April 18, 2017


What a title. One that needs a bit of explanation, right?

You are singing in a choir, and the person standing next to you has a big voice. What happens? You are sucked into thinking that you have to keep up, sound bigger than you are (if you don't) and end up pushing the hell out of your instrument. 

Or this. 

You spend a lot of time listening to singers, copying what they do. The problem is that you really don't know what you are doing yet. It doesn't feel right. Your fear? You'll always be a wanna-be. 

Or this. 

You know you have a voice, have been taking lessons and like your teacher, but leave every lesson sounding hoarse. 

In each of these cases, the singer has lost himself. Is this smart? Of course not. But we all do this until the pain of going over the edge makes us stop, take stock, and figure things out. 

In the first case, the singer who over-sings has to learn to stay in his auditory sandbox. In the second, the wanna-be finds a really good voice teacher. In the third case, the singer figures out if there is something wrong biologically, or if the technique being taught—or the person teaching it—isn't up to snuff.   

In each case, stepping back before moving forward again requires the willingness to accept and learn from failure. The problem is that it's all too easy to let someone do your thinking for you. Stepping back also involves a degree of self-awareness that acknowledges that actions can be taken which will lead to a better result. This goes back to the old adage which observes that if you are doing something and not getting the result you want, you had better look at what you are doing. This is different, of course, from crippling self-doubt which prohibits one from taking action in the first place.

Seduction is very strong in singing circles. Instead of finding out what the voice is and what it can (and can't) do on its own terms, the singer gets lost in fantasy land. This is a huge mistake. If persisted in, a lot of neurotic behaviors can and do result. Grandiose ideas are common. Life becomes black and white, and the other guy is always black. He or she can't understand me. No one appreciates my talents, and so on and so forth. All this results from a false sense of Self—of trying to be what one is not. 

Here's one thing I've learned as a singer and teacher. 

No one has your voice. And you can't have anyone else's voice either. Sure, your voice may sound "like" someone else's voice. But it can and never will be that other person's voice. Better to find out what your voice can (and can't) do instead of trying to do and be something you are not. 

What else have I learned? 

We feel and hear ourselves first before the listener does. That is our job as singers. 

When you know what to listen for and how this listening feels, singing becomes a very pleasurable experience. This involves the audition of bone conduction—the awareness of buzz—which can be experienced via an open-throated [e] vowel. This is simple stuff, if you know what I am talking about. If you don't, you need to find a teacher who does. 

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