How To Be An Artist - What Goes Wrong For Many Students of Singing?
In my long experience as both a performer and vocal coach - (30 years doing both!) - I have observed that there are two MAIN areas that can give we poor singers a lot of trouble. Is it a lack of talent? No. These two areas may surprise you. Here they are:
A lot of singing students come and go. They "get the bug" for awhile and then life gets in the way, and they no longer have time to spend on building a consistent path toward their singing dream.
To keep a steady path of improvement in singing, you need to be consistent about your practice and about the other kinds of work that one must do in order to forge ahead:
1. Technical practice - learn how to use your voice well,
2. Song research - keep learning the right songs for your voice,
3. "Business" insight - learning how to negotiate the "world" of singing that you have chosen as your goal (be it singing in a choir, doing solo work, singing with a band, singing at a karaoke bar once a week, opera singing, quartet singing etc)
Those singers who "dabble" with singing work often wonder out loud what went wrong. "Why am I not getting much better? I have been at this for a whole year!" But has it been a year of consistent and steady work? Learning how to be an artist of any sort takes time, energy, courage and a consistent path forward.
If this sound like you… don't despair. Most of us suffer from
Inconsistency - "itis" in one part of our lives or another. But keep this in mind: if you can pull yourself back on track, time & again, your
battle is half won. As Woody Allen says:
Suggestion: A New Year is just around the corner. Decide upon what you can do to remain consistent in your singing work. Even if you can do just a little bit of work - do it regularly. Don't worry about moving slowly - just keep moving consistently. You will get there.
2. Feeling Unworthy (How to be an artist, when your mind says "NO Way!")
So many of we humans fear that we really don't deserve to have the thing we want. Singers tend to be very much this way. It takes a lot of courage to get up and sing. You have to share a very private part of your inner world when you perform. And often we end up asking ourselves:
"Who really cares about what I have to say through a song?"
"Why should anyone listen to me?"
"Who am I to stand up and take centre stage?"
"Am I really worthy of being heard? Probably not...Guess I'll give up."
I HAVE TWO RESPONSES TO THIS POTENTIALLY DEBILITATING SITUATION.
1. Because I have felt this way myself at one time or another, I have developed a way of dealing with it. I watch quietly.... as the thoughts and the accompanying feelings move through me. I see them as nagging old friends.
"Ah yes, there you are again!" I say to them.
And I choose not to give them too much energy. I see those unkind thoughts as an ordinary part of being human. They come and they go. But I know that they are not the TRUTH about who I am. Eventually, the feelings pass - the thoughts drift away... And I get back to the remarkable work of learning how to be an artist. (A lifelong type of work.)
2. But many of us are truly slayed by these thoughts and feelings. We do battle with them daily. And often we give in --- and then give up.
Another way to cut them off at the pass is to do what I suggest in number one at the top of the page - continue to consistently work at fulfilling your dream. A strong sense of worthiness comes from knowing that we are truly and honestly working at improving our singing abilities every day. As we see the improvements build up, those nagging inner voices have less impact. They may continue to roam through your mind, but you will be more able to listen calmly, then disagree and once again get back to work.
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Karen Rile who teaches creative writing says: "Sure, talent matters... In our culture, we have romantic notions of the artist as a formidable, congenital genius. Obsessive focus on talent alone creates a hobbling anxiety of failure. How many of us are discouraged from trying because we were told we are "tone deaf" or "can't draw a straight line"?