the courage to be vulnerable can make us more open learners. admitting i don’t know something can feel vulnerable. i’ve become a proud life-long learner #mondaymusings #wayshowers #vulnerablesinging #authenticsinging #ccminstituteRead More
#summerlearning and teaching is what’s in store for me this summer. you might like to join me! Look at all the wonderful opportunities to learn about the voice, singing, harmony and more this summer. #mondaymusingsRead More
“What if I’m not good enough?”
I hear this all the time from clients. You know where else I hear this? In my head, all the time!! Or, I used to.
What is good enough in regards to singing?
If you’re trying to get on or win a TV singing competition show, there may be some qualities we could agree on that you could look to for skill building, but it’s still arbitrary. We vote our opinion in regards to art. Other than this specific goal, what is good enough? Good enough for someone to enjoy listening to you? That’s still a little arbitrary, but let’s say our baseline for someone enjoying you is making sure you can match pitch (same thing as singing in key/tune). That is achievable skill-building skill! Give me a shout if you want to find out how!
Ok, so you can sing in tune and you’re not trying to win a singing competition show. I pose that you go ahead and…
BELIEVE you ARE good ENOUGH!
Once upon a time, singing was an outward expression of joy and celebration, sorrow and protest and any emotion in between. Everyone is GOOD ENOUGH to sing as expression.
I’ve sung my whole life. Got solos in church musicals, school concerts, got patted on the back over and over for how beautiful my voice was/is. Still, i would worry I wasn’t good enough. Better than her, but not as good as her. Of course, it’s all rubbish! You know when I realized that? When I realized that I also didn’t believe I was a good enough person, worthy of love and respect, and all the things. How absurd that is when we hear someone say it. Especially someone we love and do think is GOOD ENOUGH. But, you know what?
According the the wide world of self-help books, many of us feel this way.
Five years of diving into discovering who I am, why I am, and how to heal, and be better, I believe I am GOOD ENOUGH. I have bad days, moments of doubt. The little cavewoman voice pops up occasionally to worry about my value or worth, or being good enough, but overall, I BELIEVE! I think that belief has made me a better singer too. You know what worrying about not being good enough does to you as a singer? Makes you tense? Guess what tension in the body sounds like in a voice? Shaky and unsteady. If you want to sing, don’t let not thinking you’re good enough get in the way!
I BELIEVE YOU ARE ENOUGH.
CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?
Here are some of my favorite books on boosting self-esteem, getting into the vulnerability of being me, building self worth/confidence, and encouraging the artist within:
Daring greatly - Brene Brown
The year of yes - Shonda Rhimes (yes, grey’s anatomy!)
The Highly Sensitive Person - Elaine A. Aron
Big Magic - Elizabeth Gilbert
Beyond Codependency - Melody Beattie
The Art of Asking - Amanda Palmer
The Four Agreements - don Miguel Ruiz
The F*ck It Diet - Caroline Dooner
The war of art- Stephen Pressfield
Steal like an artist- Kleon
Crucial conversations- Kerry Patterson
I BELIEVE IN YOU.
YOU ARE (and sound) GOOD ENOUGH…and are smart, beautiful, worthy, strong enough too!
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most of us are drawn to a performer because they make us feel something. feeling what you sing always makes it more meaningful and interesting. #mondaymusings #jdvsRead More
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Voice exercises may not mean what you think they mean. At least not the way I use them. Curious how to become an athletic singer? #mondaymusingsRead More
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many of my clients want to be more confident when the sing. Learning how their voice works and getting some control over what’s happening gives them more confidence, freeing up the muscles to sound the way they want, which gives them more confidence in their sound, making them feel better about it. #wonderfullyviciouscircle #confidence #mondaymusings #jdvsRead More
#mondaymusings on loving your voice. We aren’t used to the sound of our own voice, the way it sounds to others. We are the harshest critic. Get to know it, get to know sounds you’d like to make. There is a journey to loving your voices. Come with me #mondaymusings #loveyourvoice #voicematters #jdvsRead More
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big new things at JDVS this new year! Only a few session times left to book for the semester! #mondaymusingsRead More
For us here on the US southern east coast, it’s often cold and dark. Seasonal holidays and festivities ascend. Christmas carols are heard everywhere. Houses and trees are strewn with lights and decorations. The song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of year!”
And yet, it’s not the most wonderful time of year for some.
I grew up in a musical family, spent most Christmases in Shelby, NC where my family gathered at my mother’s parents house. We attended Christmas Eve services where my grandfather was the music minister; my grandmother prepared a feast and we rushed home to put it all together on the table. After dinner, we gathered in their living room to sing endless carols - all 3 versions of Away in a Manger! - and hear granddaddy read “Twas the night before Christmas”. We did some variation of this until I was 33. That’s when my grandmother died at age 96. We celebrated with Christmas gifts from Santa on Christmas morning, even though I’m the youngest (none of us grandchildren had kids). It was magical. It was sweet to see family from across the country that once a year. And, I miss it. I miss them. I miss the traditions.
Now, I’m a little melancholy this time of year. And there are many who are lonely, grieving, working through or living with dark painful memories from the holidays. I think the darkness makes that harder. So… I love the lights! They brighten up the darkness; they bring much needed light and cheer! I hope everyone finds some joy as the season changes this week. More light is coming!
This is my song “December”. Have a listen
Twelve of my singers performed songs from the 90s on Sunday afternoon and one of our favorite spots in town, The Evening Muse.
Why 90s? A few years ago I saw that wonderful documentary about studio musicians in LA during the 60s, The Wrecking Crew. It was the beginning of the summer, and I left the viewing all a flutter with the spirit of 60s music. I encouraged all my singers studying that summer to work on a 60s song. They were all so eager; all ages! By summer’s end, everyone was excited to sing their songs. After one singer picked a song we realized was written in 1970 it was decided we would have to put on a 70s concert the next year. And, so it began. This year it was the 90s.
This was the start of some of my themed concerts. A couple of times a year we have a showcase of songs, anyone’s pick. And, now we have a decades theme and sometimes a genre theme. In March we will sing Jazz Standards and Irish Ballads. Many of my singers enjoy the challenge of learning music and discovering new genres outside their usual listening. Sometimes folks just appreciate narrowing down the choices… there are a billion songs to sing; sometimes it’s hard to pick one!
The biggest challenge for this performance was not getting to run the songs with the full band until the day of the performance. I simulate the best I can on keys or guitar (singing guitar licks) in the studio for practice, but it’s never all clear until we’re all together doing our parts. Those specific guitar licks and patterns and drums are crucial to getting that feel for the song, especially in contemporary music. My singers were ready! Once through with the band, worked out a few kinks on intros and transitional places and away we went. It was a super fun hour of songs!
My singers inspired me. I go to a lot of open mics around town and play my originals and covers, but it’s just me. If I’m not rehearsed with other people, I hesitate to jump in. But, the performances on Sunday exercised my impromptu muscle and I asked my friend Kathy to sing a couple of songs with me at the Smoky Joe’s open mic this Tuesday. This open mic has a house band that will jump in with you. Just tell them the key, and anything you think they should know, and they’ll follow along. That’s the thing that makes me nervous; and we did it! And, it was great! It wasn’t perfect - remember last week when I said not to strive for perfect? It’s still my default (rolls eyes at self!) - but it was great! And, it was fun! I’ll look for more ways to jump into musical situations to practice just going with it!
How might you challenge yourself this week? Musically or otherwise?
I’ve always been fascinated with lessons around overcoming performance anxiety. For those of us that love to be on stage, or want to be there to share something we need to express, the body’s reaction to fear can be a betrayal, and can lead us to disaster. Of course, rarely is it truly disastrous. If we forget a word, or miss an entrance, or our voice ‘cracks’ it can mentally ruin an otherwise wonderful performance. For us anyway.
Amazing how much we can do at once - berate ourselves for a blip while continuing to sing the song. Wonder how the rest of it is going?! We usually don’t notice. If prepared, much of our performance could be on autopilot. We lose being present and communicating to our audience for those seconds/minutes we are worrying about what happened.
And, most of the time, the audience is OBLIVIOUS to the “mistake” we made. They are usually so excited to see and hear their loved ones perform, or in awe of each of us that is brave enough to get up in front of everyone and share a piece of ourselves through song. And, if there are performers in the audience that notice that “mistake”, they are just cheering you on, because they know that feeling, and they want us to recover and keep going. No one is hoping that we will fail up there! Time and time again I have been surprised that people didn’t notice my very noticeable mistake… I’ve stopped pointing it out! I heard somewhere that people often remember the last thing they see/hear of a performance.
Singing in front of others is different than speaking in front of others. I hear that fear of public speaking is people’s biggest fear after the fear of death! Admittedly, I would rather sing in front of people than speak, but I’ve gotten accustomed to that too now. Those of us that sing in front of others, despite being scared, are a different breed. We need to; we are compelled. The need to share something, or be up on that stage expressing, is greater than the fear.
I think my singers have been getting less nervous recently. I’m thinking there are some reasons for that - maybe the way we do a variety of concerts: themed, different venues, making it informal and in company of same folks over the years. I’m also thinking that the way we constantly observe how the nervous system and psyche works as we sing in the studio is giving me and my singers practice. Working through fearful moments minute by minute, even through vocal exercises, may be helping dissipate some of the nerves, so come performance time, it seems easier.
I offer occasional Performance classes. Common lessons and practices we use:
Giving Positive Affirmations - to ourselves, to each other
Confidence stance - Superman, Wonder Woman - hands on hips
Dance! Shaking out nerves; practicing being silly
Practice giving compliments and Practicing “thank you” (only)
Slow deep breathing (works for some)
Shouting, “I’m so excited!” (works for others)
Practice messing up and not stopping
Sing for each other and allowing a “do-over”
Practice being intentional in the message of the song - what do we mean? What emotions are we conveying?
Allowing for the possibility of a mistake, not striving for perfection, has helped me dissipate some performance anxiety. Of course, it’s helped to be working on getting over perfectionistic tendencies everywhere else in my life too. I suggest being prepared - do the work, practice, memorize, know it all! Then, do your best! Maybe don’t strive to be perfect, but just to do your best. If that’s an authentic intentional goal, your best will be enough! Our best is going to be different on different days; just like our voices. By the way, I love seeing professional musicians miss something; reminds me that we’re all human and not perfect. I do not like the critical feedback they often get because of it; I rejoice in it!! I’m grateful for it! As a performer and a teacher of performers, I’m grateful for the example of messing up!
So, if you’re gearing up for your first or 101st performance soon, thank you for living through the fear and sharing a piece of yourself, and your voice, with us. We are rooting for you, supporting you, perfect or not. My singers have a performance this Sunday. Singing a bunch of 90s songs at The Evening Muse. If your start is shaky, start it over. We’ve got time! Take a do-over. Make it your best!
"I can't sing" -
from my count, about half of the people I meet say this to me when finding out that I’m a voice trainer/singing teacher.
It’s not true. If you can speak, you can sing. How well you do it is relative.
I’ll set forth that there are two main reasons why people believe they can’t sing:
1 - Some folks are not singing “in tune” - they are singing along with a song, but maybe they’re not “matching the pitches”. Some might consider themselves tone deaf (amusia).
2 - Some folks don’t like their voices for a variety of reasons.
TONE DEAF/MATCHING PITCH
Concerning tone deafness, Vocal Instructor Karyn O’Connor writes:
“The term 'tone deaf' tends to be applied indiscriminately to a constellation of music processing, perceptual and production deficits, which leads to a lot of misdiagnoses (many of them being 'self diagnoses'). In reality, though, there are few truly tone deaf people - it is estimated that only between two and five percent of the population is medically tone deaf - and there are varying degrees and types of tone deafness.”
She’s got a great in depth article here on overcoming Pitch Problems. Other than the rare small percent of people who may be diagnosed with amusia, matching pitch can be a learned skill.
After many years of working with clients who think they may not be able to sing in tune, I have not found one of them to be truly tone deaf. It is often the lack of musical exposure and/or the lack of trying to sing that causes it to be difficult when trying to match pitch. I put most of my beginning clients who have ventured into learning to match pitch in one of two camps:
There is the traumatized singer.
Someone (parent/teacher) told them when they were little that they couldn’t sing, so they believed it and stopped. Oh, it makes my heart hurt to hear these stories.
Parents/Teachers/People around Children: Please don’t say this to a child, or anyone. Pitch matching is not an automatic knowing for everyone. To tell someone they can’t sing is crushing. I witness the crushed-ness alive and well in my adult clients (many 50 and 60 year olds) who have timidly and bravely sought out my assistance hoping to find out they really can sing. Oh, and the joy on their faces when they make sounds they like? What a happy day!
Self-Confidence can go a long way in pitch matching! Just believing you can goes a long way!
There is the inexperienced singer.
Pitch matching may be a struggle because you didn’t listen much to music growing up, or lacked musical variety in listening. And/or you may have had little to no exposure to singing in a choir or singing with your family or community (note: if someone told you that you couldn’t, you likely stopped).
Both the traumatized and inexperienced singer are beginners. Their muscles are often stiff, because of not being used, and being nervous. Often we need to train their ear to identify what it’s hearing. That communication with the brain and then the vocal folds can take time. As the body (muscles) frees up, all of the sound making parts can have a better chance of relating what it hears into action.
JUST ‘DON’T LIKE’ IT
For those folks that can match pitch ok, but don’t like the quality of their voice…
This may just be about preference.
Some people want to sound like Dolly Parton, some like Renee Fleming, some like Adele, and when they sing their songs, it doesn’t sound the same. This is the more common situation when people tell me they can’t sing. Their voices don’t match the stars they want to emulate. Rarely will people be able to mimic their favorite artists exactly. Accepting that your voice is your voice, that we are all different, and that is awesome! My world needs more than Dolly and Adele impersonators! I’ll come back and explore the idea of learning to love your voice in a few weeks.
Sometimes getting to know all of the different weights and colors of how to make sound can change a person’s perspective of their voice. Sometimes the right weight, or brightness or dark quality can also correct in pitch accuracy too. Learning how to use your voice (and your mouth, and tongue, and ab muscles, etc) can drastically change the sound you’ve been trying to make instinctively. Singing is not necessarily instinctive for many! Learning to coordinate and strengthen the musculature can go along way for pitch accuracy and a pleasant sound (if that’s what you’re going for!).
Cari Nierenberg confirms reporting on a study that labeled poor singers as such because of a lack of music training or muscle weakness:
The study found that anywhere from 40 to 62 percent of non-musicians were poor singers.... It also found that roughly 20 percent of people can't sing accurately because they don't have good control of their vocal muscles.
Maybe some people are “born with it”, but I’ve met some of those (subjective), and they are still insecure about their voices. We want to sound good. What is good? Is it better than….? How are you measuring a good voice? What sounds bad (if pitch matching is okay), and what sounds good? I’m always curious, like above, what they might mean by “poor singers”. Is it more than the ability or skill to match pitch?
Oh, and what I have been noticing lately is that some of the challenge for newly pitch matching folks is the next step to memorize pitch patterns. The pitch and rhythmic patterns are what make a melody identifiable. This could be a subject for another day too!
Are you curious about singing again? Or, for the first time? Come and play with me! I’ve yet to meet one of the 2-5% who are actually tone deaf.
… Or, How fast will I progress?
This is a common question I get with voice lesson inquiries. Sometimes it’s “how long until I sound good.” Well, that’s relative. More on sounding “good” or “better” another day. I’ve had to hone in on an answer since I’m asked so often. This was my most recent inquiry:
“based on your experience about how many lessons does it generally take someone to be decent from not knowing at all. I know it’s different for every person but just... so I know how much to budget”
My best estimate is a year of almost weekly lessons for significant progress; and that’s for the most devoted/practiced singer with a history of singing or musical experience. Maybe 2 years or more for those also devoted/practiced and at a beginner level. The less practiced, the longer. The training exists of coordinating many different muscle groups in your body (some of which is not instinctive or natural), and then to strengthen those muscles, and train for flexibility and endurance/stamina. If you've ever played a sport, run a race or tried to alter your body in some way to become stronger, faster, or more agile, you know it takes time.
Then, there is the ear training for non-experienced singers. Singers that come in with a background in singing with choirs tend to have a more developed ear and good sense for how pitch (melodic) and rhythmic patterns work, so can pick up on musical queues more readily than a singer without that history. And, then there is the singer with no formal musical background in choir or band/orchestra, but is just a naturally good mimic. They tend to pick up on the music side of things quicker.
My experience with singers of all levels is that people take lessons when/if they can afford it for as long as their interest holds, sometimes take a break, some just pass through for a few weeks or months, some stay years (I have 2 clients who have been with me for 10 years!).
One thing I have noticed in gaining strength and progress (academically/physically/musically) is that consistency helps immensely - the accountability on top of the individual focus of training. If you can afford a semester of sessions (19 in 25 weeks), let's start there! Noticeable progress should take place in that time, and then can decide what's next.
Folks will often come for a concentrated time, then back up, go to every other week, join a group class (cheaper/less focused) or take a break until they can come back.
If time is where the budget is tight, come as often as you can. Working with me is like working with a personal trainer. I will always work you out harder and more efficiently than you can work on your own, and you will get some benefit in that hour no matter how often you come.
Are you ready to start training? Book an hour to see how we fit!