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Uncomfortable? Open up and sing!

October 3, 2012

Something really interesting happened with my chorus at our last rehearsal. We sang through a song that’s always been lyrically challenging, and this time there were a bunch of wrong words and the sound was a bit closed-down, too. I asked them how it felt afterward, and one singer replied,

‘I couldn’t remember the words, and I felt kind of tight in my throat.’

That was fascinating to me, so I asked,

‘Do I understand correctly that if you have discomfort about not being sure of the lyrics, it means you have to tighten your throat?’

A few people laughed, and there were a few lightbulbs of realization. I asked what other possibilities were available in a situation where they felt uncomfortable about some aspect of a song, since of course it could be the notes, the range, the speed, or any number of other things bothering them. They had some great ideas! Stay relaxed, trust yourself, be more committed to keeping an open throat through the discomfort.

That last one has massive implications for singing, but also for life. By learning to maintain an open throat – a physically open channel for communication – during singing, especially during the uncomfortable parts of the song-learning process, we train ourselves to remain open as human beings! Singing offers us an excellent opportunity to practice expressing ourselves with an open heart and body, allowing ourselves to discover the paradoxical safety of vulnerabilitywhen our instinct may be to close down.

A beautiful thing happened when the group committed to keeping their throats open during the next run-through of the piece. One singer summed it up beautifully:

‘That felt so much better! The sound was better, yes, but also, the words and notes were just THERE!’

Imagine my joy at hearing that! Their brains worked better when they stayed open. Wow. In singing, as in life, tension comes from ignoring or repressing what is happening. That’s stressful, and our brains react to stress by putting resources toward survival, not expressing ourselves creatively. There is great freedom in staying open and allowing the truth to pass through and be expressed – and by doing so, we are able to access more of our brains!!

I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that learning to sing well in this way actually heals the voice and its deep connection to the psyche. Have you experienced this? I’d love to hear about it! Share your thoughts on facebook or twitter, @DonyaMetzger.

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