July 10 – September 11, 2013. $200 for 10 weeks, or $25 drop-in. You don't need to be able to read music! Wednesday evenings from 7-8:30 p.m.

June 12, 2013

Sing now, listen later

One of the reasons I think it can be easier to sing at our lessons than at home is because we’ve outsourced the need to judge how we sound. We’re coming to the lesson with the expectation that the teacher is going to tell us how we’re doing, and we can let our own critical mind rest for a bit. I emphasize a bit, because my own voice lessons are a combination of me singing/being and then asking questions about what just happened. I go back and forth between a little thinking and a lot of thinking. It seems to work for me.

When I first started taking voice lessons in my twenties, I would faithfully tape record them and never listen to the recordings. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Now, that tape recorder no longer works, and I think all those tapes are warped anyway. Since the invention of the iPod, listening to myself singing has gotten easier, but not much. That has nothing to do with the iPod, but with me getting more comfortable in my own skin. Apple and I seem to be evolving together. 

I feel a bit like a phony for sharing an idea that I myself have never tried, but I do think this may be useful for someone out there... 

Since it’s hard to sing and listen to ourselves at the same time, let a recording device do the listening for you. Sing – freely, expressively, noticing what you feel in your head, while your phone or computer, mp3 device (or tape deck, if you still have one!) takes it all down. You’re not recording this for youtube, you’re recording this for you. Later, but not too much later, sit down with a comforting beverage and listen to what you sang, through headphones, if possible. Notice what you notice. Does it sound as free as it felt? Is there at least one moment where you can say, “wow! that was nice” ? If you’re like me, you may feel so repulsed/embarrassed/mortified that you cannot hear anything worth praising. It’s okay to push delete. Let me encourage you, though, to keep the recording if you can, at least until you have another one to compare it to. The more you listen to yourself, the less embarrassing it gets. I am living proof of that. 

And now that I think of it, recording yourself when you practice could be something like writing morning pages: writing three pages every day regardless of how you feel, in one sitting, on whatever comes out. Morning pages for me happen irregularly, and I am a happier person when I write them. When I re-read my them, I’m not so much interested in judging them as I am in finding out what’s been on my mind. I read with the eye of an explorer. “So that’s what I was thinking about? That’s a great sentence! Boy, I was really upset about that and it seems like nothing now. I wonder what that was supposed to mean? That could be a country western song” etc. It’s a great practice. I learn a lot about what moves me. I learn a lot about where I might be headed next. 

Maybe I could listen to recordings of myself practicing with the same explorer’s eye. Ear. “Attention K-mart shoppers, it’s now Thinking-Free Singing Time. Go have fun! Turn on that recorder and pretend it isn’t there. We’re just going to make some noises and process them later. Ready, set....”

Maybe I could. 

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