by Morgan Cryar
There is the old saying that a bumblebee cannot really fly. His wings are too small for his body, so it's impossible for him to get off the ground.
The punchline, of course, is that no one has been able to communicate this scientific information to the bumblebee himself, so he keeps on flying. I feel like that bumblebee. My voice is able to do things that for years were impossible for me. And right now, you'd have a hard time talking me out of my voice.
I used to listen to singers who could sing those high notes with grace and power and I'd covet their abilities with great envy.
How could God let me be a singer (a professional) and not let me go where THEY could go, vocally? I wasn't just sitting around being bitter, though. I tried lessons. (My pride made me a reluctant student. I never let anyone in my industry know that I took lessons.)
But I didn't really stick with any of the teachers, mainly because I saw no appreciable results. I really felt like they had only given me more stuff to think about while singing.
I often describe the situation like this: I would go into the lessons knowing how to sing. I would come out knowing how to sing just as well, but now I could juggle too, only I was juggling a dozen THOUGHTS. "REMEMBER TO BREATHE FROM YOUR DIAPHRAGM," "PICTURE A WATERFALL INSIDE YOUR BODY," "PLACE THE TONE IN YOUR 'MASK'" and so forth...
None of those juggling thoughts resulted in any change in the quality of my voice, so I concluded that lessons were worthless and either you were born with a big range or you weren't.
I met Brett Manning by one of those "divine appointments" (meaning God arranged it, but it looked like a "chance" meeting).
He was new to Nashville and had called me (a mutual friend had given him my contact info), to ask if I knew of a good church he could attend in town. He told me that, "by the way," he was a vocal coach and he'd love to give me a lesson sometime. "I'm expensive, but I'm fast," was what he said (with a curious confidence).
My first thought was "no thanks," because I had given up on voice lessons. But something about the concept of "fast" sounded so intriguing. I mean, WHO uses the word "fast" when referring to vocal instruction?
I made a decision on the spot to invite Brett over to give me lesson, (mainly to make a stranger feel welcome in town). I had almost ZERO expectations.
What Brett hadn't told me was that his technique was so radically different than the "normal" methods, that I was about to have my "vocal world" rocked! In that first lesson, I did these strange exercises, like he told me. I didn't know why anyone would make those strange noises.
But I also sang several notes that I HAD NEVER BEEN ABLE TO REACH BEFORE. My feeling at the end of that first lesson was a kind of strange panic. I
thought "wow, I just went places I've never gone before!" But I also thought, "Oh no, I don't think I know how to get back to those notes again!"
So I immediately bought Brett's program and booked a couple more lessons. He was right, the lessons were expensive.
But just imagine what I was thinking. I was a professional singer with a
certain "ceiling" above which I would never sing. If you are reading this, you probably have such a ceiling. Some days you can bump your ceiling up by maybe a single note, maybe two. But then your voice hurts for a while.
So the thought that none of us will allow ourselves to think is "what if I could sing way up THERE?" I was no different. I had never allowed myself to dream of going past my limits, range-wise. And yet there was this ray of hope, shining through in that first lesson.
I don't remember much about lesson two (It's been over 6 years now). But I remember lesson 3 like it was yesterday.
In my third lesson with Brett, I remember him taking me up to an F above male high C! He was freaking out. I was kind of in a daze. I was a little confused, only because with his technique, there was a REDUCTION in vocal strain the higher I sang.
So when he pointed to the keyboard and showed me what notes I was hitting, he shouted "Can you believe that?"
I looked at him with a confused stare and said "Yeah, but...I'm cheating."
What I meant was, "certainly I can't be doing it right, because it doesn't hurt."
He reassured me that I was indeed singing correctly, probably for the first time in my life. He asked me to listen to my voice and tell him what I heard. Was it MY voice or was it a "fake" sounding voice? It was definitely MY voice.
After getting over the shock and working more with Brett's program, I finally got to where I sang "as designed" by habit. I find it hard to sing the wrong, inefficient way now.
I can now sing just about any song I want to sing, without having to worry about how much territory it covers range-wise. I can also cover more than one style, thanks to Brett's exercises.
When someone expresses their doubts about Brett's Method to me, I just smile. Because I'm somewhat like a bumblebee. I've also heard and spoken with so many other "bumblebees" now that my only answer to any doubters is "just listen."
Then my next words are usually. "Just try it."