Sometimes people comment about how ‘lucky’ I am that I can sing. I wonder if they realize all that’s gone into it over the years, not just for me, but for the countless people who have honed their singing voice. It's goes beyond technical skill & talent. Life experiences shapes not only the sound of one's voice but the disposition they take when they sing. These experiences are invaluable in the journey of discovering our voice. Of course, there are some anatomical & possible genetic factors at play that effect tone, listening, & the ability to project but beyond these our voice is developed through time, engagement, & experiences that may be both liberating & sometimes painful.
Over the next couple weeks I'd like to share with you some of the most impactful ‘secrets’ & stories from my journey with singing. These aren't about technique (though they have technical results) but about those mental & emotional constructs that support the expression of a dynamic voice. I can’t promise that you will always sound good when employing these secrets ~ but I’m confident that your journey with voice will be liberating and a helluva lot more fun!
Part one of this series includes stories from my childhood up until the day I realized that I wanted singing to become a more professional part of my life. I hope you enjoy!
If I could attribute my voice to one thing it would be enthusiasm. For as long as I can remember I loved to sing. One of my very first memories is of singing. I was 2 or 3 years old & my oldest brother was babysitting me. He put the song ‘Rockin Robin’ on the stereo & played it on repeat. We danced, sang, & laughed to that song for at least an hour. After he was played out he gave me headphones & left me to sing & dance on my own ~ which I did for several more hours! Every now & then he'd come downstairs & join for a round then leave me again to my singing haven. I LOVED that song & I'm sure my brother loved how easy I was to babysit.
Bringing it home
What did you love to sing when you were younger (or yesterday)? What happens if you just sing it for the love of it? Rock out in the car, sing it on repeat, & sing solely for your joy of singing as loud, quiet, or expressive as you want. If you loved to sing as a kid I bet that joy is still somewhere inside.
By kindergarten singing was still my favourite, except now I had a friend who loved to sing as much me. Now, at this point in time my friend & I were under the very distinct impression that the BEST singer was the LOUDEST singer. And thus, we regularly competed to be the best (AKA loudest). During a recital rehearsal (while in full best singing competition) my teacher specifically & kindly asked me to stop yelling & sing instead. I can’t help but wonder if my yell/singing contributed to the projection I have today.
Bring it home
When I work with a groups I love having them sing as loud as they can without any concern for how it sounds. This exercise immediately changes the energy in the space, is pretty hilarious, & almost always gets people singing louder & more expressively afterwards.
Try it for yourself. Pick a simple song & forget about how you sound. Just sing it as loud as you can. Dance if you want & make it totally ridiculous. Getting comfortable with being ridiculous is one of the best ways you can support learning & enjoying your voice.
Try So Hard
By the tween years my song preferences had moved to the melodramatic ballads of the early nineties. They had all the feels! I would belt out Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, & Whitney Houston like I owned those songs. Regardless of the range or musical dexterity I gave it my all. I tried so hard! I would imagine myself as a famous singer performing at the most notorious events. And yes, technically I was absolutely ‘over-singing’ but that's why it was so amazing. It was a playground to try on & play with all aspects of my voice whether or not I had the actual chops.
Bring it home
Again and again I come across two very common fears with singing; 1) Being too loud & 2) Sounding like you’re trying. Overcoming these mental hurdles is so valuable in discovering your voice. When you are willing to try, to play, to sound ridiculous you will move lightyears forward in both your voice & your joy of singing
Go ahead & try it. Grab a hairbrush (your pretend microphone) & sing like an over dramatic Mariah Carey at the Grammys. Forget about sounding ‘good’ & give it your everything. Be over dramatic, over performative, over the top! Get comfortable with trying & playing & world of your voice will open.
Find the Wins in the Losses
In my early twenties, before I sang professionally, I tried out for Canadian Idol on a lark. It was my first time behind the scenes & I was torn between both the opportunity & the exploitive nature of it all. I watched people pushed through preliminary auditions only to be humiliated on national television. When I made it to the TV audition Sass Jordan told me I was good, but not great. Fortunately, it was enough to make the top 100 & I was flown to Toronto. Unfortunately I was cut in the first round.
The whole Canadian Idol thing was incredibly eye opening. Overall, I took the experience as a win. It showed me that music was a viable option in my life & was a bit of a game changer. At the same time I saw how subjective & cliquy it could all be & you can't take it too seriously. It seems with music every loss or disappointment (of which I’ve had many) can also have a brighter side. I won’t pretend I’ve always seen it right away but I do believe that when we celebrate the wins & find them even in our losses that it gives the courage to keep going.
Bring it home
It’s easy to get stuck on what’s not good enough & empowering to acknowledge what we learn & how we grow. If you sing in front of people for the first time & it goes poorly it’s still a win ~ you got your butt up there & did it. Looking at our ‘losses’ from the lens of growth is incredibly supportive. How might the seeming ‘losses’ in your journey of voice be seen from this lens?
About the Author
Amy Thiessen is a coach, writer, & musician who focuses on helping women connect to their confidence, purpose, & self esteem through voice & communication. Offering a holistic approach Amy helps individuals uncover & overcome their unique blocks around voice & communication, connect to their self esteem & purpose, & ultimately express themselves in a way that is empowered & impactful.
Singing can be scary. For many people it's one of the most intimate & vulnerable exercises. In my 1:1 Embodied Voice program I work with clients to feel a spiritual & embodied connection to their voice through sound & song. Unlike traditional singing lessons this program approaches voice as a gateway for healing, self expression, self understanding, & freedom! Through processes of breathwork, somatic & vocal techniques, sound, gentle inquiry, & individualized ritual you will bridge the space between felt sense of free expression.If this sounds appealing please book a 20 min session with me with absolutely zero strings. Here you can learn more about the 'Embodied Voice' Program & we can check & see if it's right for you. I PROMISE that if I don't think I'm the right fit or I believe there is a better vocal coach or therapist for you I will pass along their info.