In our singing practices we are often very hard on ourselves (ask me how I know…)
We make a sound that doesn’t sound *exactly* like the recordings we like and we just assume that it’s “not meant to be.” Or that we’re terrible, awful singers that will never amount to anything… (thanks, rude internal dialogue).
What most folks don’t realize is that singing is like any other physical endeavor.
Which means: WE WILL NOT BE GOOD AT IT FIRST.
(And no, you can’t skip to the good part.)
Say I wanted to learn how to golf.
Well, I’d need to learn how to swing the club and actually hit that tiny ball a million feet away from my eyeballs
(I’m pretty short so it’s likely only a few feet but it feels like a million).
How many bets that I will either miss and/or whiff the ball the first 488,999 times I try?
And then, how many bets that I will try to “skip to the good part?”
Meaning, I know a golf swing should look xyz so I’m going to do xyz.
Hmmmm. Well, no.
There are things I need to learn first. Where do my feet go? My weight? What do I need to look at? How does my body need to go through the motions of the swing? Where do I put my hands? I’m sure there are plenty of things I’m missing and that the steps aren’t in the right order but you get the point…not a golfer lol.
So if I try to skip aaaaallllllll the steps before the finished product then I’m really just dooming myself to lots of frustration and wasted time.
And here’s the real pain in the *ss–the more we practice skipping to the end, welllll, then we have to do work later to undo that "practice."
So it’s not just that we’re wasting time TODAY, we’re actually wasting our future selves’ time, as well. Nothankyou.
(I’ll write a blog later that talks about how I’ve embraced the fact that the things worth achieving in my life have all been achieved slowly…no sustainable growth in cramming.)
Enter Matt Edwards’ Five Steps blog.
When we’re working on our voices we can’t start with finessing the voice (or the good part), we need to build a foundation before we think about perfecting the sounds we’re making, and I LOVE the way Matt broke these down.
So what are they?
Great question, I would love to tell you.
1. Coordinating and stabilizing
There are a surprising number of muscles and ligaments that are involved in the singing process (and really, the whole body is involved).
Added complication: we can see almost none of them.
These parts need to figure out how to work together so that we can begin to make the types of sounds that we want to make.
This means that the sounds we’re making here will likely not be the ones that we want to record for our songs.
And, this can be FUN. And hilarious. I mean, when else do we have the excuse to make loud, often ridiculous, sounds??
We all gotta do them. And we have to do them a lot so we may as well laugh about it!
Once our voices figure out how to create the sounds we want to make, we need to strengthen those muscles and coordinations through repetition, at different pitches and volumes (and eventually, different resonance options) so that we can begin to make them consistently.
Can you repeat the desired sound with consistency?
Good, now let’s work doing that for longer times – singing is a marathon and not a sprint.
Just ask Lizzo or Taylor Swift–you can’t do what they do without a looooot of work on this step--these queens are some high level vocal athletes.
This takes time. (Enter grace, laughter, and self-compassion for the win.)
Ok, great, you can make the sounds you want to make for longer periods of time.
We work on moving through alllll of those options with ease (volume, pitch levels, vocal quality, resonances, etc).
This step is sooooo important because these vocal choices directly affect how people experience our music.
Music is about connecting and communicating so we want allll of the vocal options.
…and then, this is where we tweak and hone so that we can create the sounds and experiences that we would want to record or perform in front of an audience.
A couple of important takeaways–
We are ALMOST NEVER in only one step--we just can't skip 1-4 and expect step 5 to be fruitful.
We’ll never get to the last steps in a satisfying, repeatable way, if we don’t spend time in the first few steps.
Embrace the joy of ridiculousness!
AND, this does NOT mean that you shouldn’t sing in front of other humans if you haven’t made it to step 5.
In fact, DON’T wait to sing in front of others. Make some silly sounds. Laugh, and try again.
The more you do that as you progress, the easier it will be to get up and show off your bad*ss selves when you feel “ready.”**
The beginning steps can be FUN. The less seriously we can take ourselves, the better.
You’re going to make hilarious sounds. They will be loud. They may be ugly.
And then, we laugh and ask, what did we learn?
I try to apply this to everything I learn – let it be messy, ugly, and hilarious. And then let’s do it again.
So as you jump Feet First into your learning journey keep these steps in mind.
Be kind to yourself. Laugh. And then try it again. Rinse and repeat as many times as you'd like.
Now let’s go make some ugly sounds. WHO’S WITH ME?
What are your fave ugly sounds to make when practicing??? Put them in the comments!
**Take the word "ready" with a grain of salt–there’s always room for improvement, although I have issues with the idea of always improving and perfecting but that's a different blog post.