Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tonal Tuesday - Singing is All About Doing it YOUR Way!

In an article originally written for GQ magazine,  Andrew Corsello tells of his journey from "bad" boy by choice to husband of an Episcopalian priest to member of the church choir.  He found that as in becoming a writer, in order to become a singer YOU must give yourself permission.  He calls it "license".   Think of Leonard Cohen.  He doesn't have the greatest voice but he has confidence and he sings anyway.

Our voice is our instrument.  If you play a piano or French horn, you can blame that instrument at least somewhat when the sound isn't what you would wish.  When the instrument resides inside you, then it represents you at least in the minds of many.  Now, we have to realize that people can feel less as a person when that vocal instrument doesn't always do what it should to make acceptable sounds.

So how do we overcome people's feelings of inadequacy when they are singing or when we would like them to sing in our choirs?  Whether you are a fellow singer or the director these ideas may help you help others be happier singers.

1.  Build people up.  Your singers must feel good about being in your space.  They also have to feel that their efforts are recognized and appreciated.  Is there any reason why we can't tell someone when they have done something well.  Catch people doing something well.  If someone talks during rehearsal in a inappropriate place, then make certain to point out how much you appreciated their NOT talking.  instead of waiting for someone to sing a wrong note or timing, compliment their good notes and fine phrasing.  Try to concentrate on the right not correcting the wrong.  Yes you have to stop wrong notes and timing etc. but go over those things at section practices.  Whomever you have for section leaders can be clued into the areas that need practice.

2.  Encourage mistakes.   Let your choir tell you when they aren't happy with a set of notes, phrase or timing etc.  When they ask for clarification or help it can be their need to have you tell them that they are doing a great job or their lack of confidence in their work.  It can also just be a misunderstood musical moment.  However, your response as a singer or director is key.  Please let people know that mistakes are GREAT!!!!  As I used to tell my students, if they didn't make at least one mistake then I wouldn't be needed because they would all ready be perfect so my job would be redundant.  Perfection is not going to happen thank goodness.

3. Love them where they are.  If you have an auditioned choir and/or paid members then your level of acceptance will be tempered by the fact that those people have to perform well because it is more of a job.  Those of us who belong to or direct a volunteer group, will have more diverse talent and ability ranges.  Bring them along by teaching, doing warm-ups and working on individual parts that help to mitigate the areas that are less strong.  For instance, if people are breathing incorrectly, then do warm ups that work on phrasing and thus correct breathing.  Go over your music and mark the places to breathe.  You may even want to mark the areas where staggered breathing could occur and assign members to those.  They will learn to do those things on their own if you are patient and help them realize the importance.

4.  Record the practice.  We are lucky in that we purchased a recommended digital recorder and Damon sets up a tripod every practice so that I can hear the work.  When you have people thinking something sounds terrible or great, play it for them and then you can dispassionately take it apart and make changes accordingly if needed.  Those who don't realize how important they are to the whole, will hear it.

We know that we are not our singing voice.  But sometimes we have to make certain people know we care about them and not just the sounds they make.  Check our our previous post on Building Confident Singers for more tips.  

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