In my teens and 20s, I loved to sing by myself. When I was left to my own devices in the living room and I let loose I didn’t think about my voice. I was too into the music to really care. And I was certain that if I were on a stage and singing the way that I did in my house without any fear or inhibition, I COULD move audiences.
When people walked into the room though, or I had to sing in front of others for whatever reason, all the good stuff drained away. I would become self-conscious of my sound and embarrassed of any passion I felt over the words or music. Maybe the tone really wasn’t that great? Maybe I sound terrible or even worse, just ordinary, I would think. And who wants to see how I really ‘feel’ about some love song!
Of course with nervousness and shallow breathing, one’s tone can change. But even on the off chance, that my voice didn’t shake or quiver and I could fool people into thinking I was in control, it didn’t matter because performing wasn’t fun, it was a chore, something to get through.
With time and effort, though, I learned how to be ‘okay’ with my voice. I learned how to embrace the sound that my instrument makes. I still freak out on occasion performing, don’t get me wrong, J but it’s usually not because I am worried about my sound.
With that, take a look at these pots and pans. Now, see if you can pick one that you think is better than the others.
Of course, one isn’t ‘better’. If you wanted to boil a little bit of water, the smallest pot would be excellent while the deep skillet would not serve you. Making soup for 10? The large, hefty pot is what you need. Have 4 eggs to fry? The 14” sauté pan would be your choice.
Likewise, you were born with a voice formed in a particular body made up of DNA that has been evolving over millions of years. Your vocal cords, your mouth, nasal cavity, chest, all of the things required to make up your instrument are wonderfully unique to you. Assuming you are not tone deaf, your voice, be it tiny or booming, thin or deep, raspy or clear is really, just fine how it is right now. There is so much more to singing.
Obviously, training is important and certain songs and genres will lend themselves better to your instrument. Just like no one wants to cook a burger in a pot, nobody wants to hear an opera singer singing rock-n-roll. Wrong tool for the job. What I hope you will start to embrace today as you think about singing is that your uniqueness is the gift you have been given. It’s what can possibly make your singing spectacular.
Why possibly? There is something else and it’s key. What is critical to singing well is opening your heart. A song sung without any passion, without any of the ‘person’ you are, is useless. The best voice in the world, won’t make you care if the artist is not willing to share some of his or her own authentic emotion. Where does it come from? The energy that animates YOUR instrument, the life experiences YOU have lived, the joy and sadness YOU have felt and endured, the love, the fear YOU have walked through, all of this energy intermixed with your breath is what gives meaning and beauty to your voice. This is where the art of singing truly lives. So my first bit of tough love is to say, get over the idea that your voice needs to ‘sound’ a certain way. There are countless examples of people with ‘less than beautiful’ voices who moved generations of people!
So start with the premise that YOUR voice CAN serve you, because it’s yours and finish with the notion that your experiences and energy will add color to the song that no one else alive can bring in just the way that you can. And that is good enough.
In the next installment, I will talk about the HOW. If, you are like me and you feel like a generally shy or reserved-type of person, HOW do you open up on stage? How do share your deeper feelings about love and life with a room full of strangers and not die of embarrassment. Stay tuned. . .
Have a question about the BE IN THE BAND workshop, email RM@rosemarywatson.com
Want to audit? Space is available. Sign up before Oct. 19th!