Shelby Rollins @shelby-rollins Blogs

Swim Hard To the Wall

Tis the season to binge-watch the Olympics. Guys I love the summer Olympics. I can't stop won't stop watching gymnastics and swimming. It's really a problem. I stay up late because, Olympics, and I'm waking up at 5:30am because, baby. I have a diagnosable problem. 

This is neither here nor there. The point I'm aiming for is: there's a long time swimmer's rule that I heard many moons ago when I was in college and my pastor would encourage us students not to give up and slack off at the end of the semester and thus fail our finals. He would say "swim hard to the wall."

This phrase refers to competitive swimmers. They can't exactly see the wall ahead that they are swimming to. But they know about how many strokes it will take to get there. So when they are closing into the finish line, it can be tempting to slow down so as to not ram their heads into the concrete. Ouch. So they have to be reminded, even though they know the wall is coming, to not slow down, but to swim hard to the wall. Most of these races are decided by fractions of seconds. If you let off the gas pedal AT ALL you can lose. Basically what I'm saying is I could totally be Michael Phelps' swim coach. (#lies)

Actually, what I'm saying is this is an amazing analogy of the voice. How often do you hear yourself slowing down in a scale or a song as you approach the high notes or the hard parts? Slowing down is a symptom of "singing uphill." When you run uphill it's significantly harder and you'll tend to drop speed. The same is true of your voice. I often use this directive of "swim hard to the wall" to encourage my students to keep singing quickly and not slow down, especially in harder mix exercises. If you perceive it to be hard, it will manifest as such. Don't slow down in anticipation. Sprint past it and get to the end with speed and momentum. 

Similarly, we can sometimes poop out at the end of a scale or phrase when the "hard part" is over. Often descending on a scale after the high note is behind you can cause you to disconnect because you let off the necessary compression to get through it. Instead, sing PAST the end. Follow through intentionally. Consistency is everything. 

Mix is 10 times easier when you are not paralyzed by the fear of what is coming ahead. Sing fast. It's also easier when you stay the course you started, using equal weight and equal pressure on every note, even the lower ones. Don't let up. Swim hard to the wall.