Monday, February 24, 2020

When you start singing for the first time, be prepared to fail. A lot.

I mentioned skateboarder Barry Dring in my last post. And here he is again!

When he was interviewed, Barry pointed out that when learning to skateboard, you have to fall off. A lot. It’s the same with any new skill, including singing.

Many people think that you have to be born a perfect singer (see Putting the hours in – are singers born or made?). If you’re not, then you’ll never become one.

But it’s different for other skills like football, playing the violin, skateboarding, juggling, knitting, tennis, pottery and so on. People expect it to take a while to become good.

In most skills we are allowed to fail. In fact, failing is a necessary part of the learning process. If we’re not failing, then we’re not learning and growing – we’re simply staying inside our comfort zone.

In order to grow and develop we need to stretch ourselves just beyond what we’re capable of.

Because we’re not yet capable of doing that new thing, we will mess up. We will fail many times until slowly we get better.

We don’t expect someone who’s never played golf before to get a hole in one.

We expect someone who’s never knitted before to drop a few stitches here and there.

We don’t expect a perfect pot the first time someone throws clay onto a potters wheel.

We all need to take driving lessons before we can take our driving test. We will stall many times, and maybe even bump into a few things along the way.

Somehow singing is treated differently. But it shouldn’t be.

When we first start to sing, we will not always hit the right note. There is a feedback mechanism between our ears and the many muscles involved in making vocal sounds. It takes a long time to fine-tune those muscles so we can reproduce a sound accurately.

Just like it takes a long time to connect our eyes and our arm muscles to serve accurately in tennis.

Just like it takes a long time to develop the relationship between touch and finger muscles to be able to make a wooden bowl.

When you first start singing, you will fail frequently. It’s a necessary part of the process. Don’t beat yourself up about it, just be patient.

It’s important that you are among people of a similar level, or surrounded by people who are willing you on.

When you first start to play football, you won’t expect to join a premier league team. When you first start to sing, you shouldn’t expect to hold your own with elite singers.

As Samuel Beckett wrote in Worstward Ho:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Try not to say “I can’t sing.” Better to say “I can’t sing well yet.”

Good luck!

further reading

You might also find these posts useful.

6 facts about singing to help first-time singers

Handy hints for hesitant singers – 10 tips for singers new to choirs

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

Singers, don’t be afraid to make mistakes – it’s the only way to learn

How to sing better

Not everyone will like your singing voice – but that’s OK

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Chris Rowbury




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