So, you have been searching for vocal instruction and you are serious about training your voice. (And you’re a little miffed that I may have just called you an idiot! It will make sense! Keep reading!)
You really want to go to the next level and you’ve finally gotten the guts to give it a try. It’s daunting, the idea of singing in front of someone who will critique you. You get ready to step into that voice lesson and you’re a mixture of nerves and excitement. What will it be like? You picture your teacher, polished, professional (well, at least that’s what you picture if you’re studying with me. ;-)) and ready to hear you sing. You imagine that he/she will tell you that you have a good voice, or maybe you’re not even sure if you have a “good” voice, but you love to sing. But whatever happens in there, you know one thing for sure. You will emerge possessing a “good” voice!
The pressure is great. You want to sound your very best. You want your teacher to believe that he/she is lucky to have you as a student and see that you have potential to be the “next big thing”, whatever that means for you.
So you enter the studio and after the introductions, you get ready to sing for the first time for your teacher. You start singing and you wonder why it’s so hot in here. I mean seriously, did she just crank the heat? You don’t remember it being this hot 2 minutes ago! You start to sing and your voice does not sound like the superstar your sounded like in your bedroom or your car or the shower. It feels all tight and sound breathy. She takes you higher and you’re really sweating now. You feel frustrated, nervous, and maybe embarrassed that you’re even there. Remember the maxim, “Pride comes before a fall”? All that insecurity is really pride in disguise.
Some of you are super grounded and confident and don’t experience anything like this. But, I have. You know that principle in science, “what goes up must come down”? Well, it works psychologically as well. The more that I build up a situation in my mind, the farther I have to fall and the worse it hurts when my expectations come crashing down with the full force of gravity!
As a voice teacher, I’ve experienced many different students coming into voice lessons for the first time. It’s not always easy to tell what each one is thinking or feeling, but for 99% of us, voice is very personal. I think more so than any other instrument because it’s a part of who we are. If we can’t play the flute or the trumpet or the guitar, it’s easier to shrug that off because we can just put the instrument on ebay and shake the dust off our feet. Chalk it up to another story of “oh I tried that once” and I just couldn’t get it. But singing is very different. It’s part of our internal expression. We use our instruments everyday to speak, laugh, cough, cry, grunt, etc. Our voices are a visceral, organic, spontaneous, emotion-induced, but thought-provoked medium which makes what was once internal and perhaps abstract and complicated and private, external, audible, and now public. Singing, for many, carries the weight of all that plus the added pressure of needing to sound pleasing- at the very least.
It’s a lot of pressure! Because I have lived under that self-inflicted pressure all my life, (Those of you who don’t have any idea what I’m talking about are among the very blessed! Sing your hearts out and love every second!) I try to diffuse that expectation for my students right off the bat. Save your “sounding good” for the shower! You are going to sound bad!
I am not an audience. I do not need to be impressed. I have a job to do- help you to understand your voice, understand that your body is your instrument, understand that in order to really sing, you first have to feel like an idiot! Well, you have to at least be willing to feel like an idiot!
Remember the “gravity” principle? Well, do yourself a favor. Try to give yourself a break and keep your expectations low. Be willing to try anything. It’s often the goofiest activity that provides the mental breakthrough that gets you really singing! My students have been instructed to “sing ugly” and suddenly, the pressure is off and they are singing anything but ugly! There is a natural focus and volume that is way easier than anything they were striving for. We yell across the room. We cackle like a nasty witch. We hit targets with darts or dry erase markers, we lay on the floor. The list goes on and on. In singing, the best thing you can do, is get out of your own way.
Your mind is very powerful. It can hold you back and it can propel you forward.
Be willing to feel ridiculous and you will discover your voice. I guarantee it!
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