My mind's telling me no

I've spoken here before about the positive power singing has over our mind ('Singing makes you happy - Science says so'), however the human brain is a very complex computer that can also have the reverse effect. 

I hear students backing off of phrases, notes, lines in songs because "it's too high" or "it's too hard" or "I can't do that". Quite often, the parts of these songs they are shying away from are well within their range and capability. The real problem here is what they're actually telling themselves.  

There's a massive connection in singing, between what you intend to do and what comes out of your mouth - like anything else we do with our body; the brain tells us to do it. So, if you decide you can't sing that bit of that song - you definitely won't! 

The only person who can overcome this is you. But how? To come up with my top tips I've decided to unpick my own process, rather than any of my students this time as it will also provide an example of how you can self-examine the situation.

I revisited a song that I used to sing a lot, but frankly I'm a bit scared of it these days (it happens to us all!): 'Chains' by Tina Arena. I do love a 90's rock ballad! 

  1. First off, I re-acquinted myself with the song and at the same time, made a note of the bits that truly scare me: the point here is that it's never the whole song we're actually frightened of; if you can isolate the bits your struggling with, you can deal with this first. This will start to change how you view the song. For me, there are just two notes in 'Chains' 
  2. Next stage is to revisit and nail the technique on and around the notes that are causing the brain funk. Firstly, I got a print out of the lyrics and marked up where to breathe (if it's a new song, do this for the whole piece). Then I highlighted the vowels used in the two notes: 'Ay' and 'Ee' - this helps me to remember the mouth position I should be using for these words. Both of these notes are close together, so I ran this section of the song a few times to learn the breathing pattern and mouth position. This exercise is all around the mechanics of getting it right, rather than leaving anything to chance. 
  3. Finally, I create my connection to the song which will help me with how I intend to communicate to an audience. I examine the lyrics to establish what I believe to be the story behind it, plus identify the emotions the song is bringing up. This, followed by what can be the most difficult part - connecting through your own experience. You may not have a carbon copy example of what's happened in the story of every song, but you will have felt any one of the emotions being conveyed through it. 

And there you have it ... my process to unpick a song I'm telling myself I can't do. This isn't a finite process that will work for everyone all the time, but it has certainly stood me in good stead over the years: I'm now ready to perform 'Chains' again, should the opportunity arise. 

If you've tried this and are still finding it difficult to overcome, please do get in touch: I'd be more than happy to hear from you to try and help guide you towards a solution.