Do you listen to your voice so much when you’re singing that it throws off your performance?
Do you worry about the sound, the notes, the high notes so much that you can’t focus on the meaning of the song, the character and the lyric?
Do you go into fear when you sing if the stakes are high (or higher than usual)?
If so, this Episode of The Inner Singer Podcast is for you!
In this Episode I offer some solutions that should help shift this tendancy.
It’s very common and I did it myself for years. Heck, I still do once in a while (and who doesn’t!)
However, there is hope so this does not take the fun out of singing and performing.
Listen and try this stuff. (-:
The Inner Singer Podcast
Episode 20 – Transcripts
A Bridge Between Rehearsal and Performance
You’re listening to episode number 20.
Welcome to the Inner Singer Podcast, providing tools and techniques to strengthen your inner singer, your beliefs, your confidence, your mindset. And now, your host for the Inner Singer Podcast, Mike Goodrich.
Hey there, everybody. Thanks for listening to the Inner Singer Podcast. This is Mike Goodrich. Episode number 20 here. Boy! We’re already at 20 weeks. That’s pretty amazing to me. And I’m having a lot of fun doing this. I hope you’re enjoying listening to these. Thanks for being here again.
I’m going to click over here on my computer to a couple of questions that we have. It’s a couple of questions today. I love getting feedback and I’ve got a couple of questions in the recent past. I’m going to start with the first one and I’m going to read this to you. So let’s jump right in here. So here’s the question. It says:
“You always say at the end of the episodes that you welcome feedback. I don’t know if this particular podcast would be the appropriate space to discuss this topic, but I know that I’ve always struggled with overthinking during performances. I can analyze a song, understand the character, connect with the character or the scene during dialogue, but when it comes to actual performing…”
– and I think she actually means singing –
“…when it comes to singing and performing, I have a hard time connecting with the character. I become much more concerned with the notes I’m hitting and how my voice sounds. If you can address that from an inner singer perspective, it would definitely help me and many others, I’m sure.
So let’s just do that. Let me just say that for my own reasons, I really had the same issue. I’ve discussed it in a previous podcast. The issue was I felt very confident and comfortable during dialogue in a play situation. The play part of the musical, when it was just the book, when it was just the dialogue, I was really at ease, really comfortable, really in character and really present.
But when it came to the singing, now I wasn’t necessarily listening to my voice a lot or worried about the voice. At that point, for some reason, most of – the two roles that I’m really in question, I had worked into my voice pretty well. But as I have said before, I was really afraid I was going to forget the words.
So my rationale during the dialogue was always, “Well, if I go up on a line,” meaning if I forget a line, “I can always stall. I can take a dramatic pause. I can improvise. I can work my way around it and somebody will help me get back on. It’s not going to be that big a deal.” But when the music was going and I was in a song, that to me was a different thing. That to me, as I’ve spoken of before, was more like a runaway train. If that music is going and I forget my lines, it’s all over. So I thought.
Probably every major performer in the world has forgotten their words at some point in their life and it’s never all over. But in my mind, this was the biggest, most important thing that could happen during a musical and I could completely destroy the show.
So for my own reason, that’s how I felt.
Now, she’s feeling that way for a different reason, but the result is the same. The result is that she’s not able to be present.
So what’s happening, I believe – well, let’s outline it again so you remember the question.
She’s fine with the dialogue, the acting portion of it, the play portion of it, but during the singing portion of it, she loses her center and listens to her voice and worries about the notes.
I would say that from –and I have no proof of this except that it seems like probably one of the things that’s going on. The reason I have no proof is because we haven’t wired her head and looking at what her brain is doing during this time. But we’ll talk about that for a second. It sounds like she is in a very relaxed place during the dialogue. And when she goes into the song portion of it, she goes into a different part of her brain.
And you could probably see other parts of her brain light up, the amygdala, which is the fear center, is probably engaged. And she goes into a little bit of fight or flight and gets scared. It’s the same thing I did when I was afraid I was going to forget the words.
So let’s make this easy to explain for me. Let’s just say that she is in play mode in her dialogue where she is very relaxed and she’s playing she’s having fun and she feels safe and she’s comfortable. And then she goes into, “I’m going to take a test mode where I could possibly be judged and I could just completely destroy this play or this musical” when she’s doing the song, which is exactly what I was doing.
I was in play mode, I felt safe, I was relaxed when I was doing the dialogue. But when I went to do the song, I was a different set of criteria proposed themselves. And all of a sudden to me, I was performing.
And she even used the word. She said, “When I’m performing.” She didn’t even say singing. She said “when I’m performing.”
Now, look at the word performing and outline the criteria that that sets up, the conditions that that sets up. The conditions that we’re required to meet during a performance are pretty stringent. We have to be perfect. We have to be really good. We have to know our lines. We have to know our words. We have to know the melody.
I think I’ve talked about this in previous podcasts, but it bears repeating because it comes with a lot of qualifications and conditions. And in this case, she is listening to her voice, which means, “My, gosh! I have to be on pitch. My vibrato has to be great. My mix has to be strong. Everything has to be working. All cylinders have to be firing.” Wow! The pressure is really on.
So it’s just like a student that studies for a test and knows all the answers, but goes into the test and they get scared and they go into a different part of the brain and they’re no longer in play mode. Now, they’re in worry/fear mode as that amygdala gets stimulated and hijacks them. All of a sudden, they can’t remember the answers to the test that they know.
The test is over. They’re walking away from the classroom. They relax down. “Oh, my gosh! That’s the answer,” then they remember all the answers.
Or in this case, with this gal, if she’s having trouble with the note or a phrase, after the show, in the car on the way home, hits the note, hits the phrase, no problem at all. With me, in the car on the way home, I know all these lyrics, no problem at all, no big deal.
So how do we work on that? I don’t even like that expression, “work on that.” How do we address that? How do we deal with that?
Well, the first thing, this Inner Singer episode, I want to also have some – I always try to have practical things. But I think with a name like “the Inner Singer,” it could sometimes mislead us into thinking that there are not things that we can do outside of just the work that I talk about in this podcast, the mental rehearsals and different things like that, the wiring of the brain, the being present.
A lot of these things can be addressed from a very practical standpoint as well. I would recommend to somebody like this that they get themselves into some sort of a situation, whether it’s a performance class or what have you or an open mic situation where the stakes are not so high.
Now, the class situation, a performance class, singing performance class, is terrific. I teach one myself once in a while. I know a gal in Los Angeles that teaches a phenomenal one. I’ve known her for years. She’s terrific. It’s the class I actually my wife in.
But anyway, you can go into a class situation wherever you are in the country or the world and you can practice being present with yourself during a song. You can give yourself permission to not care what you sound like because you’re in a classroom setting.
You can even tell the teacher, “Listen, I’m using this class right now to transition into being able to completely forget about my voice, but I’m not there yet. So I’m using this class to get up on the stage and see how present I can be with the character, with myself, with the moment and how much can I forget about the voice and have it still work.”
Because there’s a transition period. We’ve got a couple of ways to work. We work on the voice with our teacher in our studio, at home, wherever we’re working on the voice from a technical aspect. We get to the point where the stakes aren’t high at all anymore and we can sing the song really well and we can identify with the character and we can have a wonderful experience singing.
I like to replace the word performance with experience because the word experience doesn’t really come with many conditions to meet. The word performance has a lot of conditions to meet, most of them rather negatively associated with.
So what you want to do is find a place where the stakes aren’t high, where you can begin to bridge those two together so that you can say, “Well, yes. I really sing this at home great. I can identify with the character and I’m really relaxed. But when I’m up on a stage, all of a sudden, things go out the window and I have to think about my voice and I’m afraid and all these things.”
You need a place between your home or your teacher’s studio and the stage where the stakes are high. You need a transitionary place. Just like the voice has a bridge between registers called the passaggio in classical music (we have a little bridge in pop and musical theater, a transition area. Just like the registers of the voice between the chest and the mix, there’s a transition area. There’s a bridging area. There’s a passaggio), we’re talking about two different things when we’re talking about, “Wow, I sing this really well at my teacher’s or in my home. But when I’m up on stage in the show, something different.”
Well, there needs to be that area of transition where you can do it on purpose because you can’t really practice the stakes being high unless they’re high. But you don’t want to practice them being too high or what that does is that leaves us so far out of our comfort zone that the fear center of the brain, which is the amygdala, starts to react. That triggers doubts and fears and anxieties and it tries to put us back into a behavior that’s familiar to us.
And in my student’s perspective, or the gal who wrote in, that is, “Okay, I have to think about my voice to be safe. I have to monitor everything I’m doing vocally to be safe.” And that’s what happens.
For me, it was like, “Okay, I have to know the words. I have to really think about these words.” So if I was singing a duet with somebody, I was not present with them at all. While they were singing to me, rather than reacting and being with them and being present with the moment, I was trying to think of my next line, which, if you’ve never tried to do that (well, I suggest that you never try to do that), it’s awful because you can’t do it. You can’t think of your next line when something else is going. And then it sets you into even more fear.
So we have to find a transitionary place where the stakes are a little bit higher than they are at your teacher’s or they are at home, but not so high that you go totally into default fear mode and go back to your old ways which, in my case, was worried about the words. In her case, she’s worried about her voice.
So a classroom is a great place to do that. An open mic is a great place to do that. Getting together and singing with friends is a great place to do that. Creating a little workshop of your own is a great place to do that.Singing for somebody new where the stakes aren’t so high is a great place to do that.
Be creative with the principle being you want to find a transitionary place, a bridging place where you can work this on purpose. Don’t just sing a bunch at home, feel comfortable and then go somewhere where the stakes are high and hope this works.
Now, of course, we can supplement this (and we should) always with the mirror neuron exercises and the mental rehearsals because we know that works as I’ve stated in another podcast.
They did that with basketball players. In the two teams, one team practiced mentally and one team practiced by throwing the basketball. The basketball players that practiced physically, actually shooting the ball, had a 24% improvement in their game, their shots. The one that practiced mentally had a 23%.
So yes, absolutely, the inner singer aspect is all inclusive because it’s all of the inner singer, whether you’re closing your eyes and mentally rehearsing in a situation where the stakes are higher and having yourself have a wonderful experience and a great success doing it, absolutely. That creates a wiring in the brain. The brain thinks you’re actually doing that.
So do that absolutely. Do that a lot. But then, take the next step and find some place where you can physically go where the stakes are a little higher so you can work both ends. Get the synergy of both working together. And the ultimate goal is to be able to play and have fun and be present with yourself without the amygdala getting hijacked and going back into a default programming.
And this really is representative of what we talked about when we talked about the vocal thermostat because when you’re singing at home or at your teacher’s and things are going well and you can sing the song, you can identify with the character and everything, you are well below your thermostat level. So you haven’t reached it. So you’re nice and relaxed. There’s nothing kicking in. No default programming. You’re fine.
But when you go onto a stage from there, that could send you over the top. In other words, that raises your thermostat past its comfort level. And when that happens, you’re going to get scared, you’re going to get nervous and you’re going to revert back to your default.
So what you want to do is gently raise, recalibrate that mechanism, that cybernetic mechanism. And you can do that mentally, of course, with mental rehearsal. And you can do it with the mirror neurons exercise which I think I have in one of these podcasts. If not, please let me know and I’ll give you some ideas.
But you also want to go out physically and do this. So don’t just leave it to the imagination. Include the imagination, but then, get creative and get on out there and do something that is a bridging activity where the stakes are not so high and you could really get out there and push the envelope a little bit, but not so much that you go right back to your old default.
Now, it’s okay in a bridging exercise, in a classroom setting or singing for friends or creating your own workshop or open mic or whatever. It’s okay if some of that default tries to kick in because you’re recalibrating this mechanism, the cybernetic mechanism. You’re raising your thermostat. You’re raising the threshold. You’re raising your threshold for basically what you can take in during your singing.
Some people, “Well, I sing in the shower” and that’s where their threshold is. And that’s fine. Other people are like, “Well, I sang on Broadway and I have a Tony Award.” That’s awesome. Threshold is higher. Other people are like Beyonce can sing for the President or for millions and millions of people. And that’s where their threshold is. They’re fine. That’s fine.
But first of all, be where you are, acknowledge where you are, discover where you are. And then raise it 10% or 20% by getting yourself in a situation that’s just a little bit higher. Stakes are just a little bit higher – not ridiculously high, but just a little bit higher so you feel that twinge of, “Oh, okay. I’m feeling myself wanting to go back to that default mechanism, but I am aware of that. I’m being with that. I’m present with that part of me that wants to go back and listen to my voice. But you know what? I’m in a very safe place right now and I’m just going to forge ahead. The stakes are not high. I know intellectually, realistically, the stakes are not high. Nobody paid to get in. I’m in a class. I’m doing a workshop. I’m singing for a friend. I’ve created a little thing myself with a few friends around or a workshop of my own,” whatever you create. “I know intellectually, I’m totally supported. I’m totally in a safe place. Yes, this is scary, but I’m going to see what happens if I just throw myself into the character and the joy of singing.”
“And let’s see how much of my technique holds. Let’s see what works and what doesn’t. Let’s go on an exploration. Let’s be really scientific about this. I know when I’m really thinking about my voice, it will work. But I don’t know how much I can let go of that and still have it work. But I’m in a very safe place to discover that.”
And then you find out. And then you keep pushing that envelope. You keep upping the ante a little more, a little more, a little more. It keeps rewiring the brain and it keeps getting you present. It keeps raising that threshold for what you can take with regard to singing.
And all of a sudden, you go from being a shower singer to being onstage with anybody without really worrying about it because you’ve gone gradually and you’ve built that neural pathway, that neural circuitry and you’ve gotten present with yourself.
It’s not that it’s all about the brain because I don’t believe that it is all about the brain, but it certainly does include that. And as they, I believe, have proven scientifically with wiring the brains of Tibetan monks and people that have been meditating for years and years and years, as you get very present in the moment, that also rewires the brain. There are many ways to rewire the brain.
So it’s not just about rewiring the brain, but that will be a result of a lot of these things that we do. So really look at that. Find yourself a transitionary place and do that. Have fun with it.
Please, as always, give me your comments, feedback. I always look forward to it, questions. I didn’t expect this to go so long. I have another question, but I’ll answer that in the next podcast.
Anyway, I’m thrilled to be here. I look forward to chatting with you next week and I will see you soon.
Thank you for listening to the Inner Singer Podcast. And please share this with all of your singing friends. And head on over to iTunes and subscribe. If you found it a value, give us a nice rating. Thanks so much.