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“Have you ever watched children at play? They are spontaneous, uninhibited and they only follow a few vital rules. The funny thing is that for children their play IS their work. Playtime is how they learn life skills and understand the world around them.

Playtime opens their mind and emotions. As adults, we lose that precious skill of playing. We have rules and schedules to follow and all sorts of inhibitions that hold us back from making progress. All of those carefully constructed inhibitions, rules and judgments create a nice little fence around your mind.

As a singer, your mind is your most powerful ally or your most daunting enemy. An example of the mental fences that we put up as singers could be our use of the terms soprano, alto, tenor, and bass.

I understand that when working with an ensemble or choir those terms are necessary, but with an individual singer I NEVER use those words. As soon as I tell someone that they are a bass, they will probably make a few judgments about their voice based on that one word.

Immediately, they will make a list of all the things their voice can’t do because they are a bass. The same could be true for sopranos. I was told for decades that I could not belt because I am a soprano. It’s simply not true, but I lived with that “rule” for most of my adult life.

So how do you take down the mental fence? How do you strip away the unnecessary inhibitions, rules and judgments? You might expect me to say, “More voice lessons!”

Nope. You take down the mental fence by stepping out of your comfort zone. The best way to step out of your comfort zone is to do something that TERRIFIES you. Being uncomfortable opens you up to change, new skills and strengthens your trust in yourself.

Here are some awesome ways to step outside of your comfort zone, tear down those mental fences and unlock your voices potential –

1. Sing a genre of music that you typically avoid. Sing it and sing it and then sing it some more. It
will teach you things about your voice that you never knew.
2. Take a Meisner acting class. The Meisner technique emphasizes working off impulse. This
technique gets you out of your head and opens you up to more vocal development.
3. Take a dance class – any dance class. Dance training helps you to be more aware of and
expressive with your body. It takes your mind off your voice and leaves your voice free to do
what it was designed to do!
4. Have weekly vocal playtime. For example, sit at the piano and play a chord progression over
and over while you make up different melodies. Or play around with vocal improv – have a
“Riff Off” with a friend or a conversation with a friend only using riffs. Sing a song using only
gibberish. Make up games. Be willing to make mistakes. After all, you’re just playing!

So keep the vocal rules that WORK for you, but most importantly take down the mental fences and just PLAY!”

Camiah E. Mingorance (Guest Author)
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