Reasonable Expectations, pt.2

In my last post, I spoke about singing in terms of time spent. I want to continue that same line of thinking with the following observation, aimed at those struggling with changes to your singing:

Think for a moment about how long you have been singing. How long have you been singing more or less the way that you sing now? How long have you had the bad habits you are currently engaged in trying to sort out or fix?

Now assume that it will take you at least that same length of time to change it or  develop a new habit.

And in the end, can we really expect otherwise? Is that not a little unfair a thing to demand of Mother Nature? Like a garden in need of weeding, the amount of weeding directly corresponds to how long it has been allowed to grow wild. Deeply ingrained habits can be incredibly difficult to change. But in our haste to develop our shiny, new, and improved technique…. we forget that we aren’t simply clicking a button on a computer update….we are fighting what may in some cases be years of established physical patterns. For your average person it is going to take more than a new intellectual understanding of a technical point for it to take root in the body.

I bring this up for two reasons, neither meant to discourage. Firstly, it is to recommend that singers keep their heads on straight about what exactly it is they are engaging in when changing habit. Discouragement can be the result of the feeling that a battle is supposed to have an end, but it is not in sight. And for many, a sense that with a new teacher, or a new technique, better vocalism is only a tweak away….well this can prove very disappointing when it does not turn out to be the case. But if one maintains a mindset that it is a benefit to engage in a slower, methodical, consistent manner of inclining your physiology toward new patterns…. well, then things may well seem to take less time than you’d have otherwise thought! After all, even according to my equation above; we may say we have been singing for years. And yet, how much of that time is spent sleeping, eating, socializing or engaged in activities other than singing? So, perhaps it has been a long time. But we are probably clocking this in many, many hours, rather than months and years at a stretch. And though tending will always be necessary, at some point there may well be a shift in physical inclination that will bring psychic or emotional relief.

Secondly, I bring it up for another encouraging point. Since this is a prolonged process, and will need continued attention long into your singing years, why wait? I know many young singers who are holding off, waiting for perfection. Worse still, I have known voice teachers who, after convincing their students they are stars in the making, endlessly put off a sort of “presentation to the public” until the student is “ready”, which never seems to come. But you do not belong to your teacher. And though you should pay heed to their advice, remember also that if you wait for perfection, you will never sing. Certainly work within your existing limits, and be wise about your decisions. Career decisions must of course be based on levels of competency. But don’t wait for perfection, because you will never have a career. As a friend of mine once said, “the time to sing is now.”

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