Who doesn’t like the cozy confines of their comfort zone? After all, you know what to expect, everything seems easy and controlled, and it’s, well, comfortable. However, most growth happens outside of that zone, when you push yourself to live in the discomfort for a while. This applies to all aspects of your life, but as performers, embracing this concept is especially important.
Now, I know that there are varying levels of risk-takers out there. You might be a bit self-critical, and therefore somewhat risk-adverse, or you might be the type that leans into the discomfort a bit more frequently. There are many reasons you are conditioned the way you are, including how you were brought up and your life experiences up to this point. However, just because you may have been used to playing it safe in your life up to this point doesn’t mean you can’t start taking more risks now.
If you’ve played it safe up till this point, the first steps will be the hardest, though well worth the struggle. I would advise that you first begin to challenge yourself to try new things in your vocal practice sessions. In order to do this, it is very important that you have a space to practice singing in where you don’t feel inhibited. You don’t want to practice in your room if your roommate is home with his/her friends in the next room, if that’s going to keep you from trying new things. You want to feel free to sing full out and not be afraid of making “ugly” sounds.
Sometimes the sounds that you or someone else might interpret as bad are actually your voice making great progress! Did you know that a vocal crack is just your chest voice flipping into your head voice for a second? Letting your voice crack is something that will likely happen a lot as you work on developing a beautiful mixed voice, so learn to embrace it! Just as you can make huge leaps vocally when you feel free to take risks in practice, you can impede your vocal development if you always play it safe. If you don’t feel free to try new things in practice, you probably won’t make the progress you would make if the self-watching and judging wasn’t as present.
Once you begin taking these risks in your vocal practice at home, your voice will improve drastically, but the power of taking risks has just begun! Whether you are singing for fun or pursuing a career in music, you can employ this same fearless behavior in the way that you share your talent with others. As an avid theatergoer, I know that those performances that I can’t get out of my head are certainly not the ones where the performer was playing it safe. In order to fully engage and affect an audience, you must be able quiet that inner self-critic. Easier said than done, and each person has his own journey, but once you get there, that is when the magic begins. Try to adopt this attitude in your auditions, your classes and your performances. You only live once, so be grateful for each moment you have to really impact others and yourself.
If you are pursuing singing as a hobby or a creative outlet, I urge you to get out there and share your talent with others! It may seen intimidating at first to sing in public, but I challenge you to go to an open mic night, get together and sing with some other musicians/friends, or audition for a singing group or choir. It will not only teach you new things about your voice but will surely do wonders for your confidence too!
I have seen in both my students and myself personally the enormous value of pushing yourself outside of that comfort zone. You can definitely make progress by practicing in your room every day, but your practice can be ten times more effective if you are fully present and uninhibited during that practice time. You can give a great performance if you memorize your song lyrics, but until you fully commit to what those words mean to you on a deeply personal level, that performance will not be all it can be. As a singer, you have the power to change others. Embrace every moment, even the uncomfortable ones!