You’re Not Shit At Singing, You’re Just Afraid

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 08: Josienne Clarke performs at Islington Assembly Hall on February 8, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Lorne Thomson/Redferns)

So i wrote recently about how my guitaring got worse over the last ten yrs because i didn’t feel like a ‘guitarist’ anymore for psychological and emotional reasons. In that piece i promised to write this, to elaborate slightly on my personal observations of the connection between technical ability and frame of mind in singing/playing instruments.

It’s a connection I’ve noticed in myself many times, I play the saxophone, I’ve played it on most of my records but for several years in early 2000’s I was convinced i couldn’t get a note out of it. And while i thought that, I couldn’t. The bottom fell out of my belief in myself and it became true and just as suddenly it became untrue and i merrily toot away on it now. It’s that simple and that complicated.

But i want to talk about singing because its my main skill, the thing I’m kind of known for, you all think I’m good at it and you’re not wrong. But there isn’t a world of inherent genetic difference between you and me, I wasn’t “born with a gift” that’s bullshit. You’ve got the basic physical make-up, the vocal chords you have and so there’s some luck in that but it’s not everything. It’s a small percentage of the overall skill.

MOST IMPORTANTLY the main beauty of singing is YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE GOOD AT IT!! You’re allowed to be shit, it’s for everyone. Just open your mouth and something comes out and the act of it is proud and glorious and full of joy. However far from the melody or key you stray you’re still offering something wonderful, the art of participation.

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 08: Josienne Clarke performs at Islington Assembly Hall on February 8, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Lorne Thomson/Redferns)

I’m not a singing teacher or vocal coach, this is not practical, technical advice. I’ve considered it but singing and teaching other people to, is not the same skill set. So I don’t say this as a tutor i say it as the personal observation of a professional singer. These are my hot opinions not necessarily fact.

According to ME, the good singing equation is: 90% self belief + 10% technique

Going for that high note is a leap of faith, the more you believe you’ll land the other side the more smoothly you approach the jump. So go for lessons of course, they can give you great technical advice and professional support but you need to work on the other 90% just as hard. Allow yourself to fail, learn to love the sound you make, YOUR voice as it naturally, actually is. Croaky, breathy, pitchy, quiet whatever! I can think of an example of great singing in all those categories.

I know, I know easy for ‘Sweet Pipes Clarke’ to say but honestly the secret to my singing is mainly that I’ve always thought I was shit hot at it and I really wasn’t to begin with, I was average, it’s the only thing I’ve ever thought that about so I go for it…

Sing like nobody’s listening

Here I am – aged about 3 singing averagely

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – OCTOBER 17: Josienne Clarke performs on stage at Usher Hall on October 17, 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns)

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