Last week, I saw former NMSU alumna Kirstin Chávez give some lessons here as part of her Artist in Residence position. You know? She’s a pretty darned good teacher, and one thing really stood out to me:
She knows how to see the big picture.
One of my favorite distinctions in any field is macro/micro. It’s the difference between the overall big picture and the smaller details. You see this in a number of fields including evolution, economics, and … Star Craft (truly, search for micro and macro on Google and you’ll see the first result).
In singing we also have macro and micro. Let’s check out what I see as the macro side of things:
- Life philosophy
- Overall health
- Body connection and coordination
- Musical taste
- Musical skills
- Language comprehension
On the micro side we have:
- Individual muscle tensions
- Vowel modification
The list could go on.
Any of the micro things could in fact be the most pressing issue for a singer. For example, if I’ve got everything else going great, but I insist on singing pure “Ah” vowels really high in my voice, then that is my most important problem.
But often it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees (or shift the deck chairs on the Titanic, etc.), and I’m as guilty as anyone. It’s so easy to get totally wrapped up in one micro issue and miss the macro issue that’s causing several smaller issues. It’s easy to notice the lack of vibrato and not notice that the singers isn’t taking in enough air to begin with. It’s easy to see one tension but miss the lack of air that’s causing it.
But we need to see ourselves and any singers we work with as total beings rather than just a collection of parts. And often, micro problems will vanish after working with the big picture. And when they don’t, then dig in for some micromanagement.