Sometimes it's in the doing...

This blog is really just one simple idea to take away with you today...

Something I see a lot in singers (and in humans in general) is the tendency to want to check how to do something before we go for it. Sometimes this is a GREAT idea. IKEA furniture is one of those times. Or knowing what you're allowed to take on a flight.

But often with singing I get questions like "Is this a good song for me?" or, "Does this suit my voice?" or, "Is this song to challenging?", and my question is always "Have you tried singing it?"

All of these questions imply a certain self-imposed limitation - as though there are only certain things we're allowed to do, or express, or expect of ourselves. But I say, go for it! And this is where the fun (and learning) begins.

Once you've had a run through (perhaps along with a recording of the piece), ask yourself some questions.... 

- How did it feel to sing the song? Physically? Emotionally?
- Was it lower or higher than is normally comfortable?
- Was it louder or softer than you might normally feel comfortable singing?
- Did you manage to stay in tune?
- Did you manage to connect with the emotion or the story line of the song?

There are probably a tonne more questions you could ask, but the main thing is to see what comes to mind and see if it has anything to tell you about your current strengths an weaknesses - skills or areas for improvement. You'll learn a lot about how your voice works, how it sounds in comparison to other singers, and where the edge of your comfort zone lies.

Sometimes you've just got to start doing.

A Practice of Thankfulness

Here's something I've been thinking about a lot lately. Sometimes singers start to get their heads all in a funk. Nervousness starts to take over - sometimes before a performance, or sometimes even in a lesson or when trying to practice at home. So here's just a little idea that could help change this around if this is you...

Try introducing a practice of gratefulness into your singing. There's a whole lot of research already out there about how gratitude can help you through the hard times. Even Oprah has endorsed the idea of using a gratitude journal daily as a way of keeping your mindset positive. After all, it's difficult to feel fear when you're doggedly focusing on what you're grateful for.

So the next time you start getting nervous while singing, say or think to yourself:

prayer and singing

It is not about me.

I am singing today in service to this song.

This song is wonderful. Its flowing melody and harmony take me to another place.

I'm so grateful for this melody. It is such an honour to be able to replicate this beautiful melody that I love to hear. Thank you.

If you are religious or spiritual, you could incorporate this into your gratefulness practice. Or you could leave it as is, and just mindfully be aware of any feeling welling up inside you; being kind to yourself the whole time. And see if, for a little while, you can JUST focus on the undulations of the melody - and perhaps the lyrics if there are certain lyrics that give you an enjoyable emotional reaction. Sing through the melody slowly and with focus - explore the highs and lows with interest and enthusiasm for where the song can take you. Just ride that wave and think of nothing else. Don't think about whether your voice sounds "pretty" or "breathy" or "strong" or "soft"; don't think of "quality" or of "getting it right", or even "what would my teacher say right now?"; don't think of performance. Just take a deep breath, close your eyes and trace in your mind's eye the beautiful patterns in the melody you're singing.

I'd love to know if any of you have tried something like this and if it helps. This may be something that other people haven written about, but it's something I've come to in my own experience. Feel free to comment below with any feedback you may have!

Student Spotlight: Becky Holmes

I taught Becky for some time at my Leeds, UK vocal studio. She's an absolute star of a girl, winning competitions all over the place. But she also has some serious soul to her voice, and my bet is that she's going to develop into a fine singer songwriter and performer. Here's a youtube she released recently.