Lots of rehearsals coming up? Feeling under the weather? In this article, singing teacher Elaina R. shares an important vocal health tip that can save your voice!
The tenor in my professional vocal quintet is named Mark. It’s a perfectly good name, but for a singer it can be frustrating. Nearly every day someone announces that they are going to “mark,” and poor Mark gets confused. Sometimes even Mark has to mark.
What the heck am I talking about? Marking is an important skill that every singer, amateur or professional, must learn in order to stay healthy. Learning about this vocal health tip (and how to do it properly) can save you from a whole host of problems, including vocal fatigue and injury. And if your name is Mark, I apologize in advance for any confusion this may cause.
What Is Marking and When Should I Do It?
Marking is a type of modified singing meant to minimize strain on the voice. It limits volume and range while maintaining rhythm and pitch accuracy.
Most importantly, marking is a tool you can use to avoid getting vocally tired and hurting yourself during vocal rehearsals of any kind. This includes rehearsals for choir, musicals, operas, show choir, a cappella, even personal rehearsal time. Marking comes in handy when:
- You have to sing the same taxing thing over and over. This can happen:
- For the benefit of collaborators (e.g. piano accompanists, orchestra, other singers)
- When learning new music, either with others or on your own. There’s no reason to sing a vocally difficult passage forte 10 times just to learn it.
- You are feeling vocal fatigue (pain or discomfort in the throat, difficulty getting a clear vocal sound, general feeling of strain)
- You are vocally compromised by allergies or illness (maybe you are getting over a cold and don’t want to overdo it)
A quick note on marking in rehearsal: be sure to let your conductor, director, and/or pianist know that you will be marking beforehand. Marking is completely acceptable to any conductor or accompanist (in fact, it shows how mature you are!), but if you don’t let people know, they might be confused as to why you sound different than usual.
How to Mark
There are two main ways that singers mark. However, before we get to how to mark, let me give a little disclaimer.
Marking can be just as tiring, if not MORE tiring, than singing in full voice if you don’t do it properly. You may think you’re taking it easy, but you still have to think about breath, resonance, and tension in the same ways you would if you were singing in full voice. Otherwise, you could hurt yourself while marking, which completely negates the purpose of this vocal health tip!
Got it? OK, good. Moving on to the two main types of marking.
- Sing quieter. When marking, singers often eliminate dynamics in favor of a comfortable piano. This often involves switching vocal registration (head voice instead of high chest voice, for example). The result is a lighter, easier sound than full voice singing. Not sure what this means? Refresh your knowledge of vocal registers.
- Eliminate range extremes. When marking, singers avoid high notes by transposing them down an octave. For example, if I was marking and I had an E6 in my music, I would sing an E5 or E4 instead.
The next time you are feeling vocally strained while trying to learn new music or while in a rehearsal, remember this vocal health tip. When done properly, marking helps protect your voice from fatigue and injury, ensuring that you’ll sound great when performance time comes around. Your musical collaborators, your voice teacher, and your vocal cords will all appreciate that!