Sing like yourself
Beauty in music cannot be applied from the outside. Beauty comes from within you in your singing. It is a state of the mind and the fruit of intelligent Riyaaz under the guidance of the guru. There are no cosmetics to make your voice beautiful, excepting hard work and relentless pursuit.
Finding your voice
Nature has bestowed each one of us with a unique voice. No two voices perfectly match each other (like our unique finger prints). A budding musician at some stage of learning should become aware of the nature and quality of his/ her voice. He must know the range of his voice – what are the strong and weak points of his voice. It is not necessary that you should produce a voice even like your own guru or like somebody else. It seems unnatural and not becoming of yourself. Just because your guru has a robust voice or a nasal voice, you should not strive to cultivate his kind of voice production (it can strain your voice and you may have to give up singing altogether at a later stage).
The disciple is learning how to sing and not how to imitate the guru’s voice. The guru should realize that he is not trying to produce a duplicate of himself in his disciples. I am of the opinion that one should sing in one’s own natural voice which is that of the natural speaking voice. You can’t have one voice to sing and another to speak naturally. Singing should be as “sahaj”/natural as speaking. True that while singing you have to have a greater control over your voice. What I mean is that while singing you have to be conscious of controlled voice production as against the speaking voice (you can be lethargic or loud in speaking as you want). A consciously controlled voice is the result of intelligent Riyaaz, and not an artificial voice. One must also learn to modulate it consciously as the singing requires, especially with regard to the various nuances of ragaswaras. Not all ragaswaras are of the same amplitude, timing etc. as some may require a nuance touch.
Melodious voice cannot be cultivated. Artificially trying to bring melodious quality to the voice does not make your singing ‘beautiful’. Beauty in music cannot be applied from the outside. Beauty comes from within you in your singing. It is a state of the mind and the fruit of intelligent Riyaaz under the guidance of the guru. There are no cosmetics to make your voice beautiful, excepting hard work and relentless pursuit.
Also, it is not necessary to copy/imitate somebody else’s singing because he/she is popular (imitation of the guru’s singing in the initial stages is necessary, but after ten or fifteen years of learning, you have to sing like yourself). Everybody singing like everybody else will be choric singing, but in classical music one must have one’s own identity/pehechaan which can be established by the individual voice among other things.
One must also take meticulous care of one’s voice/vocal chords. Western classical musicians pay a lot of attention to their voice. I have heard from some of them that after a performance, they rest their voice for 24 hours! They don’t speak, don’t shout for these hours and so replenish the voice. How many of us do this? Precious energy needs to be conserved for singing again, is what I tell my disciples always. I am sure some do and some don’t! Sing like yourself!