Maybe the following situation is familiar to you: you’re in rehearsals almost every day for your upcoming production, and your voice is tired. Or you’re sick. Or you’re trying to save your voice for another performance that evening. You think about all the singing you’ll have to do in rehearsal, and wonder how your voice will ever hold up.
Fortunately, there is a strategy for saving your voice. It’s called marking, and it means to modify your singing in order not to over-tax your vocal folds.
Even if you’ve never heard the term “marking” before, it’s likely that you’ve seen some version of it. Maybe you’ve been in a rehearsal where another singer is singing in what we call “half voice” – lightly/quietly/at half of her normal volume. Maybe you’ve witnessed another singer take his high notes an octave down. These are both examples of marking.
How Do I Mark?
Like anything else with singing, marking takes practice, as well as knowing your own voice. In order to mark effectively, you must already have solid vocal technique. If you are still working out issues of dynamic range and breath support in your full voice, you should speak with your voice teacher before attempting to mark.
There are two main ways to mark:
- Singing in half voice. This means to sing at a softer, less intense dynamic level. In the musical theater world, it may also mean using your head voice instead of your belt register. The idea is to lessen the amount and/or intensity of the work your vocal folds have to do, in an effort to prevent vocal fatigue. Bear in mind, however, that no matter what volume you sing at, you should still sing with support. Singing quietly does not mean singing off the breath!
- Singing high notes down an octave. Especially if there are a ton of them, or you are in a rehearsal situation where you will have to sing them over and over.
When Should I Mark?
You can, and in some cases should, mark in the following situations:
- If you are in long staging/choreography rehearsals where the music/singing is a secondary concern
- If you are sick
- Working on elements such as text or rhythm which do not require full-out singing to learn
You should not mark:
- If the music/singing is the primary focus of the rehearsal (unless you are sick)
- If you are working on vocal technique
- In a final dress rehearsal or performance
- If you are unsure how to mark or what would be the best way to mark for your voice, talk to your voice teacher. He or she will be able to show you how to do it safely and effectively.
- If you plan to mark in a rehearsal, be sure to tell your director and any fellow actors who will be on stage singing with you. Trust me, it is easy to be caught off-guard and miss your cue when you expect a big high note from the soprano and what you get is a lower, half-voice version of it.
Stay tuned for the next post in our vocal health series, which will talk about singing while sick!