Monday, June 24, 2019

Why are so many people afraid to open their mouths and sing?

I believe that everyone can sing. But despite encouragement, there are many people who think that they can’t.

photo by Sophia Spring/The Observer

For them, just opening their mouths can be scary. Why is that, and what can be done about it?

There was a great article in The Guardian newspaper last week: Learning to overcome my fear of singing was as easy as do-re-mi.

The piece was by Martin Love and described his first ever singing lesson and how hard he found it to simply open his mouth and make a sound (see Finding your voice can be scary – but don’t let that stop you).

Like many people, he’d had a bad experience when young. Two shameful incidents had made him decide that singing wasn’t for him (see Never tell someone they can’t sing – it is brutal, damaging and untrue).

He ponders why he felt so shameful about singing, but not other things he wasn’t good at:
“I’m not sure why I felt the shame of being a bad singer so acutely. I’m rubbish at all kinds of things. My football, cooking and dancing are all laughable, but I don’t care what anyone else thinks.”
There’s something about our voice which is intimately linked to our sense of self. When somebody criticises our singing voice, it’s like they’re directly criticising us (see Does your singing voice reveal the real you?)

To help Martin overcome his initial fears and begin to make sounds, the singing teacher gets him to hum:
“... I always start with humming. You are putting less out there so you feel less vulnerable.”
The other helpful thing is for the teacher to join in:
“His voice is so firm and beguiling it’s all I can do not to follow his lead.”
In the end he ends up singing a song. And it doesn’t matter what he sounds like.

This is no surprise to most of us choir leaders. It just takes a bit of gentle encouragement to tease somebody’s voice out, even if they were put off as a child and haven’t sung since.

Go gently, begin with humming, make it fun (so the stakes aren’t so high), and join in.

You’ll find it’s not so scary after all.

Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox!

Click to subscribe by email.

Chris Rowbury




Monthly Music Roundup: