When does it "click"?

One of the phenomena that is always interesting as a teacher and a learner is that of the “click” moment. I will try to define the “click” this way: when a concept that has been introduced as a desirable improvement becomes a part of us. Sometimes an instruction will be understood, tried, and incorporated very quickly, and in other cases, it can take a long time.

I will keep it personal for now and talk about myself as a learner.

In my vocal studies, I have found that sometimes I’m slow, and it is of course frustrating. When I habitually do a thing suboptimally, I get instruction in how to fix it, but I may not get it and/or keep it right away. I have so many creative ways to misunderstand or sabotage the simplest things.

I began study with a new singing teacher in the spring of 2009 and our work has included reforming several vowels. He will instruct and demonstrate, have me try it until I can do it, and then off I go, eager to make this thing a new habit. But I go back for the next lesson and I hear the same thing again, and I think “Why couldn’t I fix this?” but some part of me knows that there is a deeper reason for the problem’s continued existence. A case in point is my “Ah” vowel, which inside my head does NOT sound like Ah when it is correct. But when I listen to a recording of myself, it is clear that this thing that feels like an intense “Uh” is indeed “Ah” and furthermore, my previously-used Ah is a shallow, constricted, flat thing that must be replaced.

I think the thing that finally makes it click is different in different cases. Possible click moments:
– When the new way feels good.
– When the new way no longer feels bad.
– When I finally feel safe trusting the new way.
– When I am given a piece of the puzzle that I needed to completely understand the new way, i.e., “I thought I knew what Teacher meant, but no, THIS is what he meant.”
– When I am ready to give up my identity as a singer with this particular problem. (this one seems to be huge for me)
– When I am completely fed up with how things are and am ready for any change, i.e. “What the hell, why not?”
– When I am doing something new for which I have no previous beliefs.

In the case of my stubborn Ah vowel, it wasn’t until the new Ah started feeling good rather than annoying, that I was able to start to habitualize it. I could have fixed it long ago, if I hadn’t judged it as weird or uncomfortable. It’s just a vowel, for Pete’s sake! My own personal guidance is just sensations! Barring actual pain, why could I not accept the new sensations as permanent friends? I don’t know the answer and I may not need to know the answer, but really understanding that there IS a block to deal with is helpful. It is certainly more helpful to recognize a block than to label oneself as stupid, for example.

So in the future, as I recognize the need for new, improved habits, I’m going to try to pay better attention to possible saboteurs of the “click”. It can be an interesting and enjoyable game to learn these things about myself, once I calm down and really look at my thought patterns as I try new things.

If you enjoy this blog, consider grabbing a copy of Sane Singing: A Guide to Vocal Progress, available in print and ebook!

2 Replies to “When does it "click"?”

  1. One thing that undermines understanding, as I explain to my students, is that the brain recognizes the sound we make and identifies with it. So, if the sound changes due to the efforts of teacher and student, Brain is likely to say, "Oh,no, that is not me. I'm going back to the way I sound!" That is why you sometimes get a split second of changed tone and then it goes off the tracks. This brings in the importance of rhythm as a tool. The more we use our musical sense (rhythm)in any given vocalise, the greater our chance of getting to an maintaining change.

    Good post, Brian.

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