Singing is innate to being human. We all have a voice. But, many of us, from the closeted-wanna-bes to the you-can't-make-me-sing-if-you-tried people to professional singers, have probably had at least one experience of frustration or lack of ease with their voice. My most recent struggle was the other week in my four days of recording in the mountains.
In a tiny room above a friend's garage, looking out the window at the beautiful mountain range in Winter Park CO, Brandon and I worked 10 hours a day on the violin and vocal tracks for the new album. The first two days, I was open, receptive, just happy to be up there putting this time into these songs. But by day three of working so hard, I was exhausted. So I started pushing and forcing. I did vocal take after vocal take, each one more tired, more forced more frustrating. I forgot my real reason for being there: to give voice to the story of human experience inside each song. Recording instead, had become all about accomplishing and getting "it" done.
Then, outside on a walk on our last day, with the sun glinting off the snow covered peaks, and the wet smell of spring in the air, I began to sing. I sang to reconnect with myself. There was magic in my voice again. I felt grounded and open. When I returned to recording, the whole experience was transformed. I enjoyed the process, experiencing an incredible connection to the music regardless of how many takes we did. I became authentic with what we were working on, and when I was tired, I allowed myself to stop.
Many of us often feel we have to be in a perfect state in order to sing well. Some of you out there are convinced you can't sing because you don't have "the" voice. But what if instead of needing to feel a certain way, have a certain voice, be a certain way, we could sing in order to connect and open up.
A student shared with me this week that she struggles with neck tension and always makes sure she takes hot baths and does everything to relax before a show, because she knows that this tension effects her voice. Now, it is true that tension anywhere effects our voice, our playing, and our ability to perform well. But what if, instead of trying to get to the perfect physical state, we simply used our voice to help us relax? In experimenting with this myself, I found the more that I use my voice in a gentle way, trusting that the technique is there, I can soften in the rest of my body, and I can connect even more deeply to the music and to my audience.
Since my return from the mountains and these discoveries, I find I am more connected to people then I have been in a long time. In simply singing without attachment, I am more open to recieve and give love. I have developed several new powerful friendships this last few weeks. I am no longer using my voice as some tool to get somewhere or to prove something. I am listening to my body, letting it be tired when it is, dropping my agenda around my own practice and performing. I am using my voice to open up. And as a result, my voice has a new sound to it that has been missing in the last few months of forcing. It is warm, open, easy. My experience of singing is more joyful, and the chronic cough I have had for several months is disappearing.
Where in your life are you not fully satisfied in your r relationships with other people? Where are you experienceing not being heard or not being fully expressed? I invite you to begin noticing how by opening your throat and taking some time to sing every day (even if it is in the shower) you can begin to speak your truth more fully in your life and relationsihps and connect more authentically and deaply with yourself and others. Just start by singing and observe what opens up. Allow your voice to open you.
A practice in allowing our voice to help us open:
1). Be in a quiet space where you can feel comfortable making noise.
2). Take a few deep breaths. Notice your core (the place at your navel). Breath into this space. notice the movement of breath, of your diapram.
3). Bring your awareness to your heart space. Notice how your ribcage expands, your chest widening as you continue to breath.
4). Begin to sing. Sing anything. Happy birthday, om sounds, whatever you want. Imagine your throat opening as you sing. Let the sound be however it is. It is all perfect.
5). What do you notice? how is this for you? take time to reflect. Do you feel more open? connected? whatever answeres you have our perfect. Where do you still feel stuck? Can you breath and sing into this space?
When we allow our voice to open us, we can learn to express ourselves more fully. Some people when I invite them to work with me say "Oh I can't sing, you would not want to hear me." They don't understand that it's not that they can't sing, it's that they don't. They have not developed the sensitivity to their own sound, the feeling of singing, the understanding of what it is to open the voice. So of course the experience is they cannot sing. Often we try to open first, work on our voice, learn tools and techniques, become more confident. Singing is a process of learning to listen and learning to open.
By simply beginning to sing you are giving your voice permission to be heard and to fall into place. You may never develop the perfect, longed for, culturally acceptable, "pretty" American Idol winning voice, but that does not mean there is not a unique place in your life for your singing voice to come out, and be heard, even if it's just by you, even just because you long for a more expressive experience in your life, relationships, body and experience of self. So I invite you to start now. Sing. Sing for no reason other then to explore your voice and let it out. Sing.
Love and blessings,