Are You Willing to Fail?

For babies to learn to walk, they must endure a long process of falling over and over. They don’t give up or complain about this process: the infant instinctively feels its way through this wobbly routine.

During this whole process, motor skills and neural pathways are being built to acquire the skill of walking. Muscles are being innervated, stimulated to action, and this ultimately ends in an ability to do something that the infant COULD NOT do before.

The same is true for the singing voice: the training process involves lots of “falling down,” to stimulate the muscles and bring them to a state of balance. In my studio, I use MANY temporary sounds that help to stimulate laryngeal and body reactions to get to muscles that are beyond direct control. Physical Therapists will manually move and adjust the body to build pathways back to the brain and stimulate the correct function of the muscles in question.

Failing is no fun as we get older. Many students confronted with repeated failure will give up study, believing that they are not talented. But this is wrong thinking: failure is the way that the brain grows and forms new connection to the body AND vice versa.

Remember, mistakes are not mistakes – they are signposts that you use to get better. As I have said before, “There is NO failure, only feedback.”

Slow and steady really does win the race, and depending on the state of the voice, there can be a protracted period of ‘falling down.’ As a teacher of this process, it is VITAL I keep the student encouraged and focused on the fact that they are MOVING in the right direction. Every mistake is teaching them how to get to higher and higher levels of function. One of my favorite quotes from W. Stephen Smith is “Get cracked and stay cracked.” Be willing to take your voice to a vulnerable and exposed place in technical work.

Before closing, I also think it’s important for professional singers to continue a lifetime of  ‘falling down’ in their technical work. Many professional singers ‘set’ a vocal technique and continue to use the voice in a predictable and familiar way. This process ultimately ends in ‘specialization’ to avoid FEAR. This keeps the voice in a fixed state. It dulls the senses to the pure POTENTIALITY of the voice. Surely this explains why so many singers don’t continue to IMPROVE over the span of a career? When you’ve achieved so much, it can be frightening to realize that there’s more to learn and improve upon.

Falling down is not a judgement of your talent or eventual ability.

It’s THE invaluable tool that gets you the singing voice that you want.

Get friendly with the places in your voice that scare you. They are your greatest teachers.

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