I Listen To Myself Too Much

I have heard the comment “I think too much” many many times, coming from the mouths of singers, usually young.

This comment makes no sense. It goes along with so many others that are also nonsensical like “I like to squeeze my throat”, “I like to hold on to my jaw”, “I’m not usually on top of the pitch” and the killer-diller, “I listen to myself too much”.

I suppose you could say that a few people do like to squeeze their throats and hold onto their jaws. These people maybe get a weird pleasure from the squeezing……like someone who enjoys repeatedly clenching their fists. Or perhaps there are some singers who like to keep their mouths as closed as possible at all times lest a fly enter or someone put a few unwanted fingers into their mouth. And, then, of course, there are those odd individuals who refuse to climb up to those pitches, preferring instead to hold them high over their heads somewhere, forcing the vocal production to remain “beneath the note”. And there might also be folks who cup their hands to their own ears for hours at a time longing to hear their own dulcet tones as some kind of remedy for their ills.

Oh please.

You have to think when you are learning something new. You think about it or you don’t learn it. People who do not think, do not analyze or assimilate what they are doing well enough to comprehend it. So, if you don’t think, you won’t learn. AND, self-consciousness is not necessarily about “thinking” at all. It is about lack of thinking. Lack of something specific to focus on which counteracts self-consciousness. It is about lack of concentration on a particular set of thoughts.

You cannot skip steps when learning a physical skill but sometimes you have to learn two things at the same time that are both crucially important and they are quite oppositional to each other. All highly skilled motor activities take time to develop and singing is certainly that. You must cultivate strength and stability at the same time you develop flexibility and agility. Guess what? Those things are opposites. You must learn to “let go” but you CANNOT DO THAT if you do not have strength and flexibility in equal measure and that can take at least two years to emerge. In the meanwhile, as you study, you will be uncoordinated, uncomfortable, disorganized and quite often frustrated, but you will also occasionally be coordinated, comfortable, organized and satisfied, and occasionally completely frightened and absolutely ecstatic. If you skip these stages while training, lucky for you, but don’t count on the idea that they will never arise, as you may find that the career you end up with provokes the very vocal things you were able to avoid at the beginning of the journey.

The unwanted behaviors that arise during training are normal. Sometimes, in stimulating changes and growth, a side effect of the development is that some things get better but some things, unfortunately and temporarily, also get worse. You have to learn to live with that until you have been at the process for quite some time (years).

Quite often, students do not know any of this. Quite often, the teachers tell them “you are…………” in an effort to “help” the student find out what it is they do that is “wrong”. And, quite often, it is the teachers themselves who are at fault, as they may have asked the student to do an exercise that was so hard, so much out of their range of execution, that the student is left struggling and straining just to make an attempt.

Deaf people do not sing. Deaf people who learn to speak through vibration never sound like hearing people. If you do not listen to yourself, you don’t know what you sound like. If you are on a plane, in a loud restaurant, or in a noisy crowd, you will raise your voice because it is harder to hear yourself. These are facts. If you do not learn to hear yourself consistently and objectively, you cannot possibly sing well. You cannot sing “on top of the pitch” (with solid intonation). If you do not think about how you sound, you will not know what to listen for or why it is important. And if you sing things that are too hard for your throat and body to manage, you will collapse in your throat (squeeze) and that will cause your larynx to rise and your jaw to be unable to drop. Indirect responses that indicate physical imbalance. Some of it may be neurotic, but most of it is probably functional.

You can become narcissistic about your own voice, thinking you sound better than everyone else. In that sense, you can “listen to yourself too much” but mostly, if you want to learn to be a good singer, you had better listen and listen and listen until you hear something that you like and want to share. The same can be said for thinking, feeling, and singing.

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