When Singing Becomes Psychologically Painful

If a would-be singer doesn’t rid herself of unwanted muscular tension she will compound it through force of will by compensating for the limitations in movement that it imposes on her voice. As teachers we should understand that in reconditioning a tense body we are removing a form of psychological or emotional protection.

Liberating the voice liberates the spirit as well as the body, and it may be that this process will inspire and enable the singer to rise above the original psychological cause. However, a singer’s condition might indicate that some alternative physical or psycho-physical treatment is required. Whatever the work needed, premature muscular release can be extremely disturbing and inappropriate delving into a pupil’s psyche may cause further retreat or instigate complications. However, without going to the root of whatever is blocking a singer’s singing, any treatment we are able to offer is bound to be limited if not merely cosmetic. The way people hold themselves often seems so much bound up with their psychology that even the mention of posture can put a person’s ‘back up’. Someone who has unwittingly adopted a defiant stance might ‘dig his heels in’; another, bowed with shame, may be ashamed of his shame, and so on.

It is therefore beneficial to help pupils to understand the effect of any misshapenness on their singing, so that the measures taken are directed towards what they want as distinct from what they are afraid of. In any case, singing is so all-involving that tackling some problems while ignoring others makes no sense.

Harrison, Peter T. “The human nature of the singing voice: exploring a holistic basis for sound teaching and learning.” (2006).