Singing the hard stuff
Singing is closely linked to the many different experiences of life. We sing on birthdays and at parties. We sing in the car and in the shower. And sometimes we sing when we're sad or we'll hear a song which reminds us of difficult times or people we've loved and lost.
As a singer, there are times when you are called upon to sing when singing is the last thing you want to do. The hardest job I ever had was to sing at a Christmas concert when I'd just lost a baby. I had to smile and sing about babies and cradles, when all I wanted to do was hide in a corner and weep.
So here are my top tips for dealing with emotions while you're singing:
- Breathe! In between songs, in introductions and while you're counting a rest, take some good deep breaths and gently sigh them out. This exercise sends a message to your body to relax but it's also a good distraction.
- Count! Count along if there's music playing or just count in your head. I like doubling numbers. It stops your mind dwelling on the difficult thoughts.
- Think about the flowers! Think about something completely different - what are you having for tea? Or maybe a shopping list or planning a holiday.
- While you are actually singing, don't think too much about the meaning of the words you are singing. I wouldn't normally suggest this, as the words are key to good performance, but when the words are hard it's better just to place vowels, consonants and syllables under notes. They're not words, they're just sounds.
- Pinch! I pinch my thumb nail into the end of my index finger and then concentrate on that pain rather than the emotional one.
- Mime! (This only works if you're singing in a group!) If your voice breaks and you can't get the notes out, just mime for a few bars until you get it back under control using the steps above.
- Cry! Finally, if nothing else works, just cry. There's no shame in it and it does you good to let the emotion out sometimes.
Music can be a trigger for so many emotions - it's one of the reasons it means so much to us. I hope you don't need these tips too often and that you have many times when you can sing with abandon and enjoy the way music can make you feel.