Monday, September 12, 2022

Slow and steady wins the race – it takes time to become a singer or choir leader

We live in a fast, short-attention span world. People expect instant gratification.

photo by Rose Davies

But becoming competent at something takes time.

wanting instant results

Some years ago I tried teaching myself piano. I used some elementary books which had tunes like “Twinkle, twinkle little star”. I soon got bored and frustrated and gave up. I wanted to play interesting tunes immediately.

I also tried to learn a new language, but soon gave up when native speakers were just too fast and I felt I didn’t stand a hope in hell.

Persistence and the long haul have never been my strong points. When things start getting hard, I’m the first to throw in the towel. I’m impatient, have a low boredom threshold, and need instant results.

But …

staying the course

I’ve been writing this blog consistently, every week since December 2006.

I’ve been leading choirs and singing workshops since 1997 and now earn my living from it.

My singing voice has improved enormously over the years.

How come I’ve stuck at it for so long?

For me, the main reason (apart from loving what I do) is that I have made a commitment in public. And for some reason, that’s important to me.

In 2006 I publicly said that I would write a blog post every single week.

I publicise choirs and singing workshops and then need to turn up so I don’t let people down.

turn up every week

By being committed and turning up every week I have discovered over the years that:

  • persistence and staying the course is how you develop – simply turn up every week and do your thing, whether it’s leading a choir or learning a song, or developing your singing voice.
  • every new skill takes longer than you think to develop – it takes professional singers months for a new song to bed in. It takes many years before your group leading skills will become finely honed. Improving your singing voice means replacing years of bad habits, and that takes time.
  • never forget that you’re always learning – even when you get good at something, be humble enough to realise that there’s still room for improvement.
  • why be perfect when you can be great? – don’t let striving for perfection (which you can never achieve) stop you from realising how good you are and how far you’ve come down the road of development.
  • letting others know what you’re trying to achieve works wonders for commitment – if you tell all your friends that you’re learning to sing or starting to lead choirs, it means that you feel responsible and won’t want to let them down. That will help you in the long run when things get tough or boring.

you never stop improving – but it takes time

In 1944, when he was 67, the famous cellist Pablo Casals wrote in a letter:

“I have resumed my practicing and you will be pleased to know that I feel that I am making daily progress.”

Casals is generally regarded as the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century and one of the greatest cellists of all time. In 1944 he had already had many years of international success. But he was still practising, still learning, still improving.

I think we should all take a leaf out of his book!

other posts

You might find these older post of interest.

How long does it take to learn a song?

Putting the hours in – are singers born or made?

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

Chris Rowbury


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