In my mind, there are two very important trends I have noticed that seem to be taking over our industry by embedding themselves in today’s singers psyche. I don’t know if it’s because the perception of the current economy puts real stress on how and where to spend your hard earned money, and/or that the proliferation of the virtual world has changed not only the professionalism when corresponding with others in our industry, but also has influenced mistakenly a singers idea about vocal technique. The virtual world seems to provide many possibilities for imitating a particular singer of yesteryear’s sound or even choosing one of today’s popular singers whose sound you want to imitate. I am amazed at how much time today’s singers spend surfing the web looking for and comparing singers. It seems like it would be wiser to spend time concentrating on putting your own vocal technique in place so the world can hear your authentic and distinct sound that would allow you when working with coaches to be able to express the characters emotion through the sound of your own voice. And what’s with the poor spelling, bad grammar and incomplete sentences we seem to be receiving in emails today? Is that part of your Personal Brand that you want to be remembered for? It doesn’t seem very professional to most of us on the receiving end.
Wow! Did I just say that? Yes I did. But then it’s not just me! Others with whom I often talk in our industry seem to be on the same page about these subjects. So is it a generational thing? I don’t think so and neither do others.
“Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables.” – Spanish Proverb
It’s about making choices. Everyone has a choice, right?
- You can choose to focus on the content when you read, comprehend and reply to email that needs your thoughtful response. Yes, this does take a bit more time, some contemplation and some actual completely spelled out words. So many of the email replies we receive (those who do hiring, managers, those who adjudicate and run musical organizations) seem to lack any understanding, or comprehension of what we actually said or provide answers to specific questions we have asked. And grammar, punctuation, and spelling are out the window! Is this how you want the professional world to perceive you? Is this you representing your Personal Brand? All of these things count as you build your career and reputation! With your friends or family using a Tweet or Facebook post are personal messages so it is understandable that you would and could use all the internet short hand and emoticons, but remember that there needs to be a difference when you are corresponding with professionals.
- You can choose to be responsible for the quality and quantity of what you want to put on your plate every day. Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and any comparable entities may be taking up way too much of your time and energy that could be used in a more productive manner like practicing by focusing on putting your own vocal technique in place. That is working smart. So choose wisely how you want to spend your time, energy and in the end, your money.
“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” – Anais Nin
- Do you waste your time and energy spending hours searching for and listening to lots of singers in your fach, until you find someone you can quite successfully mimic, doing so in all aspects of their performance? What is the reasoning behind your choice to mimic this singer for this aria and that singer for that aria? How is this working for you? Are you getting the kind of results and jobs you are looking for? Listening to singer of the past can be a great tool if you are emulating what they have to offer in the way of phrasing, or interpretation. Carefully studying and emulating what they are doing vocally can also be of benefit as long as you use what they do as a tool to help you better understand your own instrument and how it works. Bringing these elements to your teacher to help you perhaps better understand your own technique can help make this kind of practice into a profitable tool.
- Wouldn’t it be more gratifying to spend your time, energy and money on getting your own unique, consistent and authentic voice up and running? Yes, it’s often not fun. Practicing can often become routine and mindless; you simply replicate over and over again while trying to listen to the results of what you are doing to hear the right sound. It feels mundane, monotonous, and boring continuing to give you the results you have always gotten. This can be discouraging and make you want to give up. When this does happen I have noticed that often singers instead, spend hours mindlessly singing through their audition pieces or the roles they are interested in. They just want to feel good so they over indulge and wallow in their emotions without regard to whether it helps express the character, intent of the music and words. It makes them feel like they have accomplished something. In reality it accomplishes nothing except helping to continue reinforcing bad vocal habits. Then when it comes time to audition, they wonder why they didn’t get the job.
But when done smart in a mindful manner, thinking through the steps that are needed to help create this new habit then actually make some sound without trying to adjust or think about it as you do it, the results usually gives you a different outcome. Then you think about what just occurred, make any adjustments necessary, once again think through the steps that are needed to reinforce what you are learning and without listening or thinking, make more sound. Practicing this way in focused, small increments can accomplish amazing results. A solid vocal technique is practically speaking, about retraining muscles and keeping out of your thinking brain while doing so. Listening always takes you back to the thinking brain which is a lovely tool, but doesn’t come into play while actually singing. (If you try to learn how to sing by listening, you will have to always make adjustments vocally for each and every space in which you sing.) Our voice boxes run on automatic pilot and know exactly how to make sound perfectly without any help. When we think about trying to help all we do is usually restrict our throats and/or jaw in some way which in turn restricts breath. Wouldn’t you love to feel confident and self-assured truly knowing how you could mold and add your very own vocal signature, style and feelings to a piece because you had a rock solid vocal technique on which to build your career and reputation? This then becomes part of your value; what others know they can expect from you, your consistency of performance. This is how you build trust not only with others, but also with yourself, get your foot in the door and get repeat engagements.
“Never confuse motion with action.” – Benjamin Franklin
So what is it going to be? The same ol’, same ol’, running around like a chicken with its head cut off, or are you strong enough to stop all the distraction and take a long hard look at where you are right now and why! Want to make some drastic changes and really find out if you have the “right stuff” for the making of a singing career instead of simply over indulging in your emotions? You will have to start owning your own time, energy and money. That my friends, helps build the kind of foundation you can trust when failure and mistakes happen, and they will. No more excuses. Take your life back! Be able to trust yourself! And bravo for starting that process now!
“To do nothing is in every man’s power.” – Samuel Johnson