Perhaps one of the most difficult truths for vocalists to discover and accept is the nature of their own voice – says Jaime Babbitt.
Keep in mind that I partially mean their physical “instrument”; it goes without saying that singers would do well to possess healthy vocal habits and blah blah blah.
I’m talking about your voice, your sound, your unique contribution to the creative collective consciousness….and how you’re going to use it for the betterment of humankind.
But…where do you start? Bear with me; some of this stuff doesn’t seem like it has to do with singing, but I promise it does. First…
Socrates wasn’t kidding with this one. It just so happens to be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, which is why becoming a singer (or any type of creative, expressive person, for that matter) is a lifelong job. And guess what? It’s also an inside job.
So when I talk about getting to know oneself, I’m not talking about knowing your favorite color or ice cream flavor (Uh, yellow, and Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, kthxbye). I’m talking about knowing how you feel about things, deep down, specifically and that which resonates in your gut.
Like all things musical and otherwise, how do we get good at this? Starts with a “P” and ends with an “E”…c’mon, now. That’s right: PRACTICE KNOWING HOW YOU FEEL.
Notice. Pay attention. Feeling your feelings fully is one of the first steps to finding your voice. Another step is to…
Louise Hay wasn’t kidding with this one (if you don’t know her, please Google. She’s got some ideas about the therapeutic value of self-love that can’t be beat.)
The key to loving yourself is to be certain that you need do nothing else but…exactly that.
You don’t need to be smarter or prettier or thinner…you just need to love yourself, as you are, right this second. It, too, is an inside job, so don’t expect your shiny, brand new car or your high paying day gig to do it for you.
Wake up every morning, go to the mirror, look yourself in the eyes and say, “I love you, and I accept you just as you are. I am beautiful and everybody loves me…”, or whatever rings true for you.
It can totally feel silly and strange at first but trust me, there’s nothing like seeing what comes up when you do this and how you can transform some pretty ugly self-talk into self-acceptance and love – and that’s gonna be great for your voice, kapish? And now, the biggie…
So noooow, when you open that big, gorgeous mouth of yours, what comes out?
Be truthful: first, what is the sound of your voice? Argh, this s**t is tough, right?
Okay, I’ll go first: my God-given instrument isn’t organically beautiful, uniquely original-sounding or unequivocally mellifluous, like Mariah Carey’s or Maria Callas’s, but boy, is it malleable. And durable. And range-y. And affected by negative emotions. And quick on the draw to do whatever is needed! That’s my truth…how about you?
So, once you’re clear on your sound and work to accept your truth about it (and decide whether or not you want to study a bit to keep it all in good working order, which I highly recommend), how does it feel to you to be a singer?
Do you like being out in front of a band? Writing your own songs? Co-writing? Singing other peoples’ songs? I know, it’s soooo hard, so I’ll go first:
I can sound like lots of characters and people, blend like a champ and emotionally deliver the goods! And boy, did it serve me very well as a session singer and background vocalist. Solo artist? Hmmmm, I found I preferred being part of a community and didn’t really dig all the pressure and mishegas that came with being a front person, IMO (Mishegas: Yiddish for ‘craziness’ or ‘insanity’ – new words are fun!).
In doing this work, you can then start knowing, loving and expressing your voice, your self, with far less limitations and far more acceptance, which will lead to more creative freedom.
And remember, anything can change; you might decide to be a solo artist in five years! Go ahead! In the words of one of my favorites, I’ll leave this for you here: