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When the wrong sensations are oh so right.

Singing is a constant act of monitoring what's happening in the body and the environment and determining how to adjust it. So much of what we have to do is internally-focused, and this can be a strange new world for students who have previously focused on what they hear. Indeed, for some students, it can be very, very challenging to access and analyze internal sensations. That's a bigger topic for another time, but for now, I'd like to encourage you to embrace the power of the "wrong" sensations in singing exploration.

I ask my clients often how things feel. After a bit of time has passed in our working relationship, this becomes a normal part of our conversation in voice lessons. Like any singer, their goal is to get to a "good" sound, whatever that means to them, so we work toward consistency, using sensation as our guide. When we find things that both feel and sound good, we explore those sensations and try to make that the norm. Sensation can be a much more reliable benchmark than hearing, and I often tell students they can't always trust their ears.

As clients search for the right sensations that get them the consistent sound they want, I also ask them to do purposefully "wrong" things to analyze what that feels like. I've found over the years that playing around with the wrong sounds can help students drop the tendency toward perfectionism in lessons. When it is safe to purposefully make weird noises, when weird things accidentally come flying out of their mouths it is no big deal. It is also really helpful to analyze the types of sensations that come with the weird noises. This gives more data for the client to work with, and more things to compare the "right" sensations with. That helps to make the "right" sensations more distinct, and also makes the weird sensations less novel.

It's easy to make purposefully weird noises that we would never make onstage, like overly nasal vowels and terrible diphthongs. It's harder to make more subtle changes to the voice that are not the optimal sounds the client wants. But those subtle changes, and then the adjustments to get to the more optimal sounds, are really, really important. When a client makes a sound that is just a bit "not quite right," then they get the opportunity to try things to get the sound to "just right." That kind of playing with the sound is really helpful for getting clients to a place of confidence and self-reliance. It's a great way to put the client in the driver's seat.

What kinds of prompts do you use to encourage your clients to embrace weird and wrong sensations? How do you do this in your own practice? I'd love to hear about it! Send me a message and let's talk about it some more. Happy teaching!

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