Taking a risk – in singing

A few days ago I wrote about how surviving a very personal rejection made me much more confident in expressing my own truth (taking a risk). I also wrote about my fears about contemplating a professional career as a singer (creativity, confidence and love).

Today I was amazed by the way these two issues came together in a singing lesson. (Not from my regular singing teacher, who’s not around much at the moment, but one of her former students, whose doing very well at present!) Essentially her approach was to focus on one very specific sensation in the cheekbones, and follow that sensation, allowing the rest of the body to be relaxed and responsive. And not to manufacture or influence the sound in any way.

It’s really hard, because up until the last 2 years I’d been doing all sorts of little tricks to make the voice come out the way I wanted. But the intervention actually gets in the way of the full resonance of the voice. It makes the voice much more “produced”, and less immediate and intimate.

I’ve been working to get rid of all the little tricks and tensions – but every time I felt a little nervous about a note, or wanted a phrase to come out a particular way, they would creep straight back in, and I’d lose more than I gained. A frustrating process.

Anyway, towards the end of the lesson the teacher said that what I really needed now was to own my voice. To dare to reveal it the way it is. To stop tweaking and listening and interfering. To let go of expectations of what sound I want to produce, and just let my body sing the way it knows best.

And so, in effect, to present my authentic voice – as I had been learning the confidence to be my authentic self.

I’d been thinking that the break-up, in stopping me singing for a few months, had really got in the way of my professional aspirations. But the break up also taught me some important lessons about confidence and trust in myself, and above all shown me that I can survive being rejected. I’ve taken a real step forward in applying that confidence to my life. I want to see if I can now apply it to my singing.

Rejections come thick and fast in the early stages of being a professional singer, and some people never get beyond that stage. Having your voice and performance rejected by a panel of auditioners, often without any explanation, is painful, because both voice and performance are very personal.

But I have survived a rejection of me on a deeply personal level, at the hands of an intimate and trusted lover. Why should I be afraid of being rejected as a singer by an audition panel of strangers?


5 responses to “Taking a risk – in singing

  1. Pingback: Words that sing

  2. I’ve always found that singing has an interesting balance between technique on the one hand, and trying to be relaxed and natural on the other.

    The best thing I got out of the vocal training that I had when I was younger was a greater ability to get my voice to do what I’d like it to do. I enjoy that far more than trying to sound fashionable or operatic or whatever. Then again, I’ve never had ambitions to be anything more than an amateur.

  3. I’ve been thinking about your comment, Lynet, and what exactly I am aspiring to achieve. It’s not really that I’m going for a fashionable or operatic sound. I suppose I’m aiming for a beautiful sound – a tone that’s sweet and resonant and reasonably consistent.

    But it’s really counterintuitive: I recorded myself singing this morning, doing it the old way (trying to produce a beautiful sound) and doing it the new way (just letting out my natural voice).

    From the inside of my head, the old way sounds rounded and warm, but on the recording it sounds restrained and plummy. The new way sounds harsh while I produce it, with an edge to the sound that’s not particularly pleasant to hear. But on the recording it sounds much more vibrant and alive, and not harsh at all. And strangely it has a much more consistent sound quality, even though – well, actually because – I’m not trying to make it sound more consistent.

    Such a strange thing, being inside your own instrument!

  4. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must be to find “your voice” in singing. It’s hard enough doing it in writing. Then you add in the dimension of the physical (as you’re doing). Your blog is very enlightening to me. Thank you!

  5. You’re very welcome, Jane – glad you like it!

    In some ways the physical aspect of singing makes it easier – my voice as a singer is made by my body, so there’s something there to find! Whereas in writing it’s all coming from inside the mind.

    Having said that, I think the biggest challenge with writing or singing (and probably most arts) is exactlythe same – letting go of the fear that what you have to say/sing is not going to be good enough, and letting out what needs to come.

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