Singing isn’t Rocket Science, but it’s not always intuitive either.
Sometimes it’s frustrating for someone who struggles with singing to hear another person just burst into song and make it sound easy. “Aargh, why is it so easy for them, and not me,” you might think. “I must not be able to sing!“
Well, hold on! Before you make that decision about yourself, consider this – something as simple as tilting your chin up when you croon might result in a tight, constricted sound andfeeling. There’s a physical reason for this, and a teacher would instantly spot the problem and guide you to lower your chin. But if tilting your head back feels normal, how could you know that there was a simple way to improve your singing?
That’s why I like to say that though singing isn’t Rocket Science, but it’s not always intuitive either. I use the above example because I recently had a student whose voice quality changed dramatically by just repositioning his head a little bit. Unlike piano, violin or any instrument that is made of a material that doesn’t bend or lose it’s shape, the singing instrument is a mechanism that is infinitely changeable. You can slump it, slouch it, stick it up in the air, twist it to one side, hang it over a chair. Oh my gosh, it’s totally variable!
Not only that, but it’s big. Part of the singing instrument is in the torso, part of it is in the throat, part of it is in the head. That’s a lot of parts to coordinate and manage. Wow – we singers are incredible. And not only that, but we have to sing words on top of notes and rhythms. Oy vey!!
So – now that you feel totally intimidated, let’s think about singing in a different way… like an athletic pursuit. I’ll compare it to playing tennis. In this sport, you need the eye/ hand coordination to toss up the ball, then swing the racket overhead for a serve – or for a forward or back-hand volley to get it over the net. You need the strength and endurance to run back and forth across the court, and synchronize getting to the right place at the right time. If you were to start taking tennis lessons, it would take time for you to build strength in your core, arms and legs, and the skills to understand how to use the racquet. You would expect to practice on a regular basis for quite a while before you felt confident as a player.
The same is true in singing. A teacher will help you understand how the different parts of your singing instrument work and give you exercises to practice that will help you build skills and endurance. If hitting the right notes is an issue, you’ll strengthen your hearing skills too. You’ll probably work on a variety of songs to give you the chance to explore how words fit into your voice in different ranges – high and low. And just like in any sport or other musical endeavor, the more you practice, the better it will be.
So if you have challenges when you sing, rather than adopting the opinion that you’re not capable of singing, I encourage you to reframe your thought to consider that maybe you don’t have enough information to make a decision about your ability. Find a singing teacher to work with who will watch and listen to you to understand what skills you need – to get you singing with strength, coordination and quality. With practice, you’ll find a new normal and a path to express yourself musically. Then you’ll be in a perfect position to say to someone else, “of course you can sing!”
Malya Muth teaches her students in the North Puget Sound. Please see her website at http://www.nwvocalarts.com for further information!