Top 5 Tips for How to Sing: No. 5 Trust your Gut
How to Sing | Own your own Journey | Know when to Move On
The road to barely adequate singing is paved with good lil’ singers who always did what their teachers told ‘em to do! OK – this one has always been contentious, but it’s a basic truth that the time comes in every singers development that the time comes to wise up and move on from whom you’re getting singing input from. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t listen to good advice and bare with a teacher long enough to see if what they say really does pan out.
Proof of the Pudding is in the Singing
However, I’ve learned from bitter experience that it’s very necessary to separate out wanting to believe that a teacher/exercise is working for you and the thing actually benefiting you. With singing, as with most other things in life, the litmus test is always in the result – do you actually sing better with the input you’re getting?
If you really want to learn how to sing sometimes the best thing you can do is, ‘Hit the Road Jack’
This may seem good and obvious but a lot of times it’s not. It’s buried under a mountain of psychological obstacles to working out ‘what’s really going on’. When we’re a student of singing the barriers usually have something of the following flavour, ‘this teacher/exercise is very highly respected and if it worked for XXX it must work for me’, ‘this vocal method was recommended by XXX and they sing really well’, ‘I’m feeling really stale and bored with my singing lessons but I could NEVER leave X teacher, they’d never forgive me and I just can’t face telling them’.
The essence of this tip, quite possibly the best tip I can ever give you, is SEPARATE out the emotion from the issue and analyse what you’re getting from your singing training as dispassionately as if you’re wielding a surgeon’s scalpel.
A Good Singing Teacher will Always Respect Your Choices
Too bad if you think your teacher will be upset if you leave, a decent teacher is bigger than the ego attachment of being your teacher and will respect your choice when the time’s right for you to move on. If the teacher gets bitter and petty about you leaving, then they were never worthy enough to be your teacher anyway. In a healthy student / teacher relationship you must tell your teacher clearly why you feel an exercise or approach isn’t working for you and have a constructive discussion about the best way forward.
Break Free of the Parent / Child Status Transaction
Believe me, I know that this may be the hardest thing in the world to do. Usually the relationship between a singing student and a student is very intimate. If you entrust your voice to a teacher it can be no other way, as the voice is such a true expression of who you really are. It may be your worst fear to confront your teacher, or a method that others passionately endorse as it is often akin to casting yourself out of the fold. However, better to be free and walk your own path than to hold with another’s dogma that no longer serves you.
How do I know when I need to make a change?
Here’s a summary of the warning signs you should change the game:
1. You feel continually frustrated with your lessons and your singing.
2. You dread going to your lesson and find yourself making excuses not to go.
3. After you practice your voice continually feels dry, scratchy, constricted and sore.
4. When you practice your sound isn’t anything close to the described outcome.
5. You can’t understand what the expected outputs are from the exercise/method and you don’t know what to ‘feel’ as you do it.
6. Your experience as you undertake an exercise is completely different from how it is described to you and so is the resulting sound.
Always trust your gut
Of course, the first port of call should always be a mature conversation about mutual expectations. The onus is on you to always faithfully and accurately describe to your teacher how things are for you and what you feel you need. But in the final analysis always trust your instincts, if your body and mind are screaming that something isn’t working for you, then it doesn’t matter at all about the legions that swear by it, honour your experience and don’t delay in taking responsibility for what’s right for you. Having the necessary, but difficult conversation is one of the most empowering things you can do not only as a singer but as a human being. If you can move on when the time is right for you, the reward will be exponential improvement rather than the usual stagnating frustration.
Have you ever had to move on from a situation that took a lot of courage to make the change? Please leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear about your experience!