Shower singing has long been considered a humor-worthy activity. It conjures up the image of a hairy, barrel-chested man singing into a piece of Soap-on-a-Rope, head thrown back and accompanied by the family Bassett Hound howling outside the shower curtain. (Did I get this straight from Norman Rockwell?) What possible use could shower singing be to a professional singer or singer-in-training?
Actually it’s an activity I recommend to all my singers. It’s good for us; the steam plumps up the mucus membranes of the nose and throat. It’s fun; who knew you could sound this great? The shower reverb and echo cover a multitude of mistakes. It’s a terrific training device; novice singers feel empowered by the flattering acoustics and respond by reaching out to sing more boldly.
Our comfort-driven modern habitats are artificially heat and cold regulated; both have a drying effect on our tender respiratory tissues. When you’re in the shower singing, steam produces a moist environment which permeates the mucus membrane of the nose, sinus cavities, throat and vocal cords, and help keep a singer’s tone and resonance healthy and fresh.
Also, you have to admit that singing in the shower is just plain fun. It turns an otherwise mundane grooming activity into an opportunity to be self-entertained, creative, and amused. Even if it only sounds good to the dog, it’s the one place we all feel comfortable about cutting loose and letting go with our voice.
The acoustics in the standard North American shower are second only to Carnegie Hall. (Some suggest they’re even better!) The shower construction creates an acoustically rich environment that returns a flattering reverb to the singer’s ear.
Fusion bass player Mark Tallent talked with me about expanding his musical skills by learning to sing. During the course of our conversation I advised him to record his efforts with very little or no reverb effects so he would have a realistic idea of how he was progressing.
Well, he did a complete reversal on me and recorded all his practices with his voice so awash with reverb and special effects that you could barely distinguish the vocal line.
But, here’s where he was right and I was wrong. His bare "un-reverbed" vocals returned the sound of a beginning singer’s vocals to his ears. They sounded pretty raw and unruly. But whenever he put all those fancy Euro effects on his voice, it sounded wonderful to his ears. The sound was so good that it gave him the confidence to keep trying.
It took months of his equivalent version of singing in the shower before he had the courage to turn off the effects, but when he did, he found his bare vocals had evolved into the sound he truly wanted to hear.
Lesson to be learned about shower singing? It is confidence-building for singers to be rewarded with a sound that encourages reaching out to lead with the voice. If you want to feel good about your singing, forget the fancy sound effects and head home for some shower singing with the dog.
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