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?