Upon reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Feriss, Chapter 5
If you get it in your head that practicing is the way to reach your goals as a singer and you as a result, add an hour of practice time to your current routine—you may indeed get a lot out of that extra practice time if it is well spent. But is that the most effective way to your goal? Is more time practicing always the answer?
My experience has been that many people (type “A” personalities) think that if they put in enough hours practicing they will earn the right to sing better. How then, do we explain singers that don’t sing with what would be considered “good technique” but who still move us with their music? Their “effectiveness” as a singer transcends their ability to do things “correctly”. In light of this–we have to ask ourselves as students, if most of the time our goal hasn’t been getting a pat on the head for having gotten everything accomplished on the “To-Do-List-for-Good-Singing”.
Maybe we are already “good singers”. Maybe it’s not about the number of practice hours that you rack up as much as what your reason for singing is in the first place that makes you an effective singer. Singing is a way of expressing ourselves that gives us a feeling of being part of the human experience that speaking those same feelings or thoughts never could. If we focus on finding out what it is we want to express and how we feel when we do this through the medium of singing–we have a goal that leads us in the right direction.
Some advice. If you are a “type A” personality and want to improve your satisfaction in singing:
Take the time to raise awareness of tension and how it hinders your body’s functionality—learn to find the best use of your body by working (for instance) with Alexander Technique or practicing Yoga. You may find that these are a much more efficient use of your time than adding time just singing through songs or fancy arpeggios. Reading books that give advice on “how to be in the moment” have helped me a lot more than books on how to sing. Not that books on singing technique don’t have a lot to offer—I just don’t see most of my problems or my students’ problems as being solved by one more analysis of how to practice. Professional singers / singing teachers have the added benefit of identifying themselves on a daily and hourly basis as singers, whereby most of my students are first a doctor, lawyer, graphic designer, or portfolio manager, etc. Proving to yourself that you “have the right” to be a singer can be one of the biggest challenges in bringing the best out of yourself as a singer. I think our perceived success or lack thereof has more to do with how we treat ourselves and where we place our priority for finding joy in our lives. To me, (and I’ve said this before, so bear with me!) very simply, singing is a birthright—something we are born able to do, as we are born able to speak or clap or run. If a person has made the choice to be a singer on any level, there’s no need to reach outside of oneself to “learn” to sing as much as a need to reveal to oneself—or almost remember—how to sing.
As for needing to sing “beautifully”, I challenge you to stand and sing without artifice, with a simple desire to just express the text of the song and feel the emotion of that text as you are singing it—as if you had written the words yourself. Do that and I really do believe it will be beautiful by anyone’s standards.