If you were being stared at, scrutinized, and told to do things you either had never done or were new to doing, would you feel really safe? Would you wonder if maybe, you might be “doing it wrong” or “not be good enough”? Would you think that maybe the person looking at you and listening to you was deciding how awful you sounded or how dumb you were? Would that make you feel secure and happy? If you ignored the person listening, who was supposed to be smarter and wiser than you, how intelligent would that be on your part, particularly if the person who was doing the evaluation was also going to be paid a lot of your money? Would paying no attention to the listener/watcher be a good idea, even if it made you feel less nervous? Wouldn’t that put you between a rock and a hard place?
What if, after a while, the teacher began to tell you that you were “closing up your throat” because you were afraid? What if you noticed that, indeed, your throat seemed to close up when you tried to sing high notes or loud sounds? What if you thought that this was because you were unable to “let go” and “just sing”? Would this make you less nervous? Would it make you feel like you understood how to make the “correct” sounds? What if, also, the teacher was telling you that you didn’t quite “get” what s/he was teaching and that, if you could just stop being self-conscious and nervous, things would get better and you would somehow “be free” to sing. Would you know that the throat closes when it is out of balance and that it is the TEACHER’S job to fix that imbalance? Would you know that you can find a physical balance in your instrument so the throat remains open while you discover what that feels like without struggling at all?
What if you tried to tell the teacher that “something felt wrong” only to be told that this was not true. What if you tried to formulate a decent question based on how you were experiencing the singing only to be told that you were being “fussy”, “a worry-wart” or that your concerns would just go away if you kept practicing or learning songs, except that they didn’t go away at all. What if you were asked to sing music you didn’t like or found incredibly difficult only to be told not to worry about that and do it anyway? Would any of this make you feel happy and free about singing? What if you were in a class with others who did not seem to have those problems? Would you relax more, thinking about getting up to perform in front of others who were not having those issues?
Maybe you would convince yourself that you were OK. Maybe you would find your courage to go on anyway. Maybe you would see the light at the end of the long tunnel and keep on keeping on and maybe, just maybe, in time, you would find a way to sing that was decent enough to get you out into the world and get you some work. But if you did not, would you go on anyway? What would your confidence be based upon? What would hold up your desire to be yourself, making music, staying healthy?
Where in the process would the teacher be asking him/herself if the problems in the lesson had anything to do with how the teaching was taking place? [You have to have a very secure teacher to query herself about why things aren’t working.]
What about being told “you are……..” followed by some critical evaluation like “holding onto your jaw” or “making a fake vibrato” or “pushing on your throat” when you don’t have any such deliberate desire or notions. Those two words, “YOU ARE”, are deadly, because we need to be told what we don’t know, but we don’t need someone else to tell us how to experience our own subjective reality.
The process of learning to sing is delicate for many people and folks with big, loud, bombastic voices and bodies don’t always understand that. The process of learning a new skill can be much more confusing than simple for some singers , and there is nothing wrong with those who have to strive to sing well.
If you are feeling discouraged about your singing, take heart. Almost every singer I’ve ever known has had times when the process of being a singer was both difficult and frustrating, but the people who push through such troubles are the ones you want to hear. They understand the value of what they have because they have fought to have it.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you are “hung up” in some way when you are unhappy. Dig a little deeper and make your teacher do the same.