Singing is a worthwhile end in itself! There is so much to learn from the process because ultimately, it is about learning to be a human being. Speech and singing are the same mechanism, but most people do something else when they sing. I call it pseudo-singing; it is not using their natural, Nature-given expression system and its own unique vibratory qualities, but a copy of someone else or combination of a few people. I sounded like a combo of James Taylor and Anthony Newly at one point. Since we are mammals, which means we are social creatures, have social brains, we learn by copying others. Actually, it is not really copying, but more like ‘absorbing’ since we have instincts, and these instincts help us develop and survive.
This means that we also have defense mechanisms that get developed from fears that we all absorbed in childhood. Since children have no ability to protect themselves from intense experiences, we all take in fear that remains unresolved until we are able to recognize and release it. This is very well known and based on good science, though most of us go about our lives not understanding that defense mechanisms can control our freedom in an attempt to protect us. This includes our ability to communicate via speech, and so singing as well. Fear inhibits the small musculature the we call the survival muscles, small muscles within us that are survival related or called respiratory muscles. These are the singers muscles and when they are locked down (that’s what fear does), we can’t access our real voice. We end up using an inferior system that I call the pseudo-voice. I know because I used to use that voice until I learned to use my own voice.
The other day I was working with a student who has a habit of producing tension in his throat with he sings; he tries too hard. We were working very softly and I was encouraging him to focus on speech placement in the front of his mouth in preparation for singing. I could tell that he was getting angry and frustrated. I asked, “what you you feeling right now”. He admitted to feeling angry. I explained that this is what will arise when he is getting close to doing it well. These the the defense mechanisms attempting to protect us from the fear that we are carrying around in our body. That is what defense mechanisms do; they keep us from getting too close to these feelings and in this case it is feeling vulnerable- as singing is a very vulnerable act.
Our heart needs to be open and we need to be sensitive, use our felt sense, or kinesthetic sense, rather than thinking. Thinking is part of a defense process, as humans are actually sentient beings, not thinking beings primarily. Words are the last aspect in the human process. First, there is an awareness without words, a somatic sense. Next our heart uses its emotional intelligence to make sense of that direct perception. And then, finally, our brain, or called Relative Mind in Buddhist terminology, puts word from the past to attempt to describe that experience that already happened, in the past.
Singing is actually a very simple human act of communication. But most of us over-work at it, go into panic when someone says ‘sing’. There are many reasons for this and much of it I feel has to do with our culture and its obsession with fame, power and vicarious living. But singing is simple, just like speaking. Eventually, we learn to observe the physical act of speaking and learn to do little more when singing than speaking. Or what I call ‘singing like no-body but yourself’.