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 9, 2013

Why listening to yourself is a bad idea

One of the things that makes your voice unlike anyone else’s is the shape of your head. When you sing or speak, you produce the sound in your throat, and then it travels through and out your body however it can. The path it takes determines what it sounds like, and there are many paths to choose from. 

One of my jobs as a voice teacher is to help you make a map of your head, to teach you to track the sound as it moves through your body and to sing by sensation, rather than by listening to yourself. 

Listening to yourself is a bad idea because no one hears you the way you do. Our brains register the sounds we make as soon as we make them, through our bones and tissues. The sound comes in our ears last of all. Our friends hear us only through their ears, and they probably think your voicemail messages sound just fine. If you think you sound funny on an answering machine, it’s because you do. When you’re listening to a recording, you’re hearing yourself entirely through your ears, and you never hear yourself that way ordinarily. You are still the same person, though, with the same voice.

Herein lies the fundamental strangeness, I would say the spiritual discipline, of studying and teaching singing: the singer will never know what she sounds like to the teacher; the teacher will never know what it feels like to be the singer; neither the singer nor the teacher can see or touch all of the instrument they’re trying to train, and the instrument is central to the singer’s identity. 

A fine kettle of fish!

Still, the best way to improve our singing and to make an even more beautiful mark on the world is to place ourselves in the hands of caring, competent, compassionate teachers and walk with them, one step at a time. 

What if I’m really not any good and I’ll never be any good?
But what if it never amounts to anything?

I honestly don’t know what any good means. 

I do know that waiting until next year to learn to sing/play the saxophone/write the novel probably won’t make it any easier, and if you start now, you’ll be giving yourself more time to amount to whatever you want to amount to. You’re the only one who’s keeping score on that account. 

I do know that your voice is one of a kind and I want you to be using it well your whole life long. If you love to sing, and you are open to singing differently, you will get better at it. You will find your way with it, and the world will be better for it. 

It is a huge leap of faith to work with a teacher. The best of them change our lives forever. When you’re ready to look for someone to study with, imagine you’ve been working with them for five years. Write down everything you have to thank them for. How have you changed? 

I finally understand ...
I am no longer afraid to ...
When the going got rough, you said/did/offered _______ and that helped me stick with it.

When you can thank them for changing you, you’re ready to be changed. 

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