You may have experienced one of these two scenarios in the past. The first, you were part of a group conversation with some singers when one said to another, “Yeah, I was marking the whole rehearsal,” or “Well, do you think you could mark through it tomorrow?” Meanwhile, you were left wondering what it means to “mark”. The second scenario, you attended a dress rehearsal for a performance, and you heard a singer singing abnormally quiet, or down the octave, or both at once. At the end of the rehearsal you found yourself thinking, “What were they doing?”
If you’ve experienced this confusion, or if you’re just curious about marking in singing, you’ll have your questions answered now.
What Marking is in Singing
Similarly to marking in dance, “marking” in the vocal music world refers to when a singer reduces their vocal load to preserve their voice. What does that mean practically speaking? It means that in a rehearsal, a singer may sing in a sort of half-voice, or exceptionally lightly. They may also sing an octave down, especially if the music sits high in the voice as it often does for sopranos and tenors. In essence then, marking is a tool for vocal health.
When it’s Acceptable to Mark
Although marking is a personal choice, there are certain situations where it’s considered acceptable, and other instances where it’s not at all acceptable.
Examples of when marking is acceptable:
- A long stream of staging rehearsals
- When you’re singing with a non-contagious illness
- Splitting your time between two rehearsal periods
- Practicing for texts, rhythms, or anything else not pertaining to vocal quality
Examples of when marking is not acceptable:
- Music rehearsals
- Instrumental rehearsals
- Final dress rehearsals and performances
- Practicing for vocal placement
A good rule of thumb when it comes to marking is this: is your singing a major part of the rehearsal at the moment? If so, you should not mark. If it is not and the focus is on something like staging or text, it’s probably acceptable to mark.
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How to Mark Professionally
Once you know when you can and can’t mark, it’s important to know how to mark like a professional. Just like any other aspect vocal technique, you should talk to your voice teacher to learn how to mark effectively for your voice. When you talk to your teacher about marking, keep in mind things like where you might want to sing down the octave versus when you’ll want to sing in half-voice. There may be some instances where you want to do both. If you’re not sure of how to do this for yourself, you can also attend rehearsals where singers are marking, and take note of the vocal choices they make.
To ensure that you’re a consummate professional when it comes to marking, you’ll need to inform the conductor, and perhaps the director as well, that you’ll be marking. It’s also considered professional courtesy to let your fellow musicians know you’ll be marking, as they may normally listen to you for certain cues that may sound different when you mark.
Marking doesn’t need to be complicated, and it exists as a tool to help you stay in good vocal health. If you find you feel the need to mark a lot though, it’s worthwhile to examine why that may be. Do you feel as if you are vocally fatigued all of the time? It may be a good time to check in with both your vocal health and your practicing habits. Hopefully though, marking will simply serve as another tool towards a long and successful career as a singer.
How do you mark as a singer, and how does it help you? Let us know in the comments!