Let’s go back to the moment of birth…
Your mother is in labor. You’re slowly making your way down the birth canal. Suddenly your head crowns, you emerge into the world, your skin touches the air, and a huge host of physiological changes get set into motion. Your respiratory system kickstarts and you take the strongest breath of your life: the one that inflates your lungs. A short time later (maybe a moment, maybe a bit longer) you exhale through your windpipe, air passes through your vocal cords, and you let out a cry.
Congratulations baby, welcome to the world!
We start using our voice mere moments after we’re born. But here’s the thing… no one sits us down and hands us an instruction manual. There’s no explanation about how we should make sound, we just do it! A couple years from now we’ll start learning speech and language, and all that will include much more explanation. However it’s likely going to be years before we start any sort of vocal or singing lessons which will draw our attention to the quality of our sound (if ever, of course!). By that time we’ll have some pretty well engrained patterns and habits.
So here’s the problem with never having learned how our voice works: When something goes wrong with it, we don’t know how to fix it. If no one taught us how we produce sound in the first place, it’s very difficult to troubleshoot when we’re not able to make the sounds we want. We’ve got to understand what’s going on.
We think of our voice as something intangible. In fact we often use the word “voice” metaphorically. That way of thinking is lovely, but our voice is also something very concrete. It comes out of our body, and there are significant muscles and cartilage and bones and organs that contribute to our ability to make sound. It’s valuable to know what all of these are.
Think about it this way: if you’re a real car person, you’ve gotta learn what’s under the hood. It would be silly to grab a wrench and start messing around if you’ve done no research about how the car is put together…you might mess something up! By a similar token, we all know it’s foolish to start IKEA furniture together without following the (inscrutable) instructions. It’s useful to spend the time understanding how things work. After all, how we understand a thing informs how we use it.
Let’s repeat that, because it’s the big thesis:
How we understand a thing informs how we use it.
And this is why you should learn how your voice works.