The Last Piece of the Puzzle?

Why can’t we just think our way into the right sounds? If you just get everything lined up perfectly, isn’t the sound you are looking for “right there”, and won’t it be there every time, because your mind has it worked out precisely?

Nope. You can think until you are blue but if you don’t put the work into the system, the system isn’t going to give you what you want.

If you are a dancer and you don’t spend hours and years stretching your body, your legs aren’t going to extend to the sky, no matter what mantra you repeat, or what lovely image you think. If you are a pianist, your hands aren’t going to fly across those keys playing a gazillion notes if you haven’t sat there playing for days and weeks and months and years in preparation. If you are a golfer and you want to hit a hole in one but you only play golf once a month, you can picture yourself playing below 70, but you will have to be very lucky, indeed, to get there and stay there just by visualization.

Why, then, is singing any different? How is it that we think that we can find the one right way to sing and stop there? How many of us have a perfect “place” for the tone, a perfect target for the sound, the sweet spot where we always aim the voice? What kind of singing does that create?

Nothing complex, which singing certainly is, can be learned in a few quick lessons. Real singing requires just as much work as any art, or any physical skill, and it requires a lot of thinking, too, but not just looking for the one piece that will complete the puzzle. That is limited thinking, and not useful in learning to be a great vocalist.

We must all learn to look at how we think and what we think about, and why, and what we expect those thoughts to do. We must learn to digest, review, discuss, examine, probe, explore and experiment in order to understand our thinking process and evaluate what, exactly, we are seeking. What do voice teachers think about and why? What should a singer think about? These questions are not simple and they cannot be answered with simplistic responses.

When we discuss CCM, we are discussing something that has never been seriously examined in a scholarly manner before. When we look to enter upon a research project in any CCM style, we are setting up exploration that is very new. When we ask that CCM be taken as an equal to classical music, we are posing a new paradigm. It is important to recognize that old answers, stock answers, will not do.

Formulate dynamic questions about the process of learning to sing in any style. Give yourself permission to linger before coming to an answer, to be adventuresome and curious as to what the possible responses to the query might be. Before you decide that you have “arrived”, wonder a bit longer about whether or not the journey need have an “end”. Enjoy the pondering. Questioning is good. Be willing not to have an answer, just a map. See where you might take a new route.

Your mind doesn’t know as much about singing as your body does. You can only discover that by allowing your body, your breath and your throat to be your teachers. Questions are teachers, answers can be dead ends.

You cannot think your way into the “right” sound, but you can use your mind to find sounds you never knew existed.

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One thought on “The Last Piece of the Puzzle?”

  1. And to throw another monkey wrench into the works… when you are singing for musical theatre, you have to be thinking about the moment and the character you’re in, what you want, what you’re trying to communicate, why you’re saying it… etc. etc., depending on what your acting process is like. This highlights the need to have the muscles so well-trained that you can feed in emotions and acting choices without weakening your vocal technique. I find that a lot of young singers lean too far to one side or the other — either the voice goes out the window when they get emotional, or they are thinking so hard about the sound they’re trying to make that they completely lose touch with the scene. Being well-trained and working out the voice regularly prevents this and keeps a singer/actor balanced. :-)

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