The true goal of studying and practicing technique is to have it all become automatic…….At that point, you can just breath and sing.
Some feel that technique and singing with feeling are somehow at odds with eachother but when applied correctly nothing is farther from the truth.
Translated the German, “Nichts Zu Machen Ist So Schwer” means “TO DO NOTHING IS VERY DIFFICULT’
And this is not just a Singing or Bel Canto concept. This has been a tenet of every type of training for literally thousands of years. It’s a very Taoist/Zen concept. To do nothing and achieve everything. But also prominent in all sports training. This concept is described in sports books like the Inner Game of Tennis, as well as psychology books such as The Zone. Bruce Lee used to talk about getting into the right mental space before fighting. Where he wasn’t thinking but could just be free to react. He wasn’t thinking technique, he would just flow “like water”, he would say that if his opponent expanded he would contract and vice-versa.
Even studies of the brain show how instantaneous reaction is way faster an more effective in any physical task than intellectually thinking about it to make sure you do it right. You first do need to use the teacher/learner intellectual part of the brain, think about it, practice and internalize it in order to develop the right habits. But then you need to let go and let the Doer part of the brain take over and not let the learner part interfere. Because after it’s job its done it will just get in the way. It’s like as if the coach of the Wizards tried to jump on the court and grab the ball from Michal Jordan in the middle of a pass. The coach is essential to his success but that would not be the time and place to get involved and he would just get in the way. Now after the game and between plays he can go over plays with the team but during the game the coach has to stay off the court.
The Inner Game of Tennis talks to this point. So what seems like a paradox actually makes perfect sense.
Even in music school they will teach classical violinists, the better your technique the more free you will be to express your music. By developing great technique you are removing the blockages between what you feel and your heart and hear in your head, and what you can physically realize untill in a true great, they are one in the same.
Bruce Lee would say “The best technique, is no technique” And by that he meant have the right way of doing things so internalized that it is no longer something you are actually doing. It is just there. One of the most important concepts in Life as well as in singing.
To my above point.
Here are some quotes from from “Zen in the Art of Archery” by Herrigel who writes about the years he spent in Japan studying to master the art of archery.
In his training he struggles with the dilemma of letting loose the arrow without deciding or intending to let it go. It must simply happen of its own accord, the master tells him. He learns that ambition, conscious intention, even thinking itself is what gets in the way. This IS exactly what is meant by “Nichts Zu Machen Ist so schwer!” And is in no way specific only to singing but essential to mastering any and all arts and skills. You can not be a master of anything without mastering this.
“Man is a thinking reed but his great works are done when he is not calculating and thinking. “Childlikeness” has to be restored with long years of training in the art of self-forgetfulness. When this is attained, man thinks yet he does not think. He thinks like the showers coming down from the sky; he thinks like the waves rolling on the ocean; he thinks like the stars iluminating the nightly heavens; he thinks like the green foliage shooting forth in the relaxing spring breeze. Indeed he is the showers, the ocean, the stars, the foliage.”
Or put more succinctly in a much more pedestrian yet meaningful quote from Chevy Chase in Caddyshack “Be the ball” : )
“Perfection in the art of swordsmanship is reached, according to Takuan, when the heart is troubled by no more thought of I and You, of the opponent and his sword, of one’s own sword and how to wield it-no more thought even of life and death. “All is emptiness: your own self, the flashing sword, and the arms that wield it. Even the thought of emptiness is no longer there.”
What is true of archery and swordsmanship also applies to all the other arts. Thus, master in ink-painting is only attained when the hand, exercising perfect control over technique, executes what hovers before the mind’s eye at the same moment when the mind begins to form it, without there being a hair’s breadth between. Painting then becomes spontaneous calligraphy, Here again the painter’s instruction might be: spend ten years observing bamboos, become a bamboo yourself, then forget everything and – paint.
The swordmaster is as unself-conscuious as the beginner. The nonchalance which he forfeited at the beginning of his instruction he wins back again at the end as an indestructible characteristic. …”
Zen in the Art of Archery – Eugen Herrigel
Read this as many times as you need to until it sinks in, until you really get it. There is No paradox or conflict between learning and handling technique and singing freely. One is a merely a path to the other.