Singing Through Fear To Find Joy
I'm posting more these days not so much to stroke my own ego but to force myself out of a long standing habit of being a perfectionist who doesn't share work. It feels paralyzing and makes it hard to live in the moment.
I started as a guitarist at age 10 and I got into studying voice later in life. I always had a desire to sing but I was painfully shy as a kid and even speaking could be really nerve racking. I felt more comfortable expressing myself by playing guitar. I would sing privately in my own little protected world but not publicly. There's something about playing guitar or another instrument that feels safer. I think it's because with singing we ARE the instrument.
I finally got to the point where I couldn't take the gnawing feeling eating away at me any more and decided to find a good vocal technique to build my voice. When I found out that Seth Riggs was Stevie Wonder, Prince and Michael Jackson's vocal coach I said to myself "the search is over" ha ha!
Little did I know that this was the start of what would be a twenty year journey studying and ultimately teaching the Speech Level Singing technique created by Seth Riggs.
I started by studying Seth Rigg's first book "Singing For The Stars," but after a couple years I was ready to take my singing to the next level and took lessons with Seth Riggs and other top SLS teachers Greg Enriquez, Dave Stroud, Dean Kaelin, Wendy Parr, Jeffrey Skouson, Michael Goodrich and John Henny. I never planned or expected it but my desire to learn as much as I could led me to eventually become a teacher of this method myself and was a Certified Speech Level Singing teacher for 7 years before branching out on my own.
I want to share some thoughts on singing based on my experience with the Speech Level Singing Technique and my own singing.
Have you ever noticed that when we speak to someone we're usually not nearly as concerned with the sound of our voices or feel that we need to consciously control the process? We can instantly tell the mood someone's in based on HOW they speak. The WAY we speak has a corresponding coordination (breath, vocal cords, tone) that's a RESULT of what we want to communicate. But as soon as we sing we're instantly aware of how we sound and try to "improve" the sound and "hit" the notes.
This is why many people feel shy and vulnerable even if what they're singing is not beyond their ability. It's also a big reason why our voices can "jam up" and we end up forcing our voices using extra muscles we don't need. Communication, pitch, range, tone and the health of the voice can be negatively affected by singing this way.
There are different parts of the brain at work when we're processing and working on new technical skills and when we need to be really singing artistically. Good singers know the difference and use emotion and story telling as the driving force for the sound, not focusing purely on displaying flawless technical ability.
The cosmic paradox is that we love listening to good singers BECAUSE the voice can convey such emotion, express feelings and tell a story in a way other instruments can't! For example, the average non musician will instantly lock onto the singer more than the other instruments in a song precisely for this reason. This is a huge topic in and of itself that I'll be writing more about soon.
It can be really hard to break through the wall of feeling like our singing needs to be better (movable horizon) and to constantly be looking to the future rather than living for today. My hope is to find the joy and to possibly encourage other singers who feel blocked to use their gifts and share with the world. It somehow feels freeing to post these blogs, rehearsals and warm ups because they're raw and in the moment. Imperfections, and all just like life.
Good singing is really about connecting to the emotion.
Vocal technique is simply a means to allow the freedom to sing and tell a story without as many limitations. Technique should also help you to continue to build more more while also protecting your instrument. Science has proven that singing is a healthy thing (natural antidepressant.) The key in my opinion is to not beat yourself up if you're not on the level you want or think you should be at. Sing songs that are at your current level, especially if you tend to be hyper critical of yourself, it's no fun! With practice you will improve as long as you're doing the right work.
I will forever challenge myself to grow and have been hard at work developing some unique approaches. To integrate good technique with the Art of singing is what it's about and that I'm happy to share these with anyone who feels blocked in their desire to develop and use their gift of voice. We all have a story to tell, feelings to express and a unique perspective that deserves to be shared. Let's make Art not War!
I hope you found these free tips helpful. If you want to work with me one on one to develop your ear, singing and musicianship you can Contact me to schedule a Skype session or in person lesson in Oakland and Berkeley if you're in the San Francisco Bay Area.