My coach, Ann Betz, and I were talking yesterday about vocal range in coaching. As an introvert, one of the things I’ve noticed about coaching training is that when range is mentioned, the training is toward going big. Being louder. Being more animated. Being crazier. What’s missing is equal emphasis on the companion lesson of being more quiet, more still, more grounded. Challenging territory for an introvert – and ripe with growth opportunities. Not as challenging territory for extroverts, and the omission of stillness deprives them of a chance to expand…or is that condense?
As a coach – and a student of coaching – my job is to explore my limits to bring an ever larger, lusher and more accurate quiver of skills to the time I spend with clients. It’s also my job to be Arthur. It’s essential that clients who bring themselves fully to our sessions are rewarded by me bringing myself fully. Not a cookie cutter coach. Not a stereotyped coach. Not anything but Arthur the coach.
A Symphony of Neurons
Ann’s got this wonderful neuroscience perspective on coaching, and as she was describing some of the physiology of what happens when we hear one another’s voice, a different way of thinking about vocal range emerged. One that transcends loud and soft, fast and slow, animated and grounded. What if we thought of our vocals in musical terms? When we meet someone, we’re hearing their words as a melody. It has a rhythm. It has timbre. It uses pitch and dynamics. Each vocalization creates not only the communication of words but the communication of intent, of one’s presence, of who we are through its melody.
Melody. All the elements of vocal range are contained in it. The choice of style. To play punk rock or easy listening. To amplify like The Who or command through understatement. Or combine the two like Bjork in “It’s Oh So Quiet.” To play a complex and epic piano concerto or relish every bent note of a blues song. To surrounding the conversation with harmony or use dissonent tones for a purpose.
Variations on a Theme
In this video, a simple tune – “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” – is transformed through the lenses of more than a dozen musical styles. Same underlying message, vastly different deliveries.
I’ve Got the Music in Me
The musical metaphor holds a truth: We need to learn to play our instrument. Not to press piano keys aimlessly or play air guitar, but to start off as a novice, to practice our scales in order to learn new songs and create melodious force.
And what about our unique voice? We can learn to play the same notes as our idols, but ultimately our own style must come forth. If we love the way someone handled a situation, we can make a soulless copy or imagine what our cover version would sound like.
The first step is to hear our own melody. Do we know our scales? Do we play it by ear because we haven’t learned to read music yet?
Then, what style will we immerse ourselves in? What styles might our audience need?
And like the best musicians, we have the opportunity to both explore and refine our style of choice, to chart its course and to branch out and put a distinct mark on other styles.
And though the idea of melody came up in a conversation about coaching, musicality is present in all our communications. With family. With clients and coworkers. With the stranger we pass on the street.
What melody are your words creating?
Is your voice singing yet?