What man calls beauty is the harmony of all he experiences…there is music in color, there is music in lines, there is music in the forest where there is a variety of trees and plants, in the way in which they correspond with each other…To the extent to which one sees more deeply into life and observes life more widely, one listens to more and more music – the music which answers the whole universe.

– Hazrat Inayat Khan,  “The Mysticism of Sound and Music”

I am fascinated with formless sound-making as a gateway to the authentic voice. Open your ears beyond music as you know it, to the rhythms of everyday life – the sounds all around us. What pitch does the hum of the fan make? What kinds of rhythms exist while riding in the car? It’s an exploration of vibrations, both inner vibrations, such as our own self-talk or repetition of a mantra, to outer vibrations that a singer, drums or any other instrument make. When we open our ears this way, we come into the present moment. Notice how calming it is to come to the sense of “hearing.”

Now, lie on the ground with a few books under your head so your chin is neutral (not tucking down or poking up). Bend your knees with your feet on the floor. This is a very restorative physical organization. Let Mother Earth hold you. Breathe. Catch a wave of breath and explore: groan, growl (especially when angry), make siren sounds, play with vowels and sing simple songs. How does your throat feel? Is it free and open or wanting to work to initiate the sound. If it’s tight, swallow and then release the tension. Soften your jaw and tongue. Imagine that the sound begins deep in your belly.

Notice any resistance that comes up. Do you start to judge the sound? Notice the feelings that come up. Intellectually I have known for a while that emotions are a form of energy. So in my toning practice I have discovered that I can shift a big, stuck block of emotional energy without needing to cognitively work it out. For many, singing has always played this role. There are many singers who don’t mentally or physically feel well if they don’t sing.

Not only can you “tone” for fun, it’s also the root, the foundation, of structured song. Give it a try!