Mindfulness while singing...
This one is very challenging for me!
And probably more than a few of us.
If I’m asked if I am a singer, (my response is a bit deflective, but containing some truth:)
“It depends on who you ask.”
I sing, I conduct choruses, I’m a choirmaster. I “know” some things about the process.
And, of all of my musical pursuits,
singing has been the most challenging. To maintain a balanced relationship with it.
An old joke I was told:
“How many singers does it take to screw in a light bulb?” Answer:
“Just one. The singer simply holds on, and the whole world revolves around them.” Sounds like narcissism? Well...
More than any other means of musical expression, when we sing,
our body IS the instrument, and we all have one:)
And we all have an opinion. When Aretha “helped” Pavarotti and stepped in for him when he was ill, (and sang unconscious Dorma, Puccini)
a dear friend of mine, who is an opera singer proclaimed: “He does not need that kind of help!”
We have strong opinions about who can sing, who can sing what, when,
We can disagree about vowel placement, diphthongs, crooning, shouting, what IS good tone? What is your “authentic” voice? Do my hard “Bulgarian E’s”
sound ugly to you? Don’t like ‘crooning’? Ah! Where to breathe?
“Well, at least my pitches are accurate... Oh, but my jaw is clenched?”
Sometimes "perfectionism" can spoil the party...
Another revelation for me happened thru an article from a prominent voice coach/teacher I read. (This was many years ago now, and I unfortunately do not remember the teacher's name.)
...but I remember a central opinion within the article: The students who were his least favorite/most difficult to teach were vocalists that had perfect pitch. They were the most resistant to truly relaxing, as they knew what they wanted and needed to hear, and would 'manipulate' the mouth, throat, breath, etc to that end.
And with the 'eyes on the prize' of hearing that pitch/ tonal quality, most of the 'manipulations' were unconscious and became habit. I fell into that category! And I knew that I needed to focus less on product and more on process.
How does it feel, not only how does it sound.
And regarding process, there's a great place for technique, and intention,
but I assert that any sounds that we make are expressive,
even when they reveal our own fears and internal tensions. In that sense, this should be true— if you can talk you can sing.
The vulnerability we can express or simply reveal to others thru singing is awesome.
Where to direct attention?
How does it FEEL!
"Singing is a mindful activity," explains Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic. "When we sing, we are engaging fully in the moment. This can help to distract us from other more negative emotions, and therefore positively influence our mood."
Singing also has the power to release neurotransmitters in the brain associated with a positive mood.
"The activity of singing encourages the release of endorphins and dopamine in the brain," explains Charlotte Armitage, a media and business psychologist at YAFTA.
So in closing, whether its for entertainment, connection to self and others, emotional processing, stage of life transitions, assertiveness, vibrational healing from the bones on out, for healing, dispelling, expelling, or exhalting,
or with no intention at all, perhaps with sheer spontaneity, as the great modern philosopher Madonna once said: "express yourself!"