Wednesday 23 April 2014

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.

1950's and 60's American Footballer, Vince Lombardi, is quoted as saying "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." and that is truly relevant for every pursuit in our lives.

While we don't want to resign ourselves to our current level of skill, nor can we realistically assume that we will ever be our very own, overly harsh, and unrealistic state of "perfect".  By definition, perfection is a state of completeness or flawlessness, and there is nothing in the universe that is truly flawless.  Sure you may look at a celebrity in a magazine and say to yourself, "oh look at her flawless figure", or "man I wish I looked like that", some of you may even say, "I wish I sounded like [x,y,z]".  You must find the beauty in yourself.  All these celebrities, might have the appearance of perfection, but that's never really the case.  Imagine having your day intruded and photographed every time you decide to go for a coffee, what's worse, if you don't put your makeup on before you go, then you've got some incurable illness, or if you're a little bloated, then Boom, your teeny tiny size8 body is clearly pregnant!  I think I'll stick with my problems, those ones would annoy me.

Since there is no one out there that is perfect, has the perfect life, the perfect this, and the perfect that, then why would you put that pressure on yourself?  No really? Why are you sooo unbelievably different from the other 7 Billion people on the planet, that you and you alone MUST be perfect?  Ok, that sounds harsh, but it's true, none of us has everything we want, and if we did, where would our challenges lie?  Challenge is part of the joy of living, so lap every single one up with glee!

Now, in our singing lessons, we try to set reasonable goals every term with students so that they can see a realistic progress.  It is not realistic to assume that someone who cannot pitch a single note, is going to be the next Robbie Williams, auto tune is good, but it's not THAT good.  If you're struggling with your pitch, your goal will be to combat that, and over time, you will succeed!  If you're looking 8 stages down your path, and beating yourself up for not reaching that stage, then of course you're going to feel deflated, or low about it.  Stick to what's in front of you and take it in nice small consumable chunks.

Remember, what you put in, will affect what you get out.  If you don't practise your exercises, developing your techniques and combatting nerves, then you will not achieve the goals you set for yourself, and a vicious descending cycle will begin.  Only with effort will you break through and when you succeed, it feels good.  

So, instead of hearing yourself sing and assume that if you don't sound like Beyonce, you're totally "wrong", start thinking about what you've done right, what bits were good?  What bits put a smile on your face, I bet it was when you weren't trying so hard to be "perfect"!

Monday 31 March 2014

Combat your nerves

This was modified from an "" article on sporting performance, but it's as relevant to singing as it is to running a race...


*  Recognise that the "jitters" are normal - Accept, rather than fight your nervous energy.  Don't misinterpret it, by thinking that it's fear.  The adrenaline rush you feel is a normal part of your body's function.  Notice it, but don't focus on it.  Once you're in the full swing of things, it WILL subside, it always does.

*  Prepare both mentally and physically - Arrive in plenty of time, so that you aren't rushed, which will only increase your stress.  Do a good warmup and think about your breathing, it might sound mad, but stretch a bit too...

*  Visualise - Allow a few minutes to practise visualisation.  During this time, mentally rehearse, showing yourself doing everything right.  Breathe easy, close your eyes and use the mental imagery to visualise yourself performing well.  This positive self-talk can change your attitude towards singing.

During the Performance

* Focus on the task at hand - Stay present in the moment and avoid thinking far too far into the future, the song or the end.  If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, or negative self-talk, stop and focus only on your breathing.  Focussing on your breathing rhythm will automatically pull you back to the present.  Sometimes this requires practise, so spend time regularly to do it.  Take 10 minutes, set an alarm on your phone (or alarm clock), lie down and focus on that breath, in and out.  If your mind wanders, don't chastise yourself, rather bring your focus back to the breathing.  Your mind is a cheeky monkey that is always looking for the next adventure, it doesn't quiet easily.

*  Force a smile - (really) - If you're struggling with negative thoughts, and you can't break out of the cycle, then simply force yourself to smile, even if only for a few seconds.  This simple action will change your attitude in a split second.  Perhaps, all the time you need to relax back into your performance.

* Sing like you don't care - If you find yourself caught up in negative thoughts, and find that you suddenly expect the worst, it will be impossible for you to perform at your peak.  If you begin to sing like you don't care about the outcome, you will relax and and enjoy it for what it is, another day in your life, not the most important one!


*  Review the performance and recall the things that you did well - Focus on the thoughts, actions and behaviours that helped you perform.

*  Acknowledge, but quickly dismiss the things that hindered your performance - This is the same principle as avoiding an obstacle while driving.  You look where you want to go, and where you don't.  When you focus on the pothole, you almost always hit it.  Focusing on the negative aspects of the performance will not help you to improve in the future.  Better to focus on what you did right!  This is a form of mental rehearsal, where you practise skills that will be used in the next one.

*  Try to mimic the conditions -  Do what you can to recreate the setting that is causing your nerves, invite friends to sit and listen.  Do what you can to make a fake audience.

The main thing you need to remember, is to ENJOY yourself!  

Tuesday 5 November 2013

How long does it take to be a good singer...

How long is the proverbial piece of string?  Many people will tell you that they "Mastered" and instrument in a few years, while others, believe the Malcolm Gladwell hypothesis that it takes 10,000 hours to fully master an instrument.  10,000 hours?  That's really YEARS!!! 

Well, it will not turn around overnight, and you will not grasp a new instrument in weeks, or even months really.  But plugging away at the new skills that you've learned and practising the technical, will eventually pay off, with persistence.  Sometimes, you really need to fight through the bad days, to keep the flow going, but those bad days will get less and less, as your skills improve.  With any instrument, you can trundle along for a long time, apparently not moving forward, then one day... BAM, you're able to do something that had once eluded you, and you've no idea why!

When learning something new, don't try to compare yourself to the masters of the craft.  You'll only annoy yourself that you're not that good yet, after all it's been 3 months!!! I can assure you, that they didn't master their craft in 3 months, and many professional musicians, will spend hours every DAY perfecting their instrument.  That's not really practical for most, who are learning as a hobby, even those who aspire to be semi or fully professional would struggle to fit in the kind of hours that the touring musician can!

Singing is a unique craft to learn.  While most other musicians have the need to learn where to place fingering, breath control, scales on an instrument, singers need to learn how to be singers at the same time... A guitar already knows how to be a guitar, but how do you know, right away, how to use your voice?  Some have a natural grasp, which usually comes from a specific learning style, but it still makes learning to sing difficult.  Why?  Because learning to sing, isn't easy!

Remember to practise regularly, and to concentrate on your technical skills during scales, but when it comes to singing a song, enjoy it.  Let your mind go, and your body will follow! 

Monday 24 June 2013

Gig of the year (so far)

Our wedding band had the most amazing gig recently!

What an amazing crowd, we managed to keep the dance floor busy all night long.

We do love a responsive crowd, and, a crowd that love a good wedding band.  It makes a great night for everyone involved!

Monday 10 June 2013

Summer's in Bloom

So this week our wedding band start of the busy summer season!

Summer weddings are always so fantastic and the wedding band love playing in fresh bright venues across scotland!

Bring it on weather, lets have a blast!

Friday 7 June 2013

Great Success (in our best Borat voice)

So we had our annual wedding band showcase last week.  And it was good!

So pleased to say that every bride that came along booked the wedding band for their event!

A good friend of mine suggested that the title "Scotland's Premiere Wedding Band" is well overused,  I think we might even claim that title exclusively in the near future.

The futures so bright, we gotta wear shades!

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Post Gig Blues

So we hand an amazing showcase gig for our wedding band last week!

Its always a bit rubbish the day days following a gig. You end on a high, you come down, you get tired and, in my case this time, I got ill!

I often hear horror stories of bands pulling out of gigs at the last minute due to illness.  How would you feel if your wedding band did that to you?  And thats a big thing to ask your wedding band when you book them........ do you have deps!

Very important, and yes we do!