How to reconnect with your singing voice
Do you need to reconnect with your voice? Everyone has times when they are feeling a bit down with their singing. Maybe even to the point where you’ve stopped singing entirely. Sometimes that’s because of external factors (like a pandemic!) out of our control. Sometimes it’s directly related to a singing experience, perhaps something that resulted in a loss of confidence (like an unsuccessful audition!). In the context of the worldwide lockdown, I came up with this guide to help my students reconnect with their voices when they weren’t really feeling like singing. We’ve all been there (me too!) and if this is making you nod, I hope this will help you, too!
Have you been struggling to sing? You're not alone.
How are we all doing?
About a month ago, a lot of you responded to one of my instagram stories to say that you’d been struggling to sing every day. Now, for someone who doesn’t have strong feelings about singing, this probably doesn’t sound like a big deal. But I know that for a lot of you, like me, singing is our THING. The thing that we do when we’re happy, sad, angry, frustrated…basically any emotion. It helps us express feelings we don’t have words for, it connects us with music that we love, and most of all, it brings us joy. Singing can do more for us than *just* make a nice sound!
So, what do you do if you don’t feel like singing anymore? What happens when you just can’t bring yourself to make a note? It probably makes you feel worse that you haven’t been singing. Do you feel guilty for not practising? Have you tried to convince yourself that you don’t need to sing? I’ve been there. I’ve been through the whole rollercoaster, and I’ve come out the other side. Now, I try to sing every day. And a good part of the time, I succeed.
I want to help you do the same, to get your voice back and reconnect you with the activity that means more to you than anything else.
1. Take a step back
You don't have to sing to start reconnecting with your voice
Take a step back from actually singing. Instead, start with reconnecting to music. It doesn’t even have to be music that you like to sing usually – just start somewhere! Go back to music you love and spend some time enjoying it.
- Put on an album that you love.
- Listen to an old playlist – or make a new one.
- Watch a movie that has a great soundtrack.
- Watch music videos or your favourite covers on YouTube.
Singing and mental health
You might also want to go have a watch of my chat with Jo Hooper from @madandsadclub. We talked about what might be going on with your brain during a stressful time (such as a pandemic!) that gets in the way of your singing, and what you can do about it. I highly recommend watching it – it’ll hopefully make you feel less alone and help you understand how your body and mind are responding to stress.
2. Start in your comfort zone
When you're ready, make it fun and easy
Reconnect with your singing through doing stuff you love, right inside your comfort zone.
- Sing along to songs you love (I have a playlist specifically for this).
- Sing something you know well and enjoy singing – don’t pay attention to how it sounds or what you should be working on, just have fun.
- Find a karaoke track online for a song you like, and sing along!
3. Make it a daily habit
Make time to reconnect with your voice every day
Making time to reconnect with your voice every day is about making time for yourself. In shifting the expectations on yourself, and taking the *performance* pressure off, you give yourself permission to reconnect with your singing and why you love it in the first place. You’ll not sound great every day, but that is fine! Singing for pleasure, and not just for results, is important too.
Personally I find that the days that I take the pressure off, and just “play” with my voice, are the days I have the most fun. But they are also the days that I discover the most about my voice, and gain the confidence to try new things.
So, what does singing every day look like for me?
Some days I’m feeling great, motivated and excited about the work I’m doing. I might easily lose two hours of my day in singing practice, working at and experimenting with my technique, after a healthy warm up, before having a big sing through the songs I’m working on.
But to be honest, right now, those days are pretty rare! So I’m keeping singing by changing the expectations to match my mood. I might:
- Put on a soundtrack and sing along while I’m doing housework.
- Spend just 5 mins singing some warm ups so I know I’ve taken care of my voice that day.
- Choose a song to sing, not warm up*, sing through it three times and call it a day.
What do you notice about all of these activities? They are all about singing for yourself, not anyone else. Not even your teacher!
I also love to sing for other people, so I might choose a song and record and send it to a friend or family member to say that I’m thinking of them. I particularly love to do this for friends with kids!
*The singing teacher in me is not telling you that this is best practice. It’s always *best* to warm up before you sing. But if you are choosing between warming up and getting disheartened and not singing, or not warming up and enjoying singing for a short while, then I think the second option is better! So I’m giving you permission to skip the warm up. Of course, if it hurts or you are straining, please take a few minutes to warm things up a bit so that you can also sing tomorrow! (smiles)
4. Don't rush yourself
Know yourself, and don't force yourself back into "performance" mode
Singing work requires a certain level of mental capacity. We need to be patient with ourselves, and have the ability to self-critique without it taking a toll on our self-confidence. Wait until you’re feeling brave or back to normal for this kind of singing:
– Doing longer warm ups and/or technical exercises: working on your voice can be hard work when you’re feeling emotionally all over the place. You’re much better off to go straight to the song that puts a smile on your face, and come back to warm ups if you feel like singing for longer than a few minutes. Don’t thrash your way through a warm up if it’s not working well – skip over it and try something else.
– Practicing new repertoire or doing dedicated technique work. See above – it’s hard work when your emotions are all over the place, because your voice is the instrument of your emotions. You know that feeling when you’re trying not to cry, and your voice gets all choked up? That’s not a good feeling to be doing technique work on! Unless you’re very experienced with working on your voice (and even if you are), we’re our own worst critic and can be very hard on ourselves. This can be great for helping us improve our singing, but it can be really difficult on our self esteem when we’re already feeling low.
5. Your voice is yours
At the end of the day, your voice is a part of you
If singing is something you love to do, not wanting to sing could be a sign that you’re not quite yourself. I know it is for me! But if you can get past the hurdle of not feeling like singing, and find a way to reconnect with your voice, you can also have a positive impact on your mental health (as I discussed with Jo!). Your voice is a part of you, and if you’re anything like me, a part of your identity. So reconnecting with your voice will also be inherently tied to reconnecting with yourself. Personally, as a singing teacher, my goal is to help my students gain confidence in their voices, and this is very much tied to them gaining confidence in themselves.
I will add, if you are struggling with your mental health, you should reach out to a health professional and get some help. Equally, if you are struggling with your singing, tell your singing teacher as they will be able to help you. And if you don’t have a singing teacher, maybe it’s a good time to get one!