Singing for Health 6

Our brains are in charge — a few words on the psychology of singing.

Most of us have an internal dialogue, that little voice in your head that can get in the way of whatever we’re doing. Recent research suggests that there are rare people who don’t experience this — I wonder if you’re one of them? If so, I am not sure if that makes you fortunate or not!

For the vast majority of singers, that little voice ticks us off or makes negative comments such as: ‘you’ll never sing that line in one breath’; ‘you’ll never reach that note’; ‘so-and-so is singing far better than me and showing me up’; ‘I don’t think I’m any good’. If we listen to that little voice and believe it, we do run out of breath, forget good technique, imagine that we’re not valuable etc.

We mostly dislike our own voice (unless we’re Elizabeth Schwarzkopf who chose all her own recordings for Desert Island discs!), and most people enjoy other people’s voices much more than their own. This is why I spend a lot of time in singing lessons reminding people how interesting their voice is as well as helping them to make it even more lovely. Getting perspective on one’s own voice is difficult. Here is one way:

Listen to someone else singing and enjoy their voice and performance. Then start imagining it is your voice — how do your feelings change? I find I get much more critical and start to see all the flaws. I have learnt from this that we are all super-critical of ourselves and that we need to know when to switch-off the little voice in your head and stop the negative internal dialogue. We can choose to be positive or negative about our own voices (and those others, but that a whole new can of worms!).

Try this:

When you want to sing a line in one breath, relax and use the breathing techniques from past ‘tips’, giving the inner voice a new script: ‘I can sing this line in one breath — it is easy!’

When you want to reach all parts of your range (observing the techniques I mentioned last time) the inner voice should be saying: ‘this is a doddle — I’m soooo relaxed and able to do this’.

When you find another singer intimidating, say this to yourself: ‘that person’s inner voice has been critical, too, s/he may feel intimidated by me!’. Many singers, from the beginner amateur right through to the top professional, suffer from ‘imposter syndrome’. We need to get over ourselves!

Above all, be kind to yourself as well as others.

Let’s start every vocalisation with a positive attitude. There are days when our voice might not seem to be going so well — just relax and let it all go, saying ‘tomorrow will be better’. As Bing Crosby sang:


Here’s a challenge for everyone, whether or not you can read music or not. Something we can do on our own is to have a go at sight-reading and improve or keep-up existing skills. I will come to beginners in a minute, but for more experienced singers who can read music either a bit or a lot, there are loads of free scores online you can use for practice:

This brilliant website is full of choral music scores free, gratis and for nothing. Why not download a score a day and sing through it? Have some fun and at the same time keep your skills alive and, even, improve them.

For people who are beginners at sight-reading, you can find many lovely choral works on YouTube with running scores — hum and then sing along! No one cares if you make a mistake and you can keep on going back and trying again. Concentrate on how the notes of your part look as you hum or sing along and start to associate the look of the score with the sound you are making. It will take time and concentration, but you may find that written music starts to make more sense.

Here’s a random selection to start you off but if you ask YouTube for ’choral music with score’, loads more will appear. Have fun and keep singing!