Top 5 Tips for How to Sing: No. 4 Always go back to the joy!
You learn how to sing when you balance technique with joy
OK – so here’s the thing. When we really love to do something and sweat and breath and agonise to make that something the best of what it can be, we so often suck the marrow of joy right out of it that we grow to hate it! Anyone who does a Bachelor of Music in Performance Voice will probably know what I’m talking about. No doubt it’s at times the same for anyone who’s seriously worked to master their vocal technique.
It’s good to love to sing!
Years ago when I was studying singing in the States I came to a complete impasse with one particular teacher who told me just before our parting, ‘you just like to sing the songs, you’re always singing the songs, but you don’t do the real work’. At the time I was devastated, I had, and still do have a tendency to take criticism way to heart and way too literally! It’s only looking back in the last year or two that I realise I was actually being paid (albeit back-handedly) a great compliment. Because the truth is I DO love to sing the songs, always have and hopefully always will – ‘cos isn’t that what it’s all about?
What’s the point of singing anyway?
Now in the fulness of time I realise that in the pursuit of excellence we must always maintain a balancing act between the practice that objectifies and refines technique and the singing that just makes the heart want what the heart wants – TO BE EXPRESSIVE AND FIND DEEP HEART CONNECTION WITH OTHER HUMANS.
When will it be perfect enough to love what you do?
This is something I frequently come back to in my studio with singers who worry that, ‘it’s not good enough, it doesn’t
‘sound right’, doesn’t sound like the original singer’ etc. etc. There’s a lot of stuff going on here of course, such as the epidemic, ‘ipod generation’ attitude that it all has to sound like what they heard on the ipod or it’s no good. But beyond that this is the lament of the artist who’s sitting outside their head as they sing and critiqueing every little note and finding it wanting. In your practice I actively encourage you to devote at least a few minutes per session to just singing for the pure pleasure of it and not, ‘listening from the peanut gallery’ as you sing. This is a liberating experience that oftentimes has miraculously cleared up some stumping issues with how to sing because it’s the psychological equivalent of, ‘re-setting the clock’ when the internal gears get jammed.
Singing is a complex psycho-physical activity
Given the deep connectivity of the human voice to the mind, body and spirit it can oftentimes be derailed by too clinical a scrutiny. Singing is a complex psycho-physical activity that happens best in a deep state of neural plasticity. I see this as meaning that the experience is free to shape itself organically, miraculously, moment to moment. When this magical synergy of heart, mind and body occurs we can’t be over analysing whether the, ‘schwa’ vowel was quite neutral enough, whether we opened the throat enough for the high ‘G’, did we come in a fraction of a beat too late? etc.etc. Sometimes the internal critic needs a free lunch pass even in practice so that we can inhabit a neutral and liberating space of open expressiveness.
Always finish a tough vocal work-out with a little bit of joy, that’s how you learn how to sing!
Simple really – just make sure each practice session – particularly if it’s been arduous, finishes with at least a few minutes of pure unbridled vocal expressiveness. After all, that’s why you’re singing right?