Monday, March 18, 2024

Moving outside your comfort zone – comfortably

My partner is always sending me videos with ideas for singing warm ups, usually involving complex clapping or stepping.

I tell her that they will be too difficult for the singers I work with. But am I being too safe and under-estimating the singers’ abilities?

Over the years I’ve developed a pretty good idea of what the average group of random singers is capable of. I learnt the hard way by trying overly complicated warm ups!

In my experience, most singers don’t have a highly developed body awareness. Most singers find unusual rhythms hard. And many singers aren’t really sure which is their right foot!

However, I believe that it’s important for singers to keep on growing, to face challenges, to develop their skills over time.

For choirs that meet regularly, I’ve managed to develop vocal skills gradually over the weeks, as well as introducing more challenging repertoire.

It’s a little different in a one-off singing session though. Yet singers will still enjoy challenges in order to get a sense of real satisfaction when they’ve nailed something.

As choir leaders, we’re faced with a dilemma: we want to create a safe, supportive space so singers will feel comfortable; yet we also want to gently nudge them out of their comfort zone in order to grow and develop. And every singer will have their own comfort zone.

Our challenge becomes “how do we introduce new challenges whilst making sure they’re not too difficult”? We want singers to move out of their comfort zone, but not too far!

If you try to move out of your comfort zone too fast or too far you will move beyond the sweet spot (the growth or optimal performance zone) and end up in the panic/ danger zone. This will make you fearful and want to retreat to your comfort zone again.

The secret is to do things slowly, to introduce small challenges along the way.

This could be summarised by an adaptation of the Serenity Prayer:

Grant me the serenity to accept that some things are just too hard to try (at the moment),
The courage to step out of my comfort zone and to tackle some difficult things,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Of course, it’s not just choir leaders who have to deal with comfort zones. Individual singers will want to grow and develop too. It’s important to set yourself personal challenges, but not to try something that’s way too difficult or you’ll end up feeling frustrated and a bit of a failure. Slowly, slowly is the secret.

other posts

You might find these older posts of interest too:

Raising the bar: singing with people who are more experienced than you

Looking for new warm up ideas? Don’t dismiss the old and familiar

Working with an established group (who are set in their ways)

It’s good to fail as a singer (and you should do it more often)

Chris Rowbury


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