Using Mindfulness to Improve Your Singing Technique
I’m a huge fan of the Olympics, so as you can guess, I’m in hog heaven right now tuning in each night to see the latest from the Winter Games in South Korea. As I watched legendary snowboard champion Shaun White pull off a come-back to get the gold, it got me thinking, as I often do, about parallels to singing. It occurrs to me that training more like an Olympic athlete can help you improve your singing technique.
Singing is an artistic endeavor, but in my view, it is also an athletic endeavor.
It involves training your body to do the same thing over and over for a desired outcome just as any athlete does. Physically, it is no different then Shaun White training his body to do the mechanics of his amazing snowboard tricks so that when he gets into the competition, he achieves a peak performance that appears effortless.
Just like any athlete, a singer’s body cannot do what her brain is sabotaging.
While Olympians and pro athletes figured out a long time ago that in order to achieve success, training their mental game is just as important as training their physical game, most singers and those who train them have been very slow to adopt these techniques. But you don’t have to be like most singers!
Learning how the mind-body connection plays into in your singing technique makes all the difference in the world between being a good singer and being a career sustaining, effortless, powerfully great singer.
What do I mean when I speak of the mind-body connection as it relates to singing? Let’s first remember that sound is a form of energy associated with the vibrations of matter. Let’s also remember that your whole body is your instrument as a singer, not merely your vocal folds. When you sing, sound energy (in the form of vibrations) moves through your body. If certain parts of your body are locked, tense, held, grabbed etc., then the energy and the vibrations cannot flow freely and the sound is negatively affected.
Now consider that most of us, without being aware of it, physicalize our thoughts, emotions and feelings. We hold them in our body. It’s just part of being human. When we are scared for example, we brace ourselves in an effort to protect ourselves from whatever we fear is about to happen. We will hold that tension somewhere in our body, perhaps in our shoulders, in the pit of our stomach or in our jaw. It isn’t just the big feelings that we physicalize. More subtle emotions are embodied when we react to things like expectations, perfectionism, or negative self-talk. Whatever the cause, and whatever the feeling, it lives in our body, and if you are a singer, then it also lives in and effects your instrument.
Keeping your instrument in tip-top shape means clearing the tension, and the best way to do so is to address the part that your mind plays in creating that tension.
Find a class or course that teaches the practice of mindfulness, of present moment mind/body awareness. I am very lucky to live in Los Angeles where there is an ever growing community devoted to mindfulness practices of all sorts. Here are some classes and teachers to investigate as a place to start:
The Den Meditation Studio: (Locations in Hollywood and Studio City) From mindfulness meditation to workshops, they offer guided meditation classes for every lifestyle, every day of the week. Whether you want to learn how to meditate or find a home for your meditation practice, this is a great place to go. My favorite teachers at The Den are Chandresh Bhardwaj and Heather Prete. They both teach weekly classes at The Den as well as at meditation retreats around the world, so you don’t have to live in LA to learn from them.
UCLA Mindfulness Institute: They bring the ancient art of mindful awareness to a renowned mental health research institution in a scientifically supported and rigorous form. They offer guided meditation classes, meditation podcasts and workshops.
Unplug Meditation Studio: (Santa Monica) They offer a wide variety of simple and eclectic meditation and mindfulness classes. They make it easy for everyone from busy skeptics to modern soul-seekers.
And for those of you who want to dig deeper into a more specific experience of using mindfulness practices to improve your singing technique, my 4 Month Intensive is designed for that very purpose. I bring mindfulness into the vocal studio via eight carefully crafted modules synthesizing mindfulness practices with high level singing technique which translates into real-time transformation of your sound.
You know what I always say: Changing Thinking = Changing Singing
Just imagine what could be possible for your singing once you understand and utilize the mind/body connection. It’s a lesson we can learn from Shaun White and the rest of the Olympians living their dream right now.