Many, perhaps most of us, are moved to sing. I know this from my numerous years of giving concerts. Often, I hear from audience members that they had “always wanted to sing.” “I don’t have a good voice, but I really want to sing anyway.” “I think it’s too late for me, but can I still take lessons?”
Perhaps it’s the primal drive to express ourselves in a heightened way. When speaking is simply not enough, we fall into, or perhaps more accurately, we feel the need to soar into singing.
When people who have not sung much begin to learn how to open their voices into song, the feeling of emotional (and physical) freedom is like a powerful drug – a rare uplifting of the spirit. I’ve seen it many times in my singing studio. And scientific studies have given us many reasons for this feeling of wellbeing.
Professor Graham Welch, Chair of Music Education at UCL Institute of Education, London, says: “There is currently a lot of interest in wellbeing and social inclusion and an increasing interest in how music in various forms can support a sense of being part of society and increase your self-esteem.”
To get to the point of singing joyously with others, often we need to go through the process of practicing alone and/or in a private lesson. In these days of Covid-19, that lesson would likely be taken on Zoom or Skype. And this is where the more unmeasured and perhaps greatest personal treasures are discovered.
Here are some of the benefits that can be found in private singing lessons.
In a private lesson, you can let go of the outside world. You can and will leave your worries behind you and focus on the glorious task at hand – opening your voice into singing sounds.
Lest you think this is a very serious task, I want to assure you that in a singing studio, we laugh almost as much as we sing. Learning to sing is joy – from the sublime to the ridiculous!
Many of us feel held down in life. We can feel voiceless. Often our bodies display this deep disappointment. We don’t stand tall but rather slump forward.
In lessons, sometimes I will say to the person in front to me, “Think of yourself as glamorous movie star. You look wonderful. You are confident and proud of your work. Try to stand like that.”
Much of who we are in life has to do with how we think. Changing how we think about ourselves (even as an exercise) can be very powerful. When posture shifts in this way, it comes from an imagined place of confidence and pleasure. That imagined place becomes reality in the body, and it lightens us up.
With outside pressures and tensions relieved to some degree, you can already breathe a little more deeply, more freely. Standing tall, feeling proud, your lungs open up. You take a breath of inspiration and learn how to let it gradually escape into a singing sound.
Some singing exercises are downright funny. We hoot and glide. Sigh and bark. It can be a real surprise to someone who has not made these kinds of sounds. We laugh a lot. And that too, is a singing exercise.
The choice of songs is a tricky part of learning to sing. Those who have watched American Idol will know how crucial it is for a singer to choose the right song for both their emotional abilities and for their current vocal state. You want to learn with a song that you love, as long as it is within your vocal means.
Learning how to memorize lyrics can be a study in itself. As we get older, it can become more of a challenge to keep all those words in your head! Each person will find their own way to keep lyrics flowing as they sing. And this improves your memory in day-to-day life.
Here is where learning to sing can become a deep dive into exploring how we really feel about life. If a song has a strong message or it explores a very emotional story, we singers have the great opportunity to expand our emotional and expressive abilities.
Of course, getting in front of an audience is not what every singer craves. But if YOU do desire the chance to stand on stage in public and sing, there is nothing like doing it in order to learn how to do it. Every moment on stage is a learning occasion for most of your singing life.
And so, I encourage you to find a singing teacher and take a few lessons if you feel moved to express yourself through song!
Do you have a desire to sing? Does singing bring you joy? Would you consider taking online lessons? Or are you eager to join a choir, when it becomes possible again after the pandemic?