Sing Better and Improve Your Voice Quicker by Having a Learning Mindset
For over a decade, I have taught private singing lessons to students of all ages. I have always believed in my students’ ability to achieve their full potential as a singer.
However, not all of them believe they could do it. Those who made quick and significant progress were also the ones who had a learning mindset.
What is a learning mindset?
It is essentially having a mindset conducive to learning. It is having the helpful thought patterns, beliefs and behaviors that create better learners.
Singing is a fine motor skill. It takes a lot of time, patience and hard work to master it. There will be a lot of trial-and-error involved in learning those skills.
Having a learning mindset will make your singing journey a lot easier. Here are some ways to cultivate a learning mindset to be a better singer.
Being open to new experiences
As a beginner, there are a lot of things you do not know about singing. Even if you may have been singing around the house or in the car a lot, you will be surprised how complex vocal techniques can get.
There are many minute details about singing that most people do not even know about. They hear a singer and they think: “Oh… she sounds so good.” What they do not know is the work she has put into her vocal training to make her voice sound that way.
Get ready to be taken out of your comfort zone. A lot. You will be doing things that make you look and sound silly. You will feel insecure. You will feel confused.
The only way for you to get better at singing is to feel the fear but do it anyway. Try doing things in a new way. If you have been avoiding certain exercises because you do not sound good doing them, try singing them slowly.
By having an open mind and engaging your imagination, you will pick things up more quickly. Singing is a very abstract activity. You have to visualize often. If your mind is open and you trust the imageries, voice control will come easily to you.
This is how you can rewire your brain and improve your voice.
Let things happen naturally
Frustration and confusion is part of the learning process. Having patience and perseverance can also help you avoid performance anxiety.
If you get frustrated easily, it means you are being performance-focused. You are focused on getting it perfect - right here, right now. This is a recipe for performance anxiety because it makes you self-conscious.
Be mastery-focused instead. Try looking at the big picture. Expect yourself to make progress over time, instead of achieving perfection. Focus on mastering the art of singing over time. It is more enjoyable that way.
It is good to have expectations, but let them be fluid. Adjust and manage your expectations based on your progress. Let things happen naturally. Trust your voice to make the right sounds when it is ready.
Closely related to having an open mind is being curious. Ask questions. If you are learning to sing on your own (or even if you have a coach), you will have lots of questions. When you are shown a new technique, and you feel slightly confused, ask questions.
If you are feeling stuck, sometimes, asking yourself questions will get you unstuck. Some questions you can ask yourself are:
- What if I try it this way? Let’s see how I go
- Could this have a different meaning than what I thought? Let me do some research/experiments with my voice
- Why does my voice sound like this when I do this? Maybe I missed something. Let me try again…
Soon enough, you will discover the answers to your questions and get better at singing.
By the way, being curious has another benefit. It is a sign of being present. If you have performance anxiety, the key to overcoming it is to be present and grounded.
Be intentional about your practice/learning
If you are like many of my students, practicing singing is basically “singing a few songs you like”.
That is not proper practice.
Of course, it is important to have fun with singing. Sometimes, all you want to do after a long day of school/work is to sing your favorite songs.
If you want to improve your voice, you need to be intentional about your practice/learning. You need to set goals for the areas you want to get better at. Then, work on those things during your practice sessions.
For example, you have trouble remembering lyrics. Instead of singing the songs the whole way through every time, print out the words and try different strategies to remember the lyrics. You may break the song up into different sections, and only memorize one section each session.
Target specific areas of your vocal technique. If you try and do everything at once, you will get overwhelmed and frustrated easily. Chunking (breaking techniques down into small elements) makes it more manageable and enjoyable.
Reframe failure as a stepping stone to success
As a beginner, you will fail more often than you will succeed. Keep trying anyway, without any solid expectations of success. Have faith that success will come, but maybe not how and when you expect it to.
Reframe failure as a stepping stone to success. Each failure takes you closer to your end goal. As Thomas Edison (inventor of the modern light bulb) said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Thomas J. Watson (founder of IBM) said: “Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure.”
Singing involves a lot of trial-and-error. You need to make a lot of bad sounds before you will sound good. If you avoid singing or practicing because you do not want to sound bad, then you will not get past the stage of sounding bad. You literally have to wade through this initial process of trying and failing, before your voice will know how to make the sounds that you want it to make. That is how the voice works.
Use feedback to grow as as singer. These can be constructive feedback from your vocal coach, or self-monitoring feedback by using a mirror or your phone’s voice recorder.
Celebrate small successes and milestones to motivate yourself to get better at singing.
Be a lifelong learner. There is no end to the things you can learn as a singer. In Brazilian Jiujitsu, the beginner rank is white belt and the expert rank is black belt. There is a saying that goes like this: “Be a sponge and absorb everything when you are a white belt. When you get to black belt, start all over again.” It means the art of Brazilian Jiujitsu is a bottomless well. The same goes for singing.
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