I fantasize about singing every other minute I am awake and then dream about it all night. I have no control over this. The thoughts just come when I’m on line at the grocery store, sitting on an airplane and of course when a pretty woman walks by. The only reason I’m divulging these intimate thoughts is that I know all of you reading this do the same thing. So where does all this mental foreplay lead us? One would expect that when we got the chance to actually sing, we’d be all fired up and ready to go. The truth is that all the fantasizing does is set us up for a choke.
Part of the problem is that we have great imaginations. We don’t simply dream about singing, we dive right into full-blown fantasies of bringing the audience to their feet. You know; the big “Standing O.” With such high expectations, it’s no wonder most people clam up when given the opportunity to sing. Singing couldn’t be a more natural activity and you don’t have to have a great voice. It’s so uncomplicated that most of us can’t get our heads around it. What a shame. Like a first kiss, once you get past the initial shaky moments it feels incredible to lose yourself in a song.
What makes someone special these days is that they are simply able to be themselves in public. We elevate those we idolize by calling them special or gifted and attach more significance to their singing then we should. It’s not how they sing that makes people famous; it’s that they are able to do it while others are watching. They’re on stage singing just as they would in the shower. Amazing!
We have present day society to thank for this separation of idols and the idle. It wasn’t always this way. Can you imagine someone abstaining from joining the song circle at an Irish pub because they didn’t feel they sang well enough? How odd would it seem for a villager to become self-conscious about his high notes while participating in a tribal ceremony in Africa? In fact, our current Western culture is the only time and place in the history of the planet where some people refer to themselves as non-singers. Before the 1600’s everyone sang – everywhere. Since the rise of opera in 1601, an unfortunate standard has been placed on singing in the civilized world. What a shame. Of course it’s great to listen to someone exhibit extraordinary vocal skills, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us are not allowed to express ourselves.
Singing was and still is in some areas a vital form of communication; especially for passing stories down through generations. There are no singing celebrities in some other cultures because it is simply a part of life. The point is: there are many underlying influences, between cultures, religions and family values that shape our concept of what singing is. And all of this comes before coordination and musicianship! No wonder so many are intimidated into silence.
To release this self-imposed repression we need to give ourselves permission. Allowing yourself to sing is the same as allowing yourself to feel alive. That may seem crazy but many of us are so tangled in doubts and insecurities that we’ve long since accepted a reduced standard of living while continuing to dream big. The divide between reality and fantasy makes it seem useless to begin voice lessons. We tend to have a similar attitude when it comes to body image. If you can’t have a killer body then what’s the use of working out? Again, we can thank modern culture for the damaging logic. Working to improve your voice (and your body) will allow you to discover many things about yourself. You will begin to trust your ability and, just maybe, come out of your shell. Amazing.
I should also acknowledge that singing can be a double-edged sword. If you’re doing it to gain attention or to feel loved then it can easily become an emotional trap. The focus when singing should be on giving – not receiving. Like breaking bread with a stranger, you are contributing to a bond that all humans share when you release your voice in song. You allow others to feel connected and loved by showing that you trust them enough to sing to them. You don’t need the best voice. All you need is your voice. From there who knows where things can lead.
Originally posted 2009-01-09 03:36:27.