Halloween this past week got me thinking about the relationship between fear and singing technique.
Ghosts and zombies have nothing on the kind of fear that the opening of Gilda’s aria from Rigoletto used to elicit in me. Seriously. . . . there was a time I would rather walk through Haunted Harbor alone at 2am then to have to sing that passage one more time because it exposed every single insecurity I had about my voice and every weakness in my singing technique at the time.
So what do you do when you come to a place in a song that exposes the weakest part of your singing technique? What’s your reaction when you have to sing in the part of your voice that you are really insecure about?
Most of us do one of two things: we play defense and pull back to lessen the impact of what we perceive as bad, or we play offense and plough through, trying too hard in an attempt to force a better outcome. Both are totally normal reactions to avoid the discomfort of feeling “less then” in the moment. But here’s the thing, these totally normal reactions to our fear and insecurity have a negative effect how we physically create sound.
When we pull back as a defense then our body ends up pulling off our support. When we plough through as an offense then our body will push or force the sound too much and we end up blowing it out.
It’s important to understand your fear pattern and the physical reaction it causes. When you do that, you start to break the pattern, your singing will improve, the fear will subside and the hard parts of the song become easier.
One of my students was recently having a fear reaction to a phrase in an old song she was resurrecting. Prior to working with me, she’d performed the song in a lower key so she wouldn’t have to do any part of it in head voice. You see, her insecurity (as I’m sure many of you can relate) was around the shift from chest resonance to head resonance. The interesting thing is that she has quite a beautiful head voice. But because she has an offensive fear reaction to switching registers, she tries too hard, overdoes it and pushes her chest voice so hard leading up to the transition that it becomes impossible to move to head voice with any grace or consistency of tone.
Watch me work with Lilian on this tricky phrase to help her understand her fear habit of overdoing, and hear how amazing she sounds once she has some tools to get out of the fear reaction and into the sweet spot of her balanced, consistent technique.
Today’s challenge is to explore your own fear reaction to the difficult areas of your singing technique.
You can’t change what you’re not aware of and you owe it to yourself to keep evolving.
This thought exercise is fast and the impact could be huge, so don’t delay. Watch the video and I’ll look for you in the comments on the blog here.
If there are other singers in your life who could benefit from this conversation, forward this post to them. Let them know you support them and expand the community of compassionate rather then competitive singers.