I still remember my first impression when I entered a Music for People Art of improvisation workshop in 2013, it was sheer wonderment! I stepped into a spacious rehearsal room where about forty musicians were seated in a large circle warming up on their instruments. What enthralled me was the overall sound: I heard an energetic quality that I had never heard before. It drew me in and I had to join with my drum and voice. I felt like I was wrapped in a big beautiful sound hug.
A facilitator stepped into the circle, and suddenly we all came together on one note. The facilitator indicated volume down, the plush softness of that unison fills the circle and a soaring melody from a violin travels across the circle, then another from a voice, then from a trumpet… the facilitator starts stepping and the group note begins to pulsate, we are all feeling the same pulse… I can’t remember what followed except this feeling that I was in the right place with the right people.
That entire week I was reminded that “There Are No Wrong Notes” At first I thought, wait a minute, as a classically trained singer and voice teacher, my livelihood depends on getting ALL the notes right. My mindset quickly shifted and not only did I feel a weight lift off my musical shoulders, I felt like I opened a door to a whole new world, one that only asked of me to listen deeply with an open heart. Instead of worrying about playing a wrong note. I dropped into my intuitive place. These were my first baby steps towards trusting my musical ability, to believing that I actually have a voice, my voice, and something to say.
It is an ongoing process of trusting in my ability to respond in the moment, to remain present in the face of any combination of notes as they are uttered with intention, presence, and care.
Learning is Messy!
At our EuSing Session last week we chanted those three words in chorus!
Learning any skill is messy! As you explore your voice in free improvisation, please release self judgment, and allow yourself to sound
Let’s switch our mindset
Mistakes are beautiful opportunities
FAIL = First Attempt In Learning
Vocal Self-care involves daily exercises AND exploration through free improvisation. Consistency is important. A little every day goes a long way. It changes the way we listen, think and act.
The conductor, classical musician and presenter Benjamin Zander presents on The Art of Possibility. Here are the points that he made that stayed with me.
Downward spiral - a place of worry and fear…
…I don’t like my voice… , …there are so many better singers that me… ,
…I am too old to sing… , …my friends ask me why I bother… , …what if I make a mistake… ,
… and so on…
— Benjamin Zander demonstrates how we often move into this mode of thinking where we are stressed, competitive, stuck in black and white thinking etc.
We are not quite sure of the direction or way. What we may perceive as a “mistake” or a “wrong note” is actually a huge opportunity. If you make a mistake, instead of tensing up and cringing, stop and say wow! How fascinating! What was that? Let me investigate…
Yes, it’s OK to be uncomfortable, to not know,
and this is how we grow…
Thanks for reading! I learn so much from music!
For you to try:
Sing with a drone (one long sustained note). It is a magical way to experience a myriad of possible notes, including those that lie between our equal tempered twelve tone scale. Singing or playing over a drone is nothing new. I love to listen to the haunting sounds of melodies played or sung over a drone such as the Armenian duduk, Carnatic singing or Canntaireachd (Scottish Gaelic for "chanting")
As you begin, remember there are no wrong notes. Take your time, and relax into your sound and let it merge with the drone. Begin by exploring a limited range of notes, less is more. I can get lost in this activity because it is so calming.
Resource: You can play beautiful drone sounds on any note with the application iTabla
There is nothing more magical than doing this with a group of people singing or playing a drone.
February 17th - OPEN HOUSE! Music for People in Montreal
I hope you can join me in Montreal Saturday February 17th as I facilitate a FREE Music for People jam at the Center of Musicians of the World.
EuSing! Online Group Vocal Technique and Improvisation Classes