I've been wanting to write this post for a while as I've been mulling over a few ideas. At the moment I'm mid way through the amazing course "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron, which I thoroughly recommend to anyone who feels at all creatively blocked... or even those of you who don't.
Anyway, my new mission is for all singers (fledgling, experienced, absolute beginner, "tone deaf", whatever), to vow NEVER to say "my voice is bad" (you can replace bad with an expletive if that's more your style).
But why? And what about those of you who truly believe your voice isn't "good enough"? Here's a few facts/ideas:
1. Specificity leads to improvement. "Bad" is a way too general term. It sounds like a cop-out. I'm not saying you're not allowed to think there are things about your voice that could do with improvement. But I think there are good things about each person's voice too - to say there are no good points is just plain incorrect. So, whenever you feel yourself going to say "that was bad", or "my voice isn't good enough", try replacing the words "bad" and "good enough" with words that are more specific. What specifically made you feel that way? Saying "that was a little shaky", or "my voice doesn't feel powerful enough" for example, are totally legitimate replacements. If you feel your voice IS, shaky or lacking power, then recognising those feelings will help you along your vocal journey, because you're figuring out what it is that you want out of your instrument, and those new goals ARE achievable. "Bad" doesn't send you along your journey. "Bad" just gets you blocked.
2. Coaxing leads to improvement. I know this sounds like a weird one. There's this idea in our society that says that "if you work hard enough you'll be the best". And then the logical conclusion is that we get on our own backs and never feel like we're working quite hard enough to "make it" or "be good enough". This kind of self-pressured thinking (although it means well) is totally unhelpful. It's the voice in our own heads that is basically like a script from that film "Whiplash".
WARNING there's some serious swearing in this one:
And the problem with this is that we think that by bullying ourselves we'll work harder. In reality this attitude can only lead to two things: a) you DO work harder but then the whole process feels like HARD WORK and in the frustration we loose sight of the joy that brought us to singing in the first place b) You don't work harder because beating yourself up constantly makes you feel like you CAN'T do it, and the cycle of procrastination/avoidance begins. The fact is that we're actually more likely to do things, and do them WELL, and with FOCUS and ENTHUSIASM, when we do it with a sense of joy, and when we are encouraged. Think of the bosses or teachers you might have had throughout your life. Did you do the best when you were encouraged or when you were abused? Most of us would say the former, and yet act in a way that's much closer to the latter when it comes to our own vocal development. But that can stop RIGHT NOW, by CHOOSING to be nurturing yourself. Be your own encouraging best friend- I promise your voice will come along in leaps and bounds.
3. Music is communication. Singing is not (linguistically) defined by a specific view of success. If you're attempting to fly but you're falling, then it would be said that you're definitively no longer flying. In singing, as soon as you open your mouth to sing and make any kind of sound, you are definitively doing the act of "singing". This means you can ALREADY sing. Why? Because singing is something to be communicated with rather than judged. Remember this performance from Anne Hathaway in the Les Mis movie? Anne isn't a trained singer. Her singing probably could be technically improved in some way. But the reason people raved about her performance was not that she got everything note for note. The reason that performance was so good was because she was really communicating.
In all singing, there is a message to be transmitted. It might be a specific story, like something from folk or musical theatre. Or it maybe something more grungy and emotion-based. Either way, if you're going through a song and you're feeling like it's not "good enough", maybe the problem is that it's just not "real enough". Sometimes a lot of vocal issues can be solved just by getting lost in the story line and really going for it with your whole heart and soul. After all, why else do we sing?
I'm going to write another blog soon specifically about tone deafness and for those who believe they might be (or have ever been called) tone deaf. But the rules above should apply to EVERYONE. So break down those barriers and get singing!
If you're in Melbourne and are interested in getting your sing on, breaking some barriers, or improving your technique, sign up to my singing course on Tuesday nights in Elsternwick, starting August 25th. Absolute beginners right through to advanced students are all welcome, and singing will be done in a relaxing group environment, so don't worry about singing solos if you're not there yet. Contact me for more info or click here.