Sing—such a simple word. One syllable, one vowel. Nothing scary there, right? Now close your eyes, and really think about that word for a few moments. How does it make you feel? Warm? Excited? Critical? Full of butterflies? Ready to run for the hills???
Singers are unique little birds. Just think, we’re the only instrumentalists that don’t actually buy or rent our instruments...our voices already live inside of us. HOW COOL IS THAT?? Our bodies are READY and WAITING to be vessels of sound!
Easy peasy, right? In the words of Sondheim, “Relax, let go, let fly!”
Here’s the catch...
We have to be READY and WILLING to RELEASE that sound! This means our mindset has to be OPEN to what we physically want to achieve when we sing. In other words, if you think you can’t, you won’t!
Whether you’re a professional singer or just beginning your singing journey, you’ve probably been introduced to your own personal Fearleader. As the alter-ego to our Cheerleader, our Fearleader thrives on planting seeds of doubt and negativity.
Do any of these sound familiar?
“I can’t sing.”
“I’ll never be able to sound like ____.”
“Are you kidding me?? I can’t hit that note!!”
“I sound like ****.”
“Scary big note at the end? Nope, can’t sing this song.”
“I’m not good enough for____.”
“What if my neighbors hear me mess up?” (Practice room neighbors count!)
Let’s get real for a second—I have been singing for my entire life and EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of these thoughts has crossed my mind at LEAST once (plus a few more, it’s a short list after all.) Our Fearleaders are really good telling us all of the reasons why we can’t conquer our vocal goals.
Where do our Fearleaders get all of this material?
Throughout our entire lives, we take note of EVERY negative word/feeling from our teachers, peers, family members, casting disappointments, you name it. Even watching our favorite performers can make us wonder if we’ll ever achieve that same greatness. Combine all of those years of emotional baggage and voila! A huge grab bag full of yucky thoughts for our Fearleaders!
Here’s the good news:
You are allowed to tell your Fearleader to SHUT UP!!! (Feel free to add colorful language...)
You are allowed to TURN UP THE VOLUME on your Cheerleader! (Full blast baby!!)
You are allowed to let go and just MAKE SOME NOISE!!! (Elphaba wails optional)
Now, let’s wake up that fabulous Cheerleader of yours…
Stand up right now...yes, actually physically STAND UP and show off your best superhero pose!! (Aka: hands on hips, legs slightly wider than hip-width apart, heart open to the sky)
Feel the STRENGTH and POWER surging through you in this pose, and let your Cheerleader speak aloud into the universe:
“I am grateful for my unique voice.”
“I release the idea of perfection.”
“I give myself permission to just MAKE SOME NOISE!!”
Repeat the mantras out loud a few times...how do you feel??? I encourage you to do this exercise every time you feel overwhelmed with the idea of singing. Whether it’s in an audition, a voice lesson, or singing in a living room of friends, we have the POWER to change the stakes. We have the power to decide whether our goal is to try to achieve vocal perfection (hint: it doesn’t exist), or to sing because it’s a miraculous and magical thing our bodies were designed to do! I don’t know about you, but the second option sounds like much more fun to me!
I have a final challenge for you:
I CHALLENGE you to tackle your Fearleader's favorite song. What is a song that you’ve secretly wanted to sing, but your Fearleader keeps talking you out of it?
Now, before you even start to sing, write down all of the worst things that could happen to you. All of your Fearleader’s best material. (Ex. “My voice cracks.” “I won’t be able to sustain that note.” “Feral cats will start screaming in protest as soon as I open my mouth.”)
Once you have a list of your Fearleader's best catchphrases, CLOSE YOUR EYES and sing through your song. Walk around the room if you'd like. This isn’t performing, you’re just MAKING SOME NOISE!!!
WOOHOO!! You made it through the song!!! The earth is still spinning!!! Broadway isn't cancelled!!!
Go back to your “fear factor” list, and make a checkmark next to all of the ones that ACTUALLY happened. Did it go better than you expected? I had a feeling it might! Why? You gave yourself PERMISSION TO MAKE SOME NOISE!! You knew what could go wrong, yet you sang through the song anyway. You told your Fearleader to SHUT UP and told your Cheerleader to “SING OUT LOUISE!!!”
CONGRATULATIONS, this is a HUGE VICTORY my friend!!!
Peace and love,