The Psychology of Voice Study
Let me be clear, I am not a psychologist and I do not view the role of a voice teacher to be that of a therapist or other mental health professional. When I speak of the psychology of voice study, I speak of the optimum mindset with which to approach improving your skill as a singer. The elements required of a singer who steadily improves are: healthy self-evaluation (“where am I today compared to where I was last week?”), healthy self-esteem (“I am worthy of reaching realistic goals in voice study”) and tolerance for a certain amount of frustration. Any learning process involves pushing one’s own limits. Bumping up against limits can create a sense of frustration. Approach this interface between limit and growth with a sense of curiosity and humor, and you will grow. Approach this interface with negative self-talk (“I’ll never get this.” “This is too difficult”) and growth will slow and/or stop entirely.
Several books have been written on the “inner game” as it relates to sports such as golf or tennis. There is an “inner game” of singing which involves a core belief that you can succeed. The process of growth as a singer never stops; you will study and learn your entire life if you are a true artist (or even if you just have a profound love of singing and are studying avocationally or as an “amateur”.). Without sugar-coating problems or avoiding them, the teacher must help the student over the psychological hurdles that present themselves in the voice studio. I will never forget the relief I felt when, after I cracked a High C wide open in a lesson, Maestro David Jones laughed good-naturedly and exclaimed “Chicken Feathers!” I was able to laugh and what had previously seemed a life or death struggle with my extreme top became, yes, fun. I was given permission to fail, and thus permission to go forward. This healthy attitude will carry forward into times of pressure: singing before a large public in a prestigious venue or singing a demanding role for the first time.
Lay the groundwork of healthy psychology early in your voice study and it will serve you well.