I just finished my first week of “The Fear of Singing Breakthrough Program,” whose slogan is “Learn to Sing Even if You Think You Can’t Carry a Tune” (that would be me). The teacher, Nancy Salwen, starts at the absolute beginning, which is perfect for me. The daily online lessons are short, just 5 to 10 minutes. We spent the first couple of lessons just singing “drone notes,” simple aaahs and ooohs and eees all on one long monotone. Then we moved on to exploring the voice by “sirening” up and down the scale.
All the principles she’s naming are familiar to me from yoga and meditation: Stay connected to your body. Notice the emotions that may be arising, which may include the shame or fear that caused you to stop singing in the first place. Open to feelings of joy and pleasure as the vibration moves through the body.
And then, on day four, she encouraged us to play around with the voice and improvise off of the drone notes—wailing, crooning, exploring, expressing emotionality with the tones in whatever way felt good. And she said something I absolutely love: “Your voice is full of surprises. It knows things that you don’t know yet.”
What a wonderful insight! Just as I do with my body in yoga, I can let singing emerge from the inside, trusting a kind of inner unfolding, rather than needing to fit my voice into a form. Yoga poses support the opening of my body—they are a trellis my body winds around, not a box they have to fit into. Just so, the forms of music can be a support for the inner unfolding of my voice. And in trusting that, I can surrender to the sense of something larger moving through me.
Nancy said, “Play around and let it come from someplace deep and someplace honest, and let yourself be surprised!”
So I did—after I made sure all the doors were locked and no one was listening but the cat. (In fact, I felt a little freer once even the cat was outside.)
If you feel like it, experiment with your voice yourself and let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear what you discover.
Thank you for your insights and encouragements. For most of my married life I did not sing–even though I was in choir in both high school and college–because my former husband didn’t like my voice. Now I am again in 2 choirs.
My heart goes out to you, Heide, for all the years you did not sing. And I’m so happy for you that you are singing once again now – I’m sure those choirs are pleased to have you!
Loved reading how singing is like yoga and meditation. This made me smile.
Thank you, Mary!