The vocal environment – psychological

In the first of the “environment” series, I referred to one aspect of the environment in which singing happens – the shape of the vocal tract. Then for Part 2, I went outside the singer and talked about the influence of style and genre under the umbrella of the culture. Today I switch back to the singer and consider the mind.

I’m going to experiment here and write without structure about the psychological issues I’ve observed that can affect singing.

Whether you like your voice.

Are you singing to express something?

Are you down and want to feel better, or are you feeling good and bursting into song?

Are you free to sing what you want when you want, or are you performing as ordered to by someone else?

Are you running a checklist or giving yourself technical instructions while you sing?

Is it possible to “just sing” or are you thinking about your product?

Why is it that it seems so easy to sing in some situations and just be happy doing it without worries, and in others it feels self-conscious, and not good?

Do I feel like I have a right to sing? Why or why not?

Are there concerns that people will or won’t like what I do?

Let imagination run wild or rein it in and control it?

Remembering what I was taught, what I teach, what I think is correct. Feeling overwhelmed that what I might do if I was free will never happen. It will never be good enough, it will never be ready, nobody cares.

* * *

The psychological element is huge. As an audience we feel the psychological place of the singer to a large degree, and this is why low-skilled singers can move us more than polished ones. Singing that comes directly from a place in which the singer is able to just give it without reservation is what I want to hear, and what I want to give. As a teacher, I can give details and exercises and encouragement to help singers (including myself) prepare for those moments. But there has to come a time that preparation is left behind, and bold execution begins. The word many people use about this kind of performance is “naked”. Which may also be called authentic, real, charming, moving, impactful, joyous, or devastating.

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