Singing, practice and expectations

I’m getting back to doing real singing practice again after a fairly long hiatus, and it’s throwing up some interesting challenges.

I recently commented on a poll over at readwritepoem, comparing the pleasure and naturalness of my experience of singing and of writing poetry:

The difference is the expectations I place on myself. Poetry I write for myself, principally, and thus it gives me great pleasure. Singing had become something I did for others and so it became an effort. Hard to judge whether my poetry gives others as much pleasure as my singing – but I feel it certainly achieves more pleasure in others at a cost of much less pain to me – that’s what I mean by it coming easily.

I’m working my way back to singing naturally and easily too – but it’s a slow process once you’ve lost that sense of freedom and ease.

I think I’ve done less singing in the last six months than any other time in my life. Which was partly a combination of emotional fallout from the breakup and the challenges of moving to a new job and a new country. But I think more importantly it’s been to do with the pressure I put on my singing in an attempt to become a professional singer. The high standards I set myself. And the blows to my confidence of receiving a succession of rejections – including rejections from courses and companies working at an amateur level. Anyway, with all of this I lost the confidence in my own ability to sing.

For a while, I just floundered, feeling I was betraying myself by not pursuing this dream that had been part of me, yet finally realising that there was no way I could pursue that dream at that time. I had to give myself space. At the same time, I was rediscovering writing, which felt like a far more natural and personal way of expressing myself, without the pressures of singing. I even started writing my own songs, which is a fascinating and satisfying process.

Now I think it’s time I started reclaiming my voice, and my singing. Recovering the joy and the naturalness – while at the same time not being lazy about technique. I have learnt a lot over recent years about finding my natural voice and trusting it to sing. My expectations got in the way there – I kept trying to produce the sound a particular way, rather than doing some basic things that free the voice to express its full resonance and communicative potential.

But it’s hard. Expectations get in the way of everything, but without expectations you don’t get anywhere. It’s a zen-like paradox! Somehow I must find the middle way in my singing. Wish me luck!

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3 responses to “Singing, practice and expectations

  1. Wishing you all the best in the world!!! 🙂

    I wonder if we shouldn’t slice “expectations” into two separate events: the “aim”/goal on which we focus all our skill, training and potential, and the “mark the arrow hits”, which we can endeavour to watch with suitable emotional distance for safety! After all, we have a fair idea of what we could achieve, given all best conditions, but what actually happens in the end has something of the haphazard elements of life. I see this a lot on our building site at the moment, and, perhaps it’s because I am less involved in the actual building than my husband, but I seem to take it better than him. He generally seems to plan things according to the best possible conditions and goes out confidently saying that “by this day, we’ll have finished this”, to which I have invariably shaken my head, much to his disgust and annoyance… And even much more to his disgust and annoyance, I have always come closer to the mark than he has. Because he is always clinging on to things as they SHOULD be, or even worse: as he WANTS them to be. It’s working in an ideal world with ideal conditions. Life is much more complex and messy than that: you’re counting on a helping hand that can’t turn up at the last minute; the materials you needed can’t be delivered until after you need them for THAT weekend; the weather turns out to be awful for the two weeks you took your holidays to work on the building site, setting you back at least five days; etc, etc. Life and the world throws things at you constantly, and the best you can ever do is ride the wave and make ready for the moment when things will be all right for you. Sometimes you just have to wait for the next wave. It’s frustrating, it’s annoying, it’s whatever you decide it to be, but it’s no use fighting against it, coz you just end up exhausting your energy for nothing. So train hard, take careful aim, taking into account all wind and weather conditions and your own handicaps, but then when you let go of that string, just “sit back, relax”… and your arrow will let you know when it gets there (wherever that may be)! 😉 xxx

  2. I can’t believe I didn’t know that you were a singer, what with your blog’s name (Words that sing) and your pseudonym.

    Best of luck to you in finding that middle way.

  3. Ybonesy – you can now judge for yourself how I’m doing on finding that middle way – I’ve started posting a few recordings of my singing so I can also share that journey with my blog-readers!

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