When you sing, do you think about why you are doing it? It could be just because we love to make a joyful noise, or that we want to improve our technique, we want to hit a particular note as accurately as possible, or just because we are happy to be alive. We don’t want to overthink our singing, but we do want to ensure that we have a purpose.
More often than not singers don’t even think about purpose, but are too busy judging their own sound rather than enjoying the moment and the music. Many singers find it difficult to get past the psychological battle going on in their heads – negative self-talk is a hard wall to get over. Understanding why we sing or finding a purpose to sing is impossible if we keep telling ourselves that our voices are terrible, we keep comparing ourselves to others, or we think that people are either born singers or not. You may want to sing with a greater purpose but find yourself stuck in this frame of mind.
Before clarifying your singing purpose you need to change your mental chatter about your voice from negative to positive. This takes time and persistence. You need to work on your mind when it comes to singing, otherwise finding a purpose will be like building a house on sand. Singers need to lay a strong mental foundation and spiritual connection – a solid and positive singer’s mindset.
Having said that, you shouldn’t wait for perfection either. There is no such thing as perfection when it comes to singing. In fact, the most professional and experienced singers in the world know that they are never truly finished with learning about and improving their voice. So sometimes the best way to find your purpose is to just take a leap of faith and start singing anyway. Once you make a connection with your voice and start investigating how to improve it by self-study, or by finding a teacher if you are able, the purpose for your singing will find you.
Writing down how you feel about why you sing is also important because you will need to recall it throughout the ups and downs that many singers inevitably go through. You need a reason to love singing and music because every singer has days when practicing feels like hard work, tiredness sets in, or other issues arise.
Many if not most singers go through times when the passion just seems to disappear. There may even be days, particularly for beginner singers, when giving up feels like the only way to end the frustrations around learning and progressing. There is so much to know and remember about technique and forming good habits! It often feels like one step forward and five steps back. It is at those times that the singing purpose will help you. Refer to your singing purpose and remember why you started your singing journey in the first place.
If you are struggling to understand the relevance of a singing purpose, think about a well-known song, for example “Happy Birthday to You”. You’ve no doubt sung it many times without even thinking about it. Your purpose may have been to sing it to a family member or friend because you wanted to rejoice in their happy day. You wanted to give them a message of love to wish them well. Perhaps you were at a party and wanted to spread the joy of the occasion. Most likely you sang it without any reservations and with a feeling of freedom and ease in your voice and your heart. At such times, no one analyses how they sing this song (I hope!) because they are focused on the moment of celebration.
Our society is focused on what we can see. When we study, our purpose is to obtain a qualification or achieve a certain goal on paper. When we go to work, we earn money to survive and to help others. When we go out or travel, we have a destination. These are concrete things.
Singing however, is an intangible activity. No one sees it, but we can feel its effects. It is a message which is carried on air and the vibrations of our unique voices. It is a beautiful art and the language of angels. It comes and goes in a moment, but the gift is in the giving. Singing is one of the most beautiful ways to spend your time on earth, and in connecting with others. It is worth your focus and energy. When you articulate your singing purpose you remind your soul of this.
So how can you formulate a singing purpose (or even several short ones)? What do you need to consider when writing one down?
The best way I have found is to think about my past experiences with music and singing, and how they made me feel. I also think about the times when others said they were touched by my singing, and when I felt happiest. You can ask yourself questions such as the ones below. You can write down the answers and keep them in mind the next time you want to give up on your singing:
- How does singing make me feel? (Don’t analyse your voice – just focus on the feeling).
- What is the message I want to share with others in my music?
- Do I feel compelled to sing? Can I do without it? If no, why not?
- Do I sing because of a particular person who has touched me in a deep way? The kind words of a teacher, a dear friend or relative, or a favourite performer?
- Do I sing because it makes me feel closer to God?
- Do I want to help other people feel loved by God through my singing?
- Do I want to get back in touch with singing if I stopped many years ago?
If you had a singing purpose once but feel that you have lost it, is it too late for you? Never! You may need to take a break perhaps, but if you eventually find yourself drawn back to music, making sounds, listening to others sing or make music, then you will find your way back. Singing never leaves you if you feel it calling. You may need to re-examine your purpose, or spend some time healing and trusting yourself again. This is especially true if you have been through a past traumatic experience with singing or music lessons.
Even if you have a rock solid purpose, you need to trust yourself as a singer above everything else. To sing in front of people – be it at a concert hall, on stage, a church, or anywhere, takes a lot of courage! I have found that it is especially an honour and privilege to sing hymns and words written hundreds of years ago. It is amazing if you can even sing in front of one person, your friends, or family! Not many people can or are willing to do that. It is easy to critique a singer if someone has never been in a singer’s shoes, so you need to back yourself, celebrate small steps, and take the time to think about how wonderful the voice is.
So don’t be discouraged! Do some research, look for positive and motivating books and articles about singing, and check out The Music Room if you need some instruction or motivation.
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