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"ONE HOUR WITH BILLY SIEGENFELD AND JUMP RHYTHM WILL NOT ONLY CHANGE THE WAY YOU VIEW THE WORLD, IT WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU SEE YOURSELF. BILLY CAN GET A STONE TO DANCE WITH A FULL SPIRIT."

JEANNE HERRICK, SENIOR LECTURER, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY

before-wedgeExploring the Voice as a Drumbeater

Exploring the Voice as a Drumbeater

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to teach a Jump Rhythm company class. As with most experiences teaching, preparing can be a bit nerve wracking as you try to organize all the components of a meaningful and well thought-out class. I’ve taught Jump Rhythm Technique in many different places and to lots of different faces over the years, but teaching a class to the company always feels like coming home. On a road gig, or even at an in-town class, I might have to lead and coax students who are relatively new to Jump Rhythm through a series of exercises before they truly begin to “feel it” and give in to throwing their weight and making rhythm with their full bodies. Often when we reach that point, the class is over or nearly over, and we’ve just covered the “tip of the iceberg” in a sense. In class with the company, everyone is dropping their weight, using their scapulas, and ready to attack from the word go. With that readiness and engagement already present, these classes present a unique challenge – finding something new to share about the technique.

Now, this “new” topic doesn’t have to be anything you come up with out of thin air. In Jump Rhythm, we usually find that teaching to our habits allows us the quickest way into a technique class. For this exact reason, in my teaching last week, I focused on one of our four drumbeaters that I often overlook, the voice. Making rhythm by scatting and singing with my voice, growling accents into the music and combining those sounds with my body has always felt comfortable to me. I’m probably unique in that way, but anyone who knows me well would happily agree that I can be a bit of a, well, “loud” person. So for me, the challenge and my habit comes not in the hesitancy of using my voice, but instead in overusing it. I’ve often caught myself singing too loudly, or with scats and vowels that don’t fit the emotion of the piece or the movement. In Jump Rhythm, our number one objective is to use full-bodied rhythm-making with our four primary drumbeaters, and therefore oversinging was putting me at a 25% disadvantage. So that is what I focused on while teaching company class.

As we went through each of our exercises, I encouraged all of us (me especially) to be more conscious of how we were using our voice. There are any number of habits that can accompany this drumbeater, so I focused on the three that plague me most frequently.

  1. Singing too loudly or oversinging my energy compared to what my body is doing to make the rhythm.
  2. Singing the same scat sounds repeatedly, rather than improvising and trying to let the scats happen naturally and varying how I articulate them.
  3. Using the voice most purely, without either singing too high in pitch or aspirating, which is allowing excess air into the singing without using enough vocal vibration.

None of the above are particularly groundbreaking, but by focusing our attention on a single aspect of the technique, I can challenge myself both as a teacher, student and performer. This focus also leads to discoveries in other parts of the technique and our bodies, and always carries over into how we perform our repertory.

I’ll leave you with that thought, and a quick reminder that in our approach to 25th Anniversary Season, we would love to have you join us. I think the trait that most audience members would agree is totally unique to Jump Rhythm Technique is the use of our voice. So I invite you to join us at our shows in the fall or our annual Summer Intensive, and see if you can find a personal connection in that particular drumbeater.

Thanks for reading,
Kevin

 

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