This letter contains a listing of the fifteen performances in the last two months of your "24/7 Tour" which I attended and some discussion of the changes I observed in your singing technique during those shows. You have never talked publicly about those changes, and I believe most reviewers, fans, and casual listeners, and most professionals (your musicians excepted) are unaware of them.
You know what those changes were because you went through them. When you read this overview, you will see that I also know of those changes and when they were occurring.
I submit this to you as direct proof for my statement in my Nov. 19 letter, "I am intimately aware of all the positive changes your singing technique went through from October to December of 2000."
I have avoided using technical words as much as possible. But as I am describing vocal changes you actually went through, you will see that my understanding of that process is solid.
Overview of Changes in Your Vocal Technique
Performances of October 7, 8, 11, 13 & 14, 2000: Washington, D.C., Raleigh, NC, Greenville, SC, Charlotte, NC & Atlanta, GA
In this group of five consecutive shows, starting in Washington, D.c., you corrected a wide variety of technical problems you had with your breathing, with supporting your voice, with beginning and releasing notes, with an array of tension-producing habits you mistakenly thought were helping your voice relax, and with your choices of how to produce the growling and rasping effects you use as part of your style.
All of these technical problems were undermining the strength and stability of your voice, and had been for most of your career. During these five shows, you discovered and replaced all these faulty techniques with correct techniques -- techniques that allowed you to produce the artistic and musical results you wanted, but that put no stress on your voice.
As a result, your voice was able to relax and start healing itself during your performances. By Atlanta, GA, your voice was much stronger, much more flexible, reliable, and responsive to your musical intentions.
Performances of October 22 & 25: Knoxville, TN & New Orleans, LA
On October 22, for the first part of the show, you reworked and practiced all these corrections; for the last part of the show, and for all of the October 25 show, you discovered and established your correct placement.
Placement means to aim your voice at certain bones in your body to deliberately vibrate them. The default placement you learned and adopted was an approximately oval-shaped area, starting at the top of your forehead, that included all the bones of your face and about half-way down the front of your chest -- all of these bones vibrating equally as a single unit.
This placement gave you many benefits. It helped to stabilize the technical corrections you made earlier, “cementing” them into place; it gave much more strength and resonance to your voice; and it began the process of integrating and unifying your voice from bottom to top. Additionally, it gave you much more precise control over your voice and intonation: with all the bones of your head now vibrating in sympathy with your placement, your ears and the bones around them were vibrating, so you were hearing your voice much more strongly from inside your head.
Performances of November 1, 3 & 4: Columbus, OH, Lexington, KY & Dayton, OH
Prior to finding this excellent placement, you had certain physical tricks you used in order to force out your high notes. These tricks were not compatible with correct placement. As your placement involved a new way of producing tone, certain muscles that you had never used for singing before were being called into play for the first time. Naturally they were weaker than your other singing muscles.
At first you could only carry this placement so high before you had to revert to your old tricks to get out the top notes, but you recognized that you needed to be able to sing every note with the same placement. From October 25 and through the three-show Texas swing, you worked to carry the correct placement higher and higher into your voice.
By Columbus, OH, on November 1, you were able to sing almost everything in correct placement, and your commitment to that placement, your determination and willpower to make it work for every note, were obvious. By November 4 in Dayton, OH, you were singing the entire show with correct placement.
You also understood that your goal now was not just to be able to get out the highest notes in the correct placement, but to have a range of musical choices available to you on every high note, just like in the middle of your voice. (I call this the difference between just being able to get out the note, and actually owning the note, being able to do what you want with it.) Reaching this goal would be a more gradual process as your new singing muscles continued to strengthen; a matter of singing enough performances as you concentrated on gaining that kind of openness and flexibility in your upper range.
Performances of December 1 & 2: Oakland, CA & Reno, NV
In the thirteen intervening performances after November 4, you had completed the opening, integration, and balancing of your entire range. Your voice was now fully healthy and very strong. All your top notes were full, free, flexible, and powerful. Your lower range, previously dry and husky from vocal damage, was now tonally rich, warm, and resonant. You now securely understood and owned the singing core of your voice. No matter how much you might chose to alter your sound and your default placement for expressive reasons, you knew right where the center of your voice was, and could immediately return to it at any time.
While maintaining your chosen artistic style, your singing was technically correct in every way, and your voice had become a unified whole, reliably responding to your artistic wishes with both strength and subtlety from the beginning to the end of both these performances.
Performance of December 3, 2000, Bakersfield, CA
In this performance, by making certain adjustments in your technique, you entered a higher energy level of singing – what I’ll call “Superpower Singing”.
As you experienced, you had much more singing power available than you ever thought possible before this performance. I could see you were as surprised as everyone else at just how massive a sustained singing sound you could now generate in this performance's big moments. That you were able to enter this new and higher vocal energy level and deliver this performance with so much vocal stability was another fruit of all the dedicated work you had done over the prior two months, and proof of how well you had done it.
Performance of December 5, 2000, Phoenix, AZ
Superpower singing burns calories faster than regular singing. Your body was accustomed to the normal requirements of your performances, but was not prepared for the extra energy demands of December 3. You were left unusually exhausted after that performance, and this performance two days later started almost like you weren’t there. Everything you did was musically and artistically correct; but unusually, perhaps uniquely for you you had no fire, no spark or natural intensity. Your performance was like Champagne gone flat.
But in the middle transition of “Try A Little Tenderness”, your normal intensity was suddenly reignited, and there you were again! From then on your performance was as good as December 1 or 2. Your voice showed absolutely no ill effects from the extra vocal demands of December 3 – still more evidence of the excellence of your preceding work on your voice.
Performance of December 6, 2000, Anaheim, CA -- Last Show of the Tour
I had the sense you started this show wanting to top even your Bakersfield performance! Unfortunately, you started with a vocal intensity only appropriate for the biggest moments and had to bring it down gradually over the next few songs in order not to lose your potential for superpower singing. From there, you could then build your performance with its proper dynamic proportions. The show was a big success, another superpower singing performance but, because of the rocky start, ultimately not quite as strong as Bakersfield.
I add this observation. The technique you adopted to produce 'super-power' singing worked for those circumstances, but it was not optimum. It required you to be generating the necessary level of energy almost all the time during those two performances, even when you weren't using that energy for the 'super-power' moments. This was the cause of your intense exhaustion after. But this technique properly managed - which I can show you - makes these extra energy demands only at the times they are actually being used. For the same vocal results, of course that is, a much more workable and less energy-demanding arrangement.
Performers' Coach and Troubleshooter