Good Singing Is Measured by Feeling, Not Sound

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There’s so much content out there with tips and tools for how to improve your singing performance. But over the years, there’s one key thing I’ve learned, the first step a singer needs to take to unlock the potential of their voice, and I was reminded of it the other day when I heard this quote by poet Nayyirah Waheed: 

“Listening is one of the only spaces where you can be still and moved at the same time.”

I love this quote because it reminds me that when we allow the mind to be still and just listen, we create space for transformation.

Most singers think of listening as it relates to sound: listening to the sounds of the instruments accompanying us, the sounds we make when we sing, the sounds that others hear us making. This kind of listening is focused out on external sound and our external experience with it. When we listen this way, we tend to force, manipulate, and push our voice as a means of controlling an outcome.

But there is another kind of listening: listening to your body.

Listening in this way means being present to the sensations of your body—your instrument—in any given moment. It’s focused in on our internal experience, rather than out. 

Your job as a singer is to pay attention to the sensation of good singing, not the sound of it. Every time you have that specific sensation in your body (in your support, in your resonance), you will know it’s the good sound merely by the way it feels. You won’t even have to hear it.

In this way, your awareness shifts from being an outward-focused experience overwhelmed by attachments to expectations and outcomes to a more internal experience rooted in the present moment of the body. When singers shift their mindset from listening to the sounds they’re making to “listening” to the feelings and sensations in their body when they sing, it’s the first step to reaching their full singing potential.

When you sing, don’t go on autopilot. Get present to the sensations in your body. Witness what you feel in the lower muscles of support, in the ribs, in your neck, jaw, tongue, and soft palate. Start listening to your body. Observe what it’s doing (or not doing) without judgment. Learn to be a witness to what’s happening.

In this way, you’ll become acutely aware of what your habits and tensions are when you sing and can more readily seek out the appropriate remedies.

There’s a deep connection between the mind and body that’s incredibly transformative if you know how to tap into it. So it’s time to become wiser, stronger, and happier in your singing. Breakthrough to new levels of singing by changing how you think about using your voice!

*This post was originally published on Feb. 5, 2019. It has since been updated.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Arden Kaywin
Arden Kaywin is voice teacher, vocal coach, and vocal producer in Los Angeles with over 10 years experience working with developing singers and nearly 20 years as a professional singer herself. She holds a master’s degree in music and vocal performance from the Manhattan School of Music in NYC, where she studied classical voice and opera.
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