There I was thinking it was just a good idea, and it went and got its own whole day

It has come to my attention that today is National Face Your Fears Day! And I couldn’t think of a better reason to HAVE a day dedicated to it. This whole year has been one big Face-Your-Fears-Fest for me, and I love being able to look at my list and always be able to say I’m pushing myself to be more. Even if it is scary. Because the victory over fear is always so much more meaningful than the handful of panic attacks along the way. I don’t think anyone ever wants to look back and regret not trying. To admit that they allowed fear to control their life. I certainly don’t. So today, I thought it a good day to write about one of the tougher items on that list. Remember a couple of weeks ago, where I decided I wanted to stop being so terrified of singing in front of people, signed up for vocal coaching, psyched myself out so much I made myself sick and cancelled the appointment? Yeah. Fun times. Well, as I write this, I’m pretty excited – because this past week I tried again – and actually made it out the front door! 🙂

I’d emailed the coach apologising profusely for being such a scaredy-cat, tried to feebly explain how afraid I was of this, how desperately I wanted to sing and how sorry I was, promising to pay double next time – I felt SO BAD about inconveniencing her, as well as letting myself down. But she e-mailed me back an incredibly thoughtful, kind, understanding message which really reassured me that I wasn’t the only one, and that she wanted to make it as safe of an environment as possible.

Singing can make you feel exposed and vulnerable and a one-on-one setting can be pretty intense. But perfection is never even remotely the goal. Believe me. I won’t be perfect. I’ll demonstrate things and I’ll make mistakes, sound bad, make mistakes in the piano parts to your songs, and it’ll all be okay. It’s always my aim to make our little environment a safe-feeling place and for it to feel okay to screw up. And if we’re ever working and you’re feeling overwhelmed, please know in advance that it’s okay to say so and we can take a break or call it quits for the night, or whatever needs to happen, okay? 🙂 I think that every singer I know has cried in a lesson or a coaching at some point – or many points! I know I have! It’s just the way of it.

So I rescheduled – and this time, showed up.  Let’s backtrack for a second. When I’m home alone, the first thing I do is close all the windows, crank up the stereo and sing my absolute heart out. But I also keep a close eye on the view outside the window, in case I see a neighbour close by, or Sweet arriving home, so I can be sure to turn everything down, and most importantly not be caught in song. I’ve always wished desperately to have a good voice and a good range, but I’m pretty sure I don’t. I can’t hit the high notes, I can’t do those diva-esque runs, I can’t belt it out or do any sort of imaginative take on a song, and I definitely can’t read music. It’s funny, last week I was talking about my issue with the “niche philosophy” – should you stick to what you’re good at, and focus on being great at it, or do you branch out into things you’re not, riding on the hope that one day you will? I’ve always identified more with the latter, but the former makes a lot of sense. But, as a good friend once told me, if you feel you need to be doing something, even if you’re not good at it right now, it’s because you’re meant to be.  So I’m going to keep going.

 

 

Last week, I learned the difference between “strong voice” (which I’d always thought was the sole indicator of your range) and the “natural voice”, and that it’s okay to switch into that falsetto sound when the notes get high. Awe-inspiring musical theatre-type singing, where they hit the notes with the “strong voice”, was a style created by theatre people, not singers, and classically, it’s about strengthening that upper range so you can project over crowds and choirs and instruments and still be heard.  I felt a little silly waving my arms around while I was singing, but I learned that different parts of the body work best when they’re in harmony with each other, so if I want to sing those high notes loudly, let my arms move in big circles and do with them what I want to do with my voice. I was shocked to hear I was actually a soprano – hitting only 2 notes lower than my coach and going down even lower than she did, but it doesn’t mean I did it well… I didn’t believe her when the words weren’t “you’re going to need some work.”I’ve never felt I could sing, simply because I’ve never allowed myself to practice.  Strengthen the muscles and therefore my voice. It all makes complete sense to me now, and I can’t wait until I really am able to carry a tune! I left with homework – a 17th century Italian song, scribed on five sheets of music in two languages I can’t understand. I don’t know how to read music or speak Italian, and I found myself getting lost as I was trying to follow along, but I was reassured that was okay. We’d learn together. Pronunciation doesn’t matter at this point, and with practice, reading music will become easier.  I’m not going to lie – some of these notes are pretty intimidating. But I’m going to try anyway. Tomorrow night, I’m back for lesson 2. And this time around, my heart’s beating with the excitement of learning instead of nerves.

What fear of yours are you allowing to hold you back?

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59 comments

  1. Good luck, Em! I’m so glad that you went back and that you took the risk to do something not only outside of your comfort zone but something you’ve told yourself that you can’t do. When we doubt ourselves, there is little anyone else can say to convince us otherwise.

    You’re an inspiration and I for one thank you for sharing this part of your journey. (c;

    1. It’s so true – people can say all they want to convince us we’re okay at something, but if we don’t believe it ourselves it doesn’t work that easily! Thank you so much for your kind words, for the encouragement, and for reading 🙂

  2. Oh <3! Good for you, hey! That's a really brilliant result for facing something you feared Also – hurrah! Getting singing lessons is on my list too. And I haven't done it either, mostly because like you, I'm sure I can't sing. I'm hoping that when I finally do get lessons, it'll be as positive as your ones 🙂

    1. I hope you do go for lessons! I was so so scared for the longest time – YEARS I’ve been wanting to sing – and when it finally came to taking the leap it proved way too scary at first. But if you find the right person, they can do wonders for making it not so scary at all! Please let me know if you decide to take the plunge, I’ll be rooting for you 🙂

  3. AAAAAAAHHHHHH! You did it! Oh My God, Emily I’m so proud of you! My Luvvie’s heart is bursting with joy right now!
    I won’t lie, your teacher is right. I’ve cried in a lesson, thinking I’d just ruined a song because of how high it went… but we all have those moments. I’ve done workshops with a man who teaches in Guildhall School of music and his wife who played Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera when it first opened and they told me something I still try to remember to this day: “Never trust what you hear when you sing.” In other words, when you listen to yourself as you sing, you’re not really going to be nice about what you hear, so don’t trust it. If you think you went out of tune, it’s just as likely you didn’t. If someone else says you went out of tune then fine, but don’t allow yourself to be too self-critical.
    I’m so glad you’re a Soprano!!! You get some beautiful songs… and you often get to sing alongside Tenors like me. Romantic roles and beautiful sweeping songs are all yours for the taking Emily!
    Those loud notes you’re talking about is belting, I’ve seen a few people do it and all I can say is although it’s powerful, it’s mostly in my experience used as a coping method for a note you know you’ve got to make an impact on. Belting isn’t always very friendly to your vocal cords though.
    I’ve been doing a lot of work about supporting from the diaphragm for one of the duets in the show. I have to hit a note that is close to the top of my range, and I have to hit it loud over a crescendo of Orchestra, and then later in the song, do it all again with Tuptim singing as well. Needless to say, for me it’s the scariest part of the show for me… but the sheer adrenaline you feel when you know you hit it and did a good job of it is such a reward and you’ll be amazed how much of an influence your arms have when you’re singing. That top note I just mentioned is usually accompanied by me lifting my arms slightly and planting my feet firm on the ground, soon as I do that, I hit the note, no problem.

    Well done sweetheart! I am so incredibly proud of you right now! Thank you so much for sharing, and please, keep me posted!

    X

    1. Awwww thank you so much for the amazing comment and the encouragement!! I am still feeling pretty scared – I can’t belt and I feel a little sad because I’ve always wanted to do that with the high notes. Like in Defying Gravity. I suppose I just have to learn to strengthen my voice in the higher range so I can feel less like I’m forcing a sound to come out and more like I’m actually singing!! 🙂 I do hope we can do a duet one day – maybe the next time I see you it’ll even be in person! 🙂

      1. That duet will happen! I promise. Just got home from another performance and guess what? That Guildhall teacher was in the audience! He thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve just gotten in touch with him to see if he has any comments or suggestions for me.

        I rarely belt with my notes… I had to tonight because I had this tickle at the back of my throat, but normally if I feel a note is getting beyond my range, I soften off and take it into my head voice instead. That way I’m still hitting the note, and I’m not wrecking my voice at the same time. 🙂 You’ve got to remember that although you’re still learning, doesn’t mean you aren’t good. Even the professionals still keep their vocal tutor on speed dial! 😀

        Once again… dead proud for you love. ❤ Duet is definitely on the cards!

  4. Congratulations, Emily! I can completely relate to your story. Taking vocal coaching has been one of the things I’ve always wanted to do. I almost took lessons last spring but, at the last minute, became too afraid to make the call. Maybe one day.

  5. Yeah!!!! That sounds like so much fun…I mean, scary, but fun!!!! I love it. I have wanted to play the guitar forever and it’s still one of my goals…it’ll have to be one summer when the kiddos are a little older but I would love to be able to play the guitar. You can be my singer!!!! 🙂

    1. Haha I have ALWAYS wanted to be in a band. I did a brief stint singing with a punk rock band in high school but that was ten years ago, but I miss the sheer adrenaline of it and just being able to sing with real live musicians songs that I was passionate about. I really hope you do learn guitar and then we can practice together on Skype! 🙂

  6. I had to share this post with two singers I know–my wife who’s done BGV’s and sings at church, and my wife’s BFF who is actually a touring singer with albums and everything. I wonder if they ever had that fear, or if they started singing so early in life that it never manifested as a roadblock. Of course, I’m sure they get stage fright (or its equivalent) from time to time.

    It scared me to death the first time I sang karaoke. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s how I relate to your experience. I enjoy “singing along with my tunes” as much as the next person, but using a microphone and being the ONLY voice? For an entire bar?? Ack. I agonized over it for a long time before I just went and did it… and realized something similar to your little quote box there.

    To quote a movie I watched (again) last night, “Fear is just a feeling. You feel cold, you feel hot, you feel hungry, you feel afraid. Fear cannot kill you.” Therefore, when you’re afraid of something, you’re the only thing holding yourself back.

      1. I saw! Thanks so much for sharing this, I really appreciated that. And as always for your insightful comments. I hope to one day be able to do karaoke! And I loved that quote!

  7. I have a huge fear of rejection – especially when it comes to my writing. I want to be a published novelist someday but I am terrified to actually send my work out to find someone who will publish it. I know it will come with a lot of rejection and I’m just so scared to face that.

    Maybe I just need to get a backbone and do it. You never know until you try.

    1. Exactly!! Listen to those words… you never know until you try, and one day you might regret not trying the most of all. I think you should go for it – I think everyone experiences rejection at some point in their lives, be it through relationships, friendships, interviews, auditions etc… you just have to chalk it up to experience and keep trying!

  8. Oh Emily! I am so very proud to have “met” you!
    Everything you write is SO exactly how I felt 5 years ago when I started singing.
    I wish everyone who ever felt an interest in singing could take at least some lessons to find out what it is all about as you are. So much of what we’re afraid of when it comes to singing comes from mis-conceptions such as, singers just naturally do it! Not so.
    What’s more, I have found that singing teachers especially have a gift for making you feel safe and comfortable. It’s a necessary skill but I truly love and appreciate them for it.
    My voice teacher once rubbed my tummy, and held my ponytail up in the air during a workshop in front of other people. There was a point to this, but what it did most of all was alleviate the fear that I would look like an idiot. She took care of that for me and I love her for it! Truly, it took the stress away and I learned a lot that afternoon.
    I still deal with old nasty thought patterns with regard to my singing from time to time, but it constantly gets easier.
    May I say it again?
    WAY TO GO!

    1. Your voice teacher sounds great too! I’m just so glad the first step is over and I can see the path clearly now. 1: Take the first lesson. 2: Get to the point where it’s not nerve-wracking to sing in front of my instructor. 3: Start believing I might not be so bad. 4: Have the guts to sing in public!! I think it’ll be a long road, but one I’m very excited to take 🙂

  9. i am so proud of you em!!! you continue to be a massive inspiration for me to face my fears. i am petrified of heights and like you of singing in front of anyone but if i get the flat to meself i’m singing along to glee! tonight i will sing in the shower even if mark is home. thanks for the push!

  10. Oh very cool! I cannot carry a tune in a bucket and I don’t think musical coaching of any kind would help me. My aunt however, who is an amazing singer, claims that going to a voice coach took her voice from good to GREAT! Maybe you can post a vlog of you singing for us?? 🙂

  11. My biggest fear is really putting my heart on the line… but holding back and keeping my guard up is not going to get me anywhere. I have to risk it all, and let the chips fall as they may…

    Good for you for tackling your fear!

    1. That’s a really big one – the heart can be very delicate, but if it’s forever guarded, it may miss out on being filled with something amazing one day. I do hope you decide to take a risk 🙂

  12. Argh!!! It’s password protected. I’d like to hear it please?? 🙂

    Anyway, you did it!! I’m so happy for you. I do have a lot of fears myself. One of them is rejection.

    Oh, and I’ve signed up for Meetup.com then I joined a group. Then… I didn’t know what to do next. Haha. 😀

    1. Oh I can walk you through it if you like! You just search or browse through your local groups and join the ones that look interesting, then they send you emails with their meetup dates every once in a while. Let me know how it goes if you go along to one! And I’ll message you on FB with the password… although it’s pretty painful lol

  13. Thee range in my ‘strong’ voice is not that big…I think it’s great that you went back!! I took singing lessons (group) very briefly, but I learned so much in that short time.

    1. I know what you mean – I feel like I learned a TONNE in the 40 minutes I was with the instructor – and everything made so much SENSE! 🙂 I really hope I can increase my “strong” range. And learn the proper terminology lol

  14. you’re kind of a rockstar =) I fear failing, which is common – so…keeps from being a photographer! It’s crazy talk eh? (the ‘eh’ because you live in canada ;))

    1. Haha I REFUSE to say “eh”, even after ten years of living here!! 🙂 I definitely hear you – I used to want to be a wedding photographer but the pressure of failing always kept me from pursuing photography. But you’re right – it IS crazy talk, and anything’s possible if you’re determined enough. A thick skin helps too though – I’m working on mine 🙂

  15. What a wonderful post! I can’t sing for the life of me but when I sing with no one around I sound pretty damn fab, to me…hee! I think there is nothing better than facing your fears and accomplishing what you know in your heart of hearts you can! Good for you! Keep doing what your doing! Gorgeous:)

  16. Good for you!

    Going back to what you said about niches, your friend is right. There are plenty of sports stars that are excellent now, but how did they get there? Years of practice. They weren’t always that good. So the niche philosophy is missing one part: that no one is going to be perfect at one thing naturally, that we can also practice and work toward a niche.

    And you are doing just that, and I am proud of you.

    As for me, I think I’m facing a lot of my fears by applying to Turkey: fear of failure, fear of leaving the country, fear of teaching a class…and there are even more I can list!

  17. Thanks for dropping by my blog…you are right, we will live a more eventful life when we realize how short life is. It will push us to do things that truly scare us. It makes me smile when I see people tackling fears. I think that everyone has this awesome dream of being a rock star, but it’s often very hard to try and live out that dream, because many times fear drives us from getting up to the mic and just opening our mouths Kudos to you for giving it a shot. I am a huge fan of karaoke–100% sober. All the drunks thinking I sound half decent boosts my self confidence ha. Great post!

    1. Haha, that’s a great idea – karaokeing in front of all the drunks while sober I imagine could feel really good!! lol that takes a lot of guts to do, I bet, though, so good for you 🙂

  18. What an awesome adventure! Kudos to you for trying something that’s big and scary. I feel like I’ve been doing a bit of that this year as well – pushing myself to get out into the ocean and trusting the water to hold me up – getting on a little, scary boat and cruising around a lake without falling out and dying. It’s been terrifying and equally rewarding and I’m glad I’ve stopped holding myself back so much.

    1. The journey usually is terrifying but ultimately so rewarding knowing we’ve taken that leap and not allowed ourselves to be controlled by fear. Way to go you, I’m glad you’re breaking out of your comfort zone 🙂

  19. You know its funny. I often think I have no actual fears and I read this and realize that I do.

    I was in choir in high school, sang baritone and some higher bass parts. Travelled to Chicago to perform in a few places one semester. The following semester our choir entered international competitions in which we placed 4th out of somewhere around 40 high schools. I was also in the chorus in Oklahoma, The Pirates of Penzance, and Guys and Dolls. I’ve sang karaoke and been recorded by the people running it and requested to come back. Yet, for the past several years, I’ve dragged my feet as if they were nailed to the floor when people tried to drag me up on a stage sober and/or drunk. I just won’t do it. I have no virtually no fear of public speaking but music is another part of the mind. I’m inspired to seek out vocal lessons. And perhaps sing in public once again.

    Thanks for this post. It is lovely.

    1. Thanks Corey! It’s such a shame you moved away; this could have been something we tackled together. I would like to hear you sing sometime – perhaps a karaoke session is in order next time you visit Winnipeg 🙂

  20. music IS a language all on its own, but i believe that you CAN learn to read music and you CAN learn to do this and do it well. i’m proud of you for taking that first, terrifying step into the unknown. sometimes it’s just that little bit of inspiration i need to look at my life and see what i can do to improve my own. 🙂

  21. You know, I essentially grew up reading music, I was in the choir as a child, played the recorder from age 7-11, violin age 10-18 and flute age 14-18. But in the past 9 years? I haven’t touched an instrument in all that time, and I have not read music simply because I haven’t had to in a few years (in 2003-04 I was a member of the English Dept. Choir). And I would probably have a much harder time at it too, which is a shame because for me it was always a given that I knew how to read music.

    I think it’s such a great thing you went through with the lessons! My mom is also taking singing lessons and she’s really enjoying them. I think I may try to find a choir to sing in once I know where I’ll be living. I don’t know if I’m better than the average person at singing but I do like it (and I am also a soprano, at least that’s what I sang in the choir a few years ago).

    1. I would LOVE to be part of a choir – that’s maybe something I’ll look into further down the line when I have a bit of confidence in my voice and can actually read the music. I bet it’s so much fun. That’s amazing you played so many instruments! I used to play the clarinet in high school, but that was ten years ago and I haven’t read music since, so I’ve completely lost everything 😦

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