Goals Versus Process

Western thought is geared towards getting results, frequently at any cost. There’s something to be said for that, of course. Eastern thought, however, teaches us that getting the process right produces the result anyway, sometimes in a much better manner than “going for the goal”.

It’s quite hard for Americans, in particular, to wrap their heads around waiting for something. We always want everything right now. A physical skill, however, takes time to develop and singing is a physical skill before it is an art. You simply cannot rush the process, however much you would like it to go fast.

This can be an obstacle in the young because the tech world does operate at a fast clip and they are used to one second or less visual stimulus on the computer and in other media. They understand getting things done in a hurry. They often have trouble with going slow and being patient.

Learning to sing is a complex process when done well. It requires all manner of coordination and awareness, knowledge and information and even talented people need to find things out for themselves over time. Rushing to get to a certain kind of sound before you even have a chance to see if that sound is right or good for your voice is a mistake, but it is typical of the training process here in the USA.

Observation of results is a typical method of study. What result did we get in this process? If we get this result, then we will be OK. Or not. If I observe that classical singers seem to sing with the position of the larynx slightly dropped in the throat, particularly on softer higher notes, then this must be the best position and, if I make my larynx go to and stay in this position, then I will be ahead of the game by doing so. Right? Not right.

If I notice that certain singers are able to go up very high and loud and really wail away and I see that they sound shouty and piercing and maybe their necks bulge out, then it stands to reason that if I can get may own throat to look like that and my sound to be like that too, then I will be doing the right thing and get the best result, the one I want. Nope.

And if I know that I have to make a lot of sound in order to carry over a big fat orchestra conducted by someone who doesn’t much like singers so he lets the musicians play as loud as they want all the time, then the best way for me to get my voice to do a good job would be to push like crazy on my belly muscles while singing and drive the sound towards my nose. That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about them drowning me out. Well, kinda.

If I gave you more examples, they would be the same. Just because we observe something doesn’t mean it’s right or true or best. It doesn’t really mean anything because the context in which the activity takes place matters. Maybe the person singing has a different voice than you do or a different kind of body. Maybe the person grew up singing the sounds you like but you’ve never made them, or anything like them, before. Maybe the behavior that you observe in the singing is second nature to that person but it is far away from second nature to you.

If you understand the mechanics of singing, that is, how we make sound in the first place, you can learn to observe yourself as you study and see what works and what doesn’t. If you have a good teacher, she will acknowledge what gifts you have (the easy things) and point out the work you have to do on the things that don’t come just naturally. It might be that those things are really different than what they were for her when she was studying and if she had a broad knowledge of singing, then she would know what you need and not just teach you what she had needed whether it applied to you or not.

Process oriented training takes longer and maybe isn’t as glamorous in the moments when it seems like you aren’t really “getting there” but if you don’t rush, if you take time to absorb, experiment, listen, explore, examine, question, try and maybe even fail a bit here and there, what you learn will stick. It will be yours forever and it will be appropriate. You do need to know what the goal is and you have to want to get to it, but you don’t need to put the goal over the process of getting there. If you do that, in the end you will pay a much dearer price than you need to reach your desired end, and take it from me, it’s never worth it.

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