Wow, we had some fascinating comments to my last blog post. It seemingly struck a chord with people. It really is fascinating how our belief systems operate, and what it is that forms our beliefs, isn't it?
If you haven’t read that article yet, click here to read it first - so you know what we are talking about.
I wrote about the importance of preparation and ended the article with the statement “Losers just wing it. Winners train and prepare.”
There were a lot of comments, even critical ones that would be worth addressing. Let’s today address one common belief that was formulated in this comment:
I find OVER preparation, where the singer does the same songs, the same way, at each performance, is Vanilla and BORING.
This is very common belief, and I would agree with her, but it of course depends on what we consider “preparation”.
I stated that people who excel know how to prepare. And part of skill development is to learn WHAT to prepare for and HOW to prepare.
This includes how to prepare for a performance/showcase/audition, such as preparing physically and mentally, developing and rehearsing the material, technical sound check, etc.
However, the art or preparation is much bigger than that. Everything you do in life is preparation for something in the future. Learning, growing, developing is preparation for something. The question is, what and how we prepare – i.e. what and how to learn.
If we think preparation for a performances means that you need to plan and rehearse the exact gesture you are going to make on the third word in the second sentence, then you are, in my opinion, not preparing to be an effective performer. (And yes, we have known performers fall into this trap too.)
If someone needs to sing through the entire song several times half an hour before the show, I wouldn’t consider that “preparation”. I would call that “freaking out”, and you’re doing it due to lack of preparation.
A stale and boring performance has little do with “over-preparation” really. It has to do with how and what you prepare and your training and your skill level.
Those who have studied with me know why I am the creator of the “Sing With Freedom” program and not the “Sing With Rigidity “ program. Prior to creating the home study version of what has become known as the Bristow Voice Method, I had become known as the person who not only helps people heal voice problems and develop their physical voices, but also trains people to become confident, charismatic, spontaneous, alive, and influential communicators and performers.
If you have seen the free video that I provide (the one that was recorded in the studio at the piano), I go into great detail of why it is that singing scales, for example, becomes counterproductive. The big problem with traditional singing training is that the belief in standing straight, using breath control, holding your jaw and larynx in a certain position, does indeed very often create rigidity instead of freedom. Many of you reading this have experienced this.
Yesterday’s actors were very much trained in making gestures and sounding in a certain way. Unfortunately, this thinking remains in much voice training, where the training is about making you sound a certain way, and do what is correct according to the book, rather than what is effective for you. Contemporary singers are well aware of this, which is why many shy away from those “singing lessons” – and understandably so.
In today’s world, we want truth and honesty on a different level than before. It’s part of human evolution. An effective singer today is not someone who can just create pretty sounds and Illustrate emotions through theatrical means. The effective singer is someone who can share real emotions, who can really bond with an audience, who is alive, charismatic, vulnerable and spontaneous.
But this is very hard to accomplish when the physical voice is restricted. Pros and beginners alike know how restricting it feels when battling fatigue, hoarseness, allergies, etc., when we feel the range and strength isn’t there, when we don’t feel as confident and free as we wish we did.
In The Singing Zone members’ area, freedom and truthful expression are big parts of the program. I provide a whole segment on the area of improvisation and being able to be spontaneous. It is also a big part of how to practice effectively. This is also why I, for example, provide the interview with a writer from Saturday Night Live, who is the ultimate expert on being creative and spontaneous by having to create comedy under a strict time line.
The beauty today is there are so many different versions of “singers”. There is no one specific way of singing these days and numerous styles are accepted by different kinds of people. Different ways of expressing is more accepted than ever before.
Which brings us to another comment from last week’s article:
"You either got it or you ain't. All the preparation in the world will not make an untalented voice sound palatable. If it were that easy everyone would be doing it wouldn't they?"
Although this person wanted to contradict what I wrote, he actually made my point perfectly.
A lot of people still seriously believe in the “Either you got it or you ain’t” philosophy, failing to be understand what “it” really is, and failing to understand what it takes to “get” something.
It is exactly because it is NOT easy, few people ever do what it takes to transform their lives, heal their bodies, or discover and develop their potential. It is always far easier to do what you’ve always done and believe what you’ve always believed rather than change. It is always far easier to NOT do something than to do it.
For any coach, the hardest thing is always to get the client to do what is necessary to succeed.
Which brings us to another comment from last week:
"If a person can sing, they can sing anywhere, everywhere and at any time."
Imagine having this person be the one who is going to sing the solo at your next concert, or be in your band or barbershop quartet. You ask for a rehearsal, but the person says “Nah, I already know how to sing. I can sing anywhere, everywhere and at any time.”
But the big problem in not just the flippant attitude towards preparation. The problem is once again this belief of “either we can or can’t”. And yet, there is really no such thing as “now I can play tennis" or "now I can’t”. There are just different levels.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, I feel singing is for everyone. You don’t have to be a professional singer in order to enjoy singing.
How incredible it is for someone who was put done as a kid, who has always believed he couldn’t sing, but always wished he could, finally get to experience the wonderful feeling of enjoying music in a choir.
Even though I play tennis, I have no intent of trying to excel like Roger Federer. Nor am I unhappy that I can’t play like him. But I certainly always strive to improve every time I play and excel at my level. At the same time, I am not ignorant to not realize the enormous amount of work he has put in during his life-time, and how much he prepares for each tournament. And here's the important part: It is because of his enormous skill, he can improvise. And he must do it on pretty much every stroke.
Yes, it is the highly skilled musician with years of preparation who can join a jam session and improvise. It is the skilled comedian who can improvise.
So let’s adjust the statement “People who excel prepare” to …
People who excel have learned how to prepare and what to prepare in order to excel.
If you didn’t read Brian Lord’s comment, please read it. I found it very enlightening. Not surprising, he is a very accomplished musician and singer.
So to summarize this:
The pros I work with are the ones who never settle for “talent”. They always work on their craft. They are creative and productive. They struggle, they fall down, they get up again, and they learn from it.
The same mindset goes for all of you who sing as a hobby, who love to engage in activities such as singing for the sheer joy of it. You don’t need to excel on a professional level but you love to excel at your level. You are part of improving your communities and your audience by helping to create a wonderful emotional experience for them with your music. Or you prefer not to perform, but love to sing for your own inner satisfaction, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Most importantly, you don’t live the “I am what I am “ blocked mindset, but you realize that you are an evolving human being with the interest and capacity to learn and grow.
And for that I truly admire you.