(Singing is not a "three stikes you're out" proposition)
One, two, three strikes youíre out. Many singers approach the
stage as if it were home plate in a little-league game.
there like a kid donning an over-size batting helmet, they often
squeeze their eyes and lock their muscles in anticipation of
tough pitches. Itís a self-defeating stance. Once the body becomes
rigid, itís almost impossible to make the minute adjustments
required to connect on target. When the inevitable misses start
adding up, suggestions from coaches like "relax" and "breathe"
are wiped out by panic. The downward spiral continues as all
attempts at maintaining a balanced form are abandoned in favor
of a full-out attack at each pitch. While poor mechanics are
certainly an issue, the mind is far more at fault in these situations.
Singing is mostly reflex activity, which means the muscles know
what to do. However, where the mind goes the muscles will follow.
Ironically, if you want to sing in tune, stop thinking about
to forget that thereís more to singing, and baseball for that
matter, then hitting pitches. Dynamics, tone, duration, note
placement and interpretation of lyrics all play a vital role
in music just as fielding skills do in baseball. What great
singers and players do is focus on a bigger picture. When performing,
the mind-set of a singer should be on the sentiment of the song.
What do you want to express to your audience? What do you want
them to feel? Are you in the song? Is your head
in the game? These questions are the ones to address when you
feel youíre losing control. Taking the focus off the physical
aspect of singing not only provides a better environment for
your reflexes, it also allows the audience to stay with their
emotions. Unlike baseball, singing is an art. No one is counting
the misses unless the singer draws attention to the problem.
Remember, where your heart goes the audience will follow.
steps you can take to prevent the distraction of an occasional
foul note. A good warm up is essential. Your muscles respond
much better when activated slowly. Cold muscles are rigid and
require more energy, which throws off the delicate balance needed
to be in tune. Another way to promote accuracy is to vocalize
every day. The best hitters in major league baseball never miss
batting practice. They do this so they can concentrate on where
to hit the ball during a game, not how. Vocalizing
gives you this same opportunity to focus on technique in order
to free your mind during a performance. The goal is to simplify
things so thereís less to deal with when under pressure. On
stage, while we tend to work extremely hard when singing high
notes, in reality, the muscles responsible are as small as those
which move your eyes. It is impossible to feel the vocal folds
stretching for a note -- any note. When you practice, work on
reducing the physical effort associated with pitch, no matter
how inaccurate it makes you at first. Allowing yourself to sing
out of tune is vital when exploring how little it takes to be
on pitch. Obviously, this is easier to do in private than on
can do when performing is dig deeply into the lyrics. Even if
no one can understand a thing youíre saying, let the words move
you. If something unintentional slips out, keep in mind that
the audience is routing for you. Think of Sammy Sosa or Mark
McGuire; you never see them finch when they swing for a strike.
The miss is wiped from their minds and their focus stays in
the present. The crowd wants them to hit the pitch and they
are lifted by the collective will. A crowd can do the same for
you if you let them.
No one goes
to a show in the hopes of seeing a singer struggle. You can
own a blunder if it works by repeating the stray pitch or by
adjusting the melody accordingly. Or, you can ignore the incident.
An audience has no idea what you intended to sing. Donít let
your body language give away the secret and they wonít have
any idea. Have you ever seen a baseball player not take a base
because he didnít mean to hit the ball to right field? Training
your voice to be consistent will help ease performance anxiety,
but itís just as important to learn to get over a missed pitch.
No one bats a thousand.
Baxter is a vocal therapist
who offers private and video lessons. To contact him, call:
(800)659-6002. Visit his website at: www.voicelesson.com
with the kind permission of Mark