Take back control of your voice
One of my favorite movies is The Wizard of Oz. I had a mural of Oz painted on my childhood bedroom wall. I even had the theme of the decorations for my bat mitzvah reception decked in Oz technicolor. One of the most creative was a “smoky” sign made of wire and cotton hung from the ceiling that read “Surrender, Allison.”
I think of this sign all the time. It reminds me of the #1 lesson that I have learned in singing, and in life.
Using your voice is easily one of the most vulnerable and courageous acts we undertake. And I am certain that your voice has a lot to say, to express, and to share. But that fact, in and of itself, is enough to make us clam up and hold back. And it triggers an internal response to control the situation.
We are wired to move a hot current of energy through our frames. And when you sing, that energy is amplified. But we are not taught how to effectively manage that energy. We are taught, rather, that we need to manipulate the sound in order to meet some kind of invisible standard of alright-ness. (Fuh-gedda-bout energy!)
For whom does it need to be alright enough?
If you are a human being reading this, I know for sure that your efforts to manipulate your sound may feel frustrating at times. Why? Because you have been trying to control the sound, rather than allow the energy.
Wanting to gain control of your voice is a response to feeling, well, out of control. You have not learned – yet – how to manage that hot current, and it is intense! Possibly even life-threatening.
The mind has its own internal safety protocols that will inherently trigger a red flag when it is threatened. It will begin pulling levers for you. The mind says, let’s work proactively so that this process does not have to be so scary!
The Ego Voice takes over. In singing, this may look like: holding the gut muscles; holding back sound; pushing through the tightness of your throat; over-working the articulation of the words with the mouth; gearing up for a high note with some errant squeeze; and evaluate, evaluate, evaluate every moment of each phrase for quality (ahem) control.
Lack of control in your singing is a terrible feeling. And it’s complicated: there are so many layers to how you experience your voice, including your personality, past experiences, training (or lack thereof), self-esteem, or that you simply have no idea what you’re supposed to be doing other than, well, manipulating your sound to be Alright Enough.
Let’s regain control of the situation.
First, consider this…
What if your need for control was in direct proportion to how much energy is flowing through you?
- Can you envision that wild current of energy?
- Can you feel it?
- Can you understand that holding on to the sound of that energy is inherently limiting its audacious potential?
- How can you allow a more free-flowing movement of this energy?
- What is keeping you from this flow?
- When do you stop it?
- What is the internal message you hear when it is moving through you right before you sing?
I believe the real work is to understand that channeling the power of our voice is not a mortal threat. It is part of our purpose.
So how can we transmute the impulse to control our voice? We learn to allow our voice.
I invite you to practice strengthening your Allow muscle. Make it an experiment: tinker with the idea. Try this mantra in your singing practice:
“Surrender, Dorothy.” (But please insert your name instead.)
And remember: when you feel the need to control, remind yourself that there is something deeply powerful that would appreciate moving through in that moment. And the most annoying – but true – piece of the whole surrender puzzle?
When you let go, you regain control.
IMAGE: Photo from The Wizard of Oz