Singing Success Tips is a series of posts discussing non-vocal aspects of being a successful singer.
“You can avoid reality. But you cannot avoid the
consequences of avoiding reality.”
– Ayn Rand
I saw this quote the other day and thought it is something we all need to be reminded of. An extreme example of this are the clueless singers who audition for American Idol and show up in the first few episodes as “Bad Auditions”. They certainly are avoiding the reality that singing is not their thing.
But we’re all guilty of avoiding reality at some point in our vocal journey. Hopefully not to the the degree of these Idol wannabes. Maybe we think we’re better or more advanced than we actually are. Maybe we audition for something that we are not ready for. Or sing repertoire we’re not ready for. Then we wonder why we receive less than glowing feedback.
I remember back when I was teaching at Luther College for a year. I was mainly working with Freshman singers. Luther is a private, Lutheran school with a very strong choral tradition. So the singers that go there typically come from high schools with strong choral programs. A good thing about that background was these singers were pretty confident and experienced for their age. The negative was they thought they were more advanced than they actually were.
Some of them got upset when I assigned them fairly simple songs instead of an opera aria. They thought of progress in terms of difficulty of the repertoire rather than in terms of their vocal function. This is an example of a disconnect from reality. There is no point in singing opera arias if you can’t sing a simple folk tune with good function.
We see the consequences of this avoidance of reality all the time. In fact it progresses through each level of education. High School singers going into College, College singers going into Master’s programs. Even Doctorate singers often are not able to demonstrate good vocal function.
But the fact is, the more serious we are about our voice, the more in touch with reality we need to be to be successful. For one, singing beyond your ability can be hazardous to your vocal health. It can also be hazardous to your reputation.
If you audition for an opera company or management and avoid the reality of your vocal level it is possible they will write you off for good. If you make a poor impression they may not bother to hear you again in the future. Even if by that time you have faced reality and are representing yourself more accurately.
This is primarily a problem for younger or less experienced singers. The reality of what is expected from a singer in a professional setting has little relation to what is expected from a singer at a University/Conservatory.
The ironic thing is the talented singer falls into this trap just as often as the clueless singer. Because of their talent they often are ambitious as well, sometimes to a fault. Ambition is good, and absolutely necessary for a career, but it also needs to be tempered with a firm grasp of reality.
Unfortunately, being able to recognize reality is not easy for any of us until we’ve been around the block a few times. In the early stages we all have a bit of naivete, but after a while that excuse doesn’t fly. We either realize the illusion we’ve been operating from and recognize our reality, going to work on improving our limitations. Or we continue avoiding reality for the sake of our ego.
An interesting twist to this topic of reality is the opposite of what I describe above. Often with singers that are very determined to be the best they can be, they distort reality and believe themselves to be worse than they actually are. This can be just as insidious as the situation above.
This is a common issue for those with a tendency towards perfectionism. This person believes they should be totally in command and flawless after just a few months work. And if they aren’t they think they are horrible. This is a huge avoidance of reality. And it is very unproductive.
Something that must be understood with the voice, and the body in general, is that change happens gradually. There are certain improvements that can be immediate, but the nature of the voice changes slowly. So we have to be patient for these improvements to happen. But we also have to be consistent.
If our disappointment with our apparent slow progress is significant, it can interfere with our development and derail the progress we are actually making. So it is important to understand the reality of the nature of change in the body. It is much like the person trying to lose weight. There are some small amounts that can be lost quickly. But in general the body loses weight gradually.
This gradual change in the body can seem like nothing is happening for some time. That is just because we can’t necessarily notice the changes that are happening. We just have to trust that they are. That is where understanding the reality of the situation is critical. If you do, then you will know that things happen gradually and you can keep your expectations in line with reality.
Ultimately the success of everything we do comes down to how truthfully we can see the reality of the situation. Everything I talk about on this blog related to the voice is always coming from the perspective of the reality of the vocal system. Not from the perspective of belief, or technique, or “I tried this trick and I could sing louder/higher/faster than ever!”
Try to keep this in mind the next time you are facing a challenge of some kind. Remember to look at the reality of the situation and watch out for operating from a belief or opinion. It is really the only way to accurately assess what you are dealing with and get true results.
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