Singing & Performance: You were born to sing.
October 29, 2013
You were born to sing.
No, seriously, your body is set up to do this.
Do it right now. I dare you.
Sing a note.
You’re all “But I’m at work!”
It doesn’t have to be loud, just sing a little something…
You did it didn’t you? And, it felt good, right?
Imagine if you did it loud. That would feel super good, wouldn’t it?
See, that’s what I mean. You were born to do this!
That probably sparks one of two reactions in you.
The first: “I know!”
The second: “I’m a terrible singer.”
If your reaction is the former, do me a favor and keep reading. You’re more evolved than the rest of us, but I think there is something in this for you, too.
If your reaction is the latter, well, let’s talk this through a minute.
I’m not saying you were born to be Whitney, in fact, I’m specifically saying you’re not Whitney. But, even though you’re not, you were still born to sing and that distinction is an important one to make. “Why?” you ask? Well, giving yourself permission to not be Ms. Houston might just free you up to find more success with that instrument you’ve been carrying around with you for your whole life.
Let me explain.
One day I was in a voice lesson with a new student who had a secret propensity for phonating loudly at home, alone, with no one around, ever. She loved singing and referred to herself as “obsessed” in an email she sent me. In light of this obsession, she decided that she needed someone (me?) to tell her if she “should.” On our initial pass through some warm ups, I found myself practically begging her to open her mouth. She seemed to offer only space for what I imagined to be a whisper and the sound pretty much matched. It was in tune (from what I could hear.) Eventually, I stopped and said, “You know you’re not opening your mouth, right?”
Her response gave me a both a chuckle and an “Aha!”
She said, “I’m not opening my mouth because I don’t want you to think that I think I can sing.”
The thing is, I get it. Maybe you do too?
She wasn’t able to open her mouth and sing because well, she wasn’t Whitney Houston. Not only was she not Whitney, but also she was terrified I would find out that she was just herself. (Remember this later on: I already knew.)
A few weeks later, The Chicago Marathon setup shop a few blocks away from my house, and everyone else’s in Chicago because it is stinkin’ long! I made my way near the finish line to catch a glimpse of the elite runners as they completed their race a couple or few hours faster than most of the actual human beings running. When I saw these super human running machines whiz by at mile 26, it got me thinking… I was born to run. In fact, assuming we’ve all been fortunate enough to be born with our pieces in somewhat working order, we are all born to run. Not only that, but running feels good, too! I mean, I don’t do a lot of it, but it’s kind of common knowledge that running makes you feel high… serotonin and stuff. Also, a lot of people do it. Some people are really bad, and they do it. Others are really really bad and they train for marathons. Remind you of anything?
Fast forward to me on my sofa, watching the 10pm news, which was of course all about the marathon. After spending some time profiling the Whitney Houstons, I mean, elite runners, they cut to a gentleman named Maickel Melamed who was actually just finishing the race. He had Muscular Dystrophy and had taken something like 16 hours to complete the epic distance. His face as he crossed the finish line was something spectacular.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Maickel wasn’t concerned with keeping up with the elite runners. Actually, it seems he wasn’t concerned with any of the runners, but rather, using his legs to complete the marathon. When asked “Why?” Maickel actually said, “Because I can do it! That’s the point. If you can do something, you discover you can do it, and then you have to do it.”
Are you catching me here?
Now before you call fowl on my comparisons, let me say I know that running and singing are not the same. Singing is an intensely vulnerable act (and let’s save performance for another conversation, ok?) while running seems more… fundamental. But, I think the principle can be applied to me, or to you, or to that student who didn’t want me to think she thought she could sing?
Much of our success in becoming better singers depends upon our willingness to be present and aware of our body and our voice. Deep, right?
The bottom line is being present in that way (it requires little to no judgment in case you were wondering) is scary, even for you Mr. “I know!” But when we’re able to turn off that voice that says, “OMG, I sound bad!” and just stand tall, breath deeply, open our mouth, and do it because we can… we may hear something that we weren’t hearing before. Maybe it’s a bit flat? Anemic? Resembles an alley cat? Or, something that sounds a little better than we imagined it would? What if we tried it again? I’m betting on it being better than the first time.
You know what the best part is? It’s all you. It ain’t Whitney. It never will be. (Don’t worry; we all already know this about you just like I knew it about my student.) And when you get over it not being Whitney, you may just uncover the mental and physical freedom you need to be a better you. The “born to sing” you.
Now, I should probably buy some new sneakers.