Updated: Apr 2
Obstacles and resistance to singing - reasons and remedies
Why do people resist singing when it's so good for them?
It is tempting to say to hesitant singers, "Just open your mouth and let it out.." But people don't. Why is this?
When a typical group of people are confronted by a vocal coach with opportunity or encouragement to sing or to learn to sing, a common reaction is something like, "Oh, wow... if I open my mouth to sing, I usually clear the room."
Such responses often make light of what can be some very deep-rooted and stubborn resistance.
Why are we so judgmental about the sound of our own voice? and other people's voices too? Where does this level of scrutiny and judgment come from?
We certainly do not see it exhibited in lots of other (sometimes far more challenging) disciplines.
We never hesitate to give someone a lift to the airport or station, for fear that the passenger will criticize our car-driving skills.
We tend not to avoid making someone a cup of tea or a sandwich, for fear that our culinary expertise will not make the grade.
We would not normally refuse a request to look after a friend's children, out of worry that our childcare approach is woefully lacking.
Nor do we normally reject some very serious demands which can come our way in life, such as being a best man at a wedding, or being the executor of a will, or doing all sorts of voluntary work which can carry big responsibilities.
The big question is WHY.
Of course with any new challenge, a lack of confidence and experience always tends to prompt a few feelings of fear and resistance, but something else seems to ratchet up the pressure and reluctance where singing is concerned.
Part of the explanation might be the style and attitudes of TV talent shows, which so many people are exposed to in extremely large measures, in which singers are judged very publicly and critically as either 'good' or 'bad'.
Singing is seen here not as the wonderfully enriching activity that it can be for everyone - which can liberate and foster or personal well-being - but as a matter of making 'the required standard' or not. The media - TV especially - suggests that singing is an all or nothing activity. Singing is presented as a supreme art form which only the most brilliant few have the right to practise within sound and sight of other human beings.
This impression is seriously compounded by the advancement of studio and sound production technology which tends to make artists sound impossibly perfect. We see the same effect with the 'airbrushing' and computer manipulation of (especially female) models in magazines and elsewhere in modern media. An unrealistic unreachable standard is created and offered to the audience - as if to say, "You are not good enough to do this, or be like this, or to look like this, or to sound like this... And this is the only standard that's acceptable..."
In this way media - particularly TV - attempts, and in many cases succeeds, to drive our aspirations upwards, and to instil a sense of inadequacy and imperfection in each of us, which of course creates a great big perceived need for all sorts of life-improving products and services.
Our attitudes to singing are perhaps affected quite strongly by this type of marketing.
A Subject of Media Manipulation.
A model of perfection is presented to us: "Being the best is all that matters. So don't bother if you are anything less than the best."
As a consequence many people have a false perception of what a beautiful voice is, and believe that there is no value in singing unless we can 'compete' at the apparent (highly produced and often digitally enhanced) standards of singing on TV.
We allow this perception to constrain us, or worse to stop us singing altogether.
Why do we find informal singing easier?
Happily, thousands of us do actually sing - in choirs, in bands, at karaoke and other situations. Many people sing regardless, and love it, and sound great, and feel great for doing it. They have discovered what everyone else can discover - that human beings all actually and naturally already know how to sing.
As already discussed - you used to sing, unrestrained and joyfully as a child. Singing is hard-wired into your brain circuitry.
All that prevents you is unrealistic artificial expectation and the daft notion that only perfection is acceptable.
When you switch your thinking about singing - that it is a pleasure in itself, and not a competition in which everyone loses except the very best - then you open yourself to marvellous new experiences, and the certainty of being able to sing - actually very acceptably - and then to learn how to sing even better.
We can all sing, but to sing very well - like doing anything well in life - we must learn and train and practise.
Someone said that "...Talent is the ability to put one's mind to one's practice and has nothing to do with being born with a gift..."
This is true.
The Art of Practise
People who can sing very well, do so because they have practised. When we practise - especially if we hear ourselves singing in a recording - we also become accustomed to our own voice, which for many people is an additional obstacle to overcome.
Initially we are simply not used to hearing the sound of our own voice. It sounds strange and for some reason makes us uncomfortable. But it's really just a case of becoming used to the way we sound. There's essentially nothing wrong with your voice, or anyone's voice for that matter. The more you sing, the more you feel comfortable and accepting about the way you sound. You realise that your voice, which other people hear, is perfectly okay. And it grows even better with practise.
In fact, far from being strange, the tone of your voice is your unique blueprint, just like your DNA. Your DNA isn't 'wrong' or 'unacceptable' - it just is what it is. Your voice is the same. Moreover, unlike DNA, with practice you can polish and refine your voice, just as you can improve any other capability you choose to pursue.
A particular obstacle to singing in groups is the general discomfort we feel in exposing our weaknesses, insecurities, mistakes, etc., to others.
The Fear of Failure
Brick walls and segregated working routines have much to answer for. We tend to work behind or within barriers of one sort or another. We feel safe by not revealing our sensitivities and true selves to others.
Relationships among people at work are often tense. There might also be strong feelings such as conflict, dispute, resentment, stress, pressure, etc.
We live our lives so tightly coiled and afraid of 'getting it wrong' so that we never dare risk to 'get it wrong', even though in all sorts of activities 'getting it wrong' is exactly what we need to do to improve and enjoy ourselves.
When you learn to sing, there is no such thing as failure. There is feedback for sure, and there is improvement, but there is no failure, unless you choose to imagine it for yourself.
This powerful philosophy is not exclusive to singing - it's found in NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), TA (transactional analysis) and in many other highly positive and effective personal development methodologies.
Modern life and work tend to make us behave in very unnatural and suppressed ways. We can become convinced that the most natural wonderful pleasures such as singing are not real or relevant to modern living, and that reality is what's offered on TV and what we read in the newspapers and glossy magazines, and by the millions of other artificial images and pressures forced onto us every day.
Singing helps us to discover that workplace stress, technology, consumerism, materialism and over-produced aspiration are not the real world that we can think them to be. The real world - the truly relevant, meaningful, fulfilling world - is a far more natural and far more accessible deeply satisfying set of experiences.
When we remove our barriers, and switch our perceptions in this way, we begin to rediscover 'playtime' as if we were children again, untainted by the distractions and pressures of modern life and work. If people lived, in sonorous singing communities, as all people once did, you would already be convinced of this view.
When you see people at their most uninhibited - perhaps at the next office Christmas party, or at a truly relaxed social gathering - it is clear that the human soul is desperate to drop the facades that we wear - habitually and unconsciously - in our daily lives, particularly in our working lives. Bringing singing into people's lives helps remove these facades and defences.
Singing truly can open windows in us all so that our authentic selves can shine through, which is obviously good for everyone, and so for work and life too.
By Sally Garozzo