rarely listened to them. Why? Because it was painful. Again, I didn’t like the way I sounded. (Shhh - don’t tell any of my former teachers….)
Sound familiar? Come on...be honest! Even now that I’m teaching myself, I’ll ask my students to record themselves practicing in order to assess their own progress, and almost every time, I’m met with eye rolls, and groans of “but Ms. Shanelle - I HATE listening to myself!”
My question for you, dear student….is why!?!?!?!? 7+ billion people on this planet, and only one YOU. When it comes to your voice, you are the original. Never duplicated, never imitated. Your instrument is the only one of its kind that ever has or ever will exist. It’s so special. And things that special take time. Great voices aren’t born over-night.
If you’ve never had a lesson with me, let me invite you into the room for a moment...one of my most preached sermons? “Take everything about what you think a classical/musical theater/pop singer is supposed to sound like - every affect, every manipulation….and throw it away. Hashtag Cancelled. I don’t want you to strive for recreating someone else’s sound. My goal is to give you techniques to support your voice….I want you to sound like you.”
BUT (because there’s always a but) - that’s the important part. Did you catch it? The technique. It’s WORK. It can be beautiful and rewarding but also grueling and frustrating when it doesn’t come as easily as we would like. And that’s ok too. Maybe you’ve got some old singing habits that you need to shed in order to rise to your next level. I like to think that habits aren’t “broken” - we just replace them with new behaviors. Research show that it takes at least 2 months for a new behavior to become automatic - so please, allow yourself the time to grow. Trust. The. Process.
Confession #2: After years of institutional schooling, and a few years of self-schooling, I finally feel like I’m finding MY voice. I stopped caring about sounding different, and started enjoying it. I’m getting to a place where I can “trim the fat” (another Shanelle-ism. You’re welcome.) and get to the meat of my sound. The core of the voice that is uniquely mine and no one else’s. I guess that’s why this Miles Davis quote resonated with me so deeply:
Sometimes, it really does take you a long time to sound like you. But putting in the work, and settling into your own one of a kind sound is SO worth it in the end...even if the finish line does feel really far away.
Keep running. Be patient. Your time is coming, but in the meantime - keep singing. The world needs YOUR voice. :-)
Love and light,
Shanelle Woods made her Spoleto Festival USA debut in the 2016 season, doubly featured as Annie in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and as Kentucky Kate in the world premiere of Edmund Thornton Jenkins’ Afram ou La Belle Swita. This was followed by an engagement as Jeanette in Chevalier de Saint-Georges' L'amant anonyme, as part of the 2016 Colour of Music Festival. In 2017, Ms. Woods debuted with the renowned Glimmerglass Festival in the world premier of the hip-hopera, Stomping Grounds, and has recently performed the roles of Tituba in Robert Ward's operatic telling of The Crucible, and as Ronnie in the rock music Hair (Glow Lyric Theater.) Equally at home on the opera, musical theater, or concert stage, Shanelle has also performed roles from Die Fledermaus (Prince Orlofsky), Die Zauberflöte (Third Lady), Noye’s Fludde (Mrs. Noye), Così fan tutte (Dorabella), The Old Maid and the Thief (Miss Pinkerton), Kurt Weill’s Down in the Valley (Jennie Parsons) and Seymour Barab’s children’s opera, Little Red Riding Hood. Ms. Woods received the Masters in Vocal Performance from the University of Florida and is currently adjunct voice faculty at both Charleston Southern University and Claflin University, in addition to maintaining a private voice studio at Wando Voice Studio (Mt. Pleasant, SC.)