There are many pathways to greater vocal freedom.
Learning how to experience more enjoyment in singing is one of my favorites.
Have you made the connection between enjoyment and vocal freedom?
If you’re completely “in-joying” what you’re doing it’s almost impossible NOT to be free (case in point: children at play!).
Here are 6 ways to help you enjoy your singing more.
1. Acknowledge Yourself (Practice Self-Gratitude)
Most singers I know tend to focus on what they lack.
- “If only I had a stronger middle register.”
- “If only I sang better in tune.”
Or they compare themselves to other singers and say things like:
- “If only I could sing like THAT.”
- “If only my high notes were as beautiful as that singer.”
Or worse yet, they take someone’s words and use them as weapons against themselves saying things like:
- “My mom was right…I can’t sing in tune very well.”
- “My former teacher was right…I do have bad rhythm.”
But continually focusing on what you’re missing or what’s wrong can suck all the joy out of singing.
Instead ask yourself:
- What do I already know?
- What’s working well with my singing right now?
- What skills and abilities are right there under my nose ?
Make a list of them and give yourself a literal pat-on-the-back for all the skills you’ve already cultivated and all the hard work you’ve already put into your singing.
Do a turnaround: Instead of trying to have what you want, try wanting what you have.
(By the way, did you ever stop to think the comparison game goes both ways, that other singers might want what YOU have?!)
2. Go Joy-Hunting
A couple of months ago, I was working with a singer in a live workshop who has perfectionist, self-critical tendencies.
She sang through her piece the first time and we were all quite moved.
However there was one problem – she wasn’t really enjoying herself!
To the rest of us it sounded beautiful and free. To her it sounded uninspired and constrained.
Her perception didn’t match the truth.
So I proposed an experiment. I said:
“Sing it again and focus all your attention on consciously looking for things to enjoy about what you’re singing. Actively look for things that you LIKE about it.”
She sang it again and many in the audience (including myself) were moved to tears.
More importantly she was actually enjoying herself!
Because she was looking for things to enjoy, she was cultivating a state of “in-joyment.”
I think one of the best questions singers can ask themselves when practicing is:
What did I enjoy about that?
After you answer that question, then focus on the stuff you want to fix.
But I believe it is essential for your long-term growth and enjoyment to start with the positive stuff first.
This is what I call “feeding the constructive critic” and it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself and your singing.
Before we go on, a brief interlude….
One of the ways to limit your singing enjoyment is to sing for a reason that’s not your own.
When we sing for reasons that aren’t our own it makes it difficult to be truly authentic and joyful.
I call this being tuned in to someone else’s radio station.
Recently, one of the TVF Academy students wasn’t sure what she really wanted for her singing.
She was hearing messages from family and friends about what she “should” do but she was having hard time filtering out their noise from her own signal.
I told her that the clarity of her OWN desire is a key ingredient in experiencing maximum enjoyment in her singing.
I used #3 and #4 to help her find that clarity…
3. Take Away the Toy
The first thing I had her do was engage in a simple thought experiment.
I told her to imagine that she could never sing again.
In an instant she looked deflated and sad.
She said that would be like taking away a toy from a child (that made the whole class laugh!).
Her strong negative reaction to the thought of taking away her “toy” was a clear sign that deep down her passion for singing belongs to her.
What a great thing to discover!
The great voice teacher Giovanni Battista Lamperti said, “Don’t sing until you’d die if you didn’t.”
Though that might be a bit extreme but I think the sentiment is right.
Choosing to sing (Yes) has much more meaning when not-singing (No) is as a valid option.
4. Dig Into Your Past
The second strategy I used with this student was to ask her what kind of singing opportunities she has enjoyed in the past.
She mentioned one particularly successful event, a house concert, which felt fresh, intimate and alive.
“Great,” I said, “those are the factors you know bring you joy. So actively seek them out in your singing and performing!”
Think back to some of your singing career highlights:
- What kind of performances have you enjoyed in the past?
- What was it about those performance that you enjoyed?
- How can you actively seek out those qualities to enjoy your singing more?
Your past contains important clues about how to bring more enjoyment to your present and future.
5. Own (and Consistently Renew) Your Artistic Desires
Do you ever feel like your artistic desires are at odds with the rest of world?
Cathy Madden writes about this in her excellent book, Onstage Synergy:
The social (sometimes familial) and cultural attitudes toward performing artists sometimes characterize the artist as selfish. This label is a disservice because, in order to fight being perceived as selfish, performers may resist identifying what they want and doing what they need to get it.”
Sometimes this is self-imposed.
We say: “I can’t be a singer and be a good mother at the same time.”
Or “If I truly own my desire to sing, I might fail and be disappointed.”
Here’s the simple fact of the matter:
If you shy away from owning your artistic desires (for whatever reason) you will never fully enjoy your singing and you will never be fully free.
Do you ever feel selfish for have deeper artistic desires?
And does even the thought of going after them make you worry that you’ll be seen as selfish?
I would actually argue it’s selfish NOT to own and go after your artistic desires because you are depriving the rest of the world of something it desperately needs – music!
In TVF learning programs, we gently insist that each student own their artistic desires and renew them every time they sing and perform.
6. Update Your Identity
Every singer I know has, at some point, suffered from “impostor” syndrome.
Feelings of being a singing “fraud” are rampant, even among professionals.
If you’ve ever heard yourself saying, “I’m not a real singer” then it might be time to update your identity.
It’s impossible to truly enjoy doing something if you are feeling a fraud as you do it (unless you’re a con artist!)
If it’s the truth, remind yourself every day (adjust the wording as it suits you):
I am a real singer.
My desire to sing comes from a higher power.
My singing makes the world a better place.
The world needs to hear my voice.
I am a real singer.
So, to review, here are all 6 tips:
- Acknowledge yourself (Practice Self-Gratitude)
- Go Joy-Hunting
- Take Away the Toy
- Dig Into Your Past
- Own (and renew) your artistic desires
- Update your identity
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