Monday, November 10, 2014

Is how you label yourself as a singer holding you back?

We all have an image of the type of singer (or musical director or choir) that we think we are. There are things that we can do and things that we can’t (or won’t) do.

labelled person
photo by iamstarbuck

But what if the way we see ourselves is out of date? What if we’ve given ourselves the wrong label? How can we move forward?

but I can only sing soprano!

Last week I was leading a singing session when I asked a woman which part she was going to sing in the next song. She said: “I can only sing soprano”. I pointed out that the song we’d just sung was all in the alto range. She looked confused.

At some point she had adopted the label ‘soprano’ and stuck with it. Not just out of preference, but because she truly believed she was only capable of singing soprano.

Then I came along and pointed out that she could also sing alto.

Her confusion was her brain trying to process this new information. Her singer’s label was out of date and she had to start seeing herself in a new light: as a singer who could sing both soprano and alto.

the wrong label can stop us growing

Old labels can hold us back. They limit us to what we believe we should be capable of, not what we are capable of.

Finding a new label can liberate us. It helps us to grow and move forward.

This is true whether we’re a singer (“I can only sing soprano”) a choir leader (“I can only tackle three part harmony with no tricky rhythms”) or even a whole choir (“We’re just a beginners’ choir”).

Holding onto an out of date label can easily become a habit. As soon as we develop habits we stop learning and growing because we stop noticing. See Breaking the habit of a lunchtime.

When we do realise that a label is no longer relevant, it can be a little upsetting at first. It is what is known as a paradigm shift – a sudden shift to a new version of ourselves from which there is no going back. Hence the confused (or ecstatic) look on someone’s face when they realise that everything has changed.

Time to check your own label: is it still relevant or is it holding you back?

further reading

You might also find these posts useful:

Can I call myself a ‘singer’?

Beginners choir or established choir: time to re-evaluate?

Chris Rowbury




Chris Rowbury


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