• Dr. Heather Nelson

Sometimes you have to sound terrible to sing well

It's true. Especially in your voice lesson.


I've told my clients often that you have to get over the fear of sounding terrible in order to make steps toward sounding great. Believe me, there is literally no sound that can come out of your mouth that will shock me. I've heard it all. But if you try to make everything sound perfect in every lesson, it's going to be a lot harder to make solid progress toward getting the voice you want. A serious voice student really has to shed any perfectionist tendencies in the studio in order to get to the nitty gritty of the voice.


I work very hard to create a safe space in my studio that you can splat notes all over the walls and there is no judgement. In fact, the more I hear you fail, the better I can help!


I'm never, ever concerned about the one-time flubs that sometimes just happen because our bodies sometimes glitch. Those things aren't a big deal, and they are easy to recover from, even in performance.


What I'm looking and listening for in the studio are those consistent, persistent habits that keep you from singing the way you want. Those weeds in the overall garden of your voice are the things we're going to pluck out and cultivate with something more useful and beautiful. Alright, that's a terrible analogy, but I'm looking out at my weed-filled garden right now and it's also just true in my life. I think you can understand me.

The sooner you and I can come to terms with the fact that you're going to sound terrible in your sessions sometimes, the better we'll be able to really get down to work. This is the part of voice lessons that is more about your inner dialogue than your vocal technique.


Here are a few mantras you can repeat to yourself as you're getting ready to head into your voice lesson:


I am a student of my voice. It will teach me if I allow it to speak.


There are no bad sounds. Just information.


My voice is growing, just like me.


I will be kind to myself in this process and speak to myself like I speak to my friends.


I will focus on the beautiful things instead of fixating on the undeveloped things.


Trust your teacher. Allow him or her to guide you, knowing they have your best interests at heart. There should be a lot of encouragement in your sessions together. Now, there may be a rare slip-up that a teacher says the wrong thing or says something in a less than totally kind way. We are human, after all, and we sometimes have bad days or blind spots. However, if you find yourself in a situation where your teacher is consistently not kind or does not support you in the learning process, be brave enough to find another teacher. There's a perfect fit for you out there somewhere. And with today's ability to work online with anyone anywhere in the world, it's so much easier to find the right teacher than it was, even just a few years ago!


As you are rehearsing and studying today, I challenge you to make some truly terrible sounds so you can learn more about how your voice reacts. The more comfortable you are with purposefully making terrible sounds, the easier it will be when those splats happen unexpectedly. Explore. Play! And then take that knowledge and those terrible sounds into your next voice lesson and explore together with your teacher.


If you don't have a teacher yet, let's talk about it. If I'm not the perfect fit, I can help you find options that just might fit the bill. Your voice is worth it!

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