Monday, June 08, 2015

Coming back to singing after a long absence or a bad experience

Whether it’s bringing up a family or long-term illness or a bad singing experience, many people find it hard to get back into singing when they’ve been away for a long time.


Here are some ideas for ways of gently easing your way back into singing after a long break.

Many of the people who attend my singing workshops have not sung for many years. For some it might be 40 years or more since a teacher told them to “Stand at the back and mime” or “Stop that awful noise!”. Or maybe they gave up a professional singing career to raise a family. Or perhaps one day nerves just got the better of them.

Whatever the reason, they they come back to singing because it’s something they need to do.

How can you get back on the horse if you’ve had a bad singing experience or have not sung for a very long time?

Here are a few ideas that may help.

ease in gently – don’t try to carry on from where you left off. If you were used to performing professionally try your local community choir first. If you were in the top class choir years ago, maybe try a “singing for fun” group first. Pick a singing group that is run by someone who is caring and considerate, who puts people first.

forget the past – if you had a bad experience (e.g. stage fright, harsh criticism, being told you can’t sing) it’s all too easy to dwell on it and bring it with you. You need to find a way to cultivate what is called “beginner’s mind” in Zen: behave as if this is the first time you’ve ever sung. Have no expectations and assume everything is going to be OK (which it almost certainly will be).

share your war stories – singing is a very sociable activity. You will meet new people and make new friends. Feel free to share your own singing experiences and why you’ve not sung for a long time. You’ll be amazed how many people are in the same boat. This will help your confidence enormously. See also You are not alone – most people in your choir think they can’t sing well

take it slow – once you’ve dipped your toe back in the water you will almost certainly feel great that you’re singing again. Don’t be tempted to rush things though. If you’ve been away for a while – for whatever reason – it will take some time before you feel completely comfortable with your own singing, despite what you feel after the first few sessions. It’s so easy to have your confidence knocked in these early stages of reconnecting with singing.

treat your voice kindly – if you’ve not used your singing voice for many years it will take a while to make friends with it again and to get it into good shape. Don’t go straight for the high notes or try to belt out too early. Give your voice time to develop again. Like any other form of exercise, it will take a while to re-condition your vocal mechanism and get it back into tip-top shape.

that was then, this is now – it may be that over the years your voice will have changed. Maybe it’s deeper or has greater depth. It may come as a surprise at first, but try not to hang on to your image of your voice as it was when you last sang. Approach your new voice with wonder and excitement to see what it can reveal.

try something new – now that you’re older (and possibly wiser!) you might find that the world is a bigger (and different) place from when were last singing. This is a great opportunity to try out different singing styles or genres of songs. Don’t put yourself in a box. Just because you used to sing only folk doesn’t mean you can’t now enjoy singing songs from the shows. Just because you used to only sing classical doesn’t mean you can’t now join a rock choir.

it’s never too late! – some people think that they’re too old for singing, but it’s never too late to come back to singing. See also If not now, when? – start singing NOW! and Choirs: is old age an issue?

Chris Rowbury




Chris Rowbury


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