A few days ago I wrote about finding your own voice and the importance of that in any creative pursuit. And today, I thought I’d talk about some of my journey in finding my own voice when it comes to making music. More specifically, how to love what you already have.
For the first time ever, I am giving voice lessons! One of my dearest friends asked me to teach her how to be more confident with singing. And I said sure! I’ve taken voice lessons for years, so I know the ins and outs of singing correctly. But I never thought to use that knowledge to teach voice. I didn’t go to school for it, so I figured people wouldn’t take me seriously if I tried to become a voice teacher.
That and….. well, my methods of teaching would be a little different from any voice teacher I’ve ever encountered.
Besides my desire to teach pop/musical theatre/anything besides classical, I would want to emphasize something that none of my teachers ever did with me.
Above technique, which yes, is very important if you want to sing without hurting yourself, what is more important is loving the voice you already have.
None of my teachers ever talked to me about how to love my own voice. They taught me how to warm-up my voice, how to breathe properly for support, and how to pick good songs. I would sing O cessate di piargarmi to strengthen my middle range, Simple for my head voice, etc. They told me time and again to get out of my head and stop thinking. But I couldn’t. I didn’t know how, when all I was thinking about was how I wished my voice sounded more like so-and-so.
When I took voice lessons for the first time as a shy sixteen-year-old, I hated my voice. And that continued well into adulthood. It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when I wouldn’t sing because I thought my voice was terrible and I wished it was different. I wished my voice was blaring and full like all those pop divas I heard on the radio. I wanted it to be this, I wanted it to be that.
But I had to learn that it’s more important to focus on what you can do versus what you can’t.
You’ll never hear me do a huge diva ballad. I don’t have the voice for those songs. Not many people do.
But you know what I can do? I can sing very well in French, I can hold long notes (thank you, classical voice lessons), I have a natural vibrato, and that I am a mezzo-soprano. In other words, I can sing some low stuff but I can also go high if needed, but my voice is most comfortable in the middle range.
So guess what? I pick songs that showcase those low notes and the pretty mid-range with some occasional ventures into the higher notes.
Once I learned to love what I can do, my singing became freer. I was out of that negative mindset of “I wish my voice was different, I hate how my voice sounds,” blah blah blah. Any negative things you think about yourself are going to come out when you sing. It’s just how it works. People forget just how physical singing is.
And once I was out of that negative mindset, I enjoyed singing more than ever.
Part of what I’m teaching my friend is how to actively like your own voice, how to focus on what you can do with your voice and build confidence from there. Because most of singing is just confidence. Once you believe you can sing that note, you will. With my friend, we’re focusing on happy ABBA songs because she has a lovely, bright voice that works well for those songs. And more than that, she already knows the songs, so she’s singing something she already loves and is confident with. It’s just that this time, we’re learning how to breathe without taking gulps in the middle of words and phrases and how to tell a story with the lyrics, etc. Technique, in other words.
The important thing to remember is that everyone’s voice is different. Some people have whiskey-soaked vocals (Bob Dylan), others have pure and clear voices (Eliza Rickman), and others have anything in between. I can tell Sting and Peter Gabriel from a mile away. Same with Kate Bush. I always recognize Ellie Goulding when her fluttery voice comes through the radio. Some people can’t sing much beyond a whisper (Charlotte Gainsbourg), others have voices to fill stadiums (Florence + the Machine). It’s what fascinates me, how different people’s voices can be from one to the next.
And once you find what your timbre and voice is like, do what you can to showcase that and love it. The world would be so boring if everyone sounded the same when they sang. And you can’t sound like that singer on the radio whose voice you wish you had. Because they don’t sing like anyone else either.
You can only be yourself.
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