A while back, I offered suggestions for getting started singing again. I hoped to make it seem easy, but I’m not going to lie. Sometimes singing is scary… especially if people can hear you. In fact, as a music therapist, I sing every day in front of people, and I am still a bit anxious about sharing this post with you. Sharing your voice with others takes courage. BUT, if I’m going to suggest that you share your voice, I should be willing to share, too, right?
It all started in traffic…
So, in my last post, I recommended a few albums that are meant to encourage improvisation and teach those who want to learn traditional jazz improvisation. These particular sing-along tracks came to mind recently because of an experience I had while driving around the Kansas City metro last week. I was in moderate traffic, rushing to daycare to pick up my daughter and still thinking about all the tasks I had to get done for sessions the next day. I could feel my stomach turning and my muscles tightening, and I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin. I was anxious, and it didn’t feel good. It was time for some self-care.
I wanted to do something musical, and I wanted to be gentle on my voice, since I had already been singing all day in music therapy sessions. That’s why I decided against singing along with the radio – my range isn’t the same as all the singers on the radio, and I didn’t want to strain my voice trying to match them. (Also, I don’t like listening to the ads.) So, that’s where the sing-along albums came in. I found Travelin’ Light on my iPod and started scatting along with the first track. Eventually, (around 0:57 on the recording below), I started adding some words – positive affirmations such as, “I’m feeling good today. I’m going home right now.” I paid attention to my voice, ensuring that I was still being gentle. I let go, and it felt great!
This is where the bravery comes in.
I think you should try this, too, but you might not be sure where to start, or you might be afraid of how you will sound. That’s why I’m going to share with you my re-creation of the jazzy vocal improv I did in my car last week. To keep it true to the off-the-cuff experience, I chose a track that I hadn’t heard recently. I recorded it on the internal microphone on my MacBook, so the sound quality isn’t exactly top-notch. Keep in mind, I’m improvising here.
Listen here: Rachelle’s Blue-sy Scat Attempt
Did you hear it? Okay. Now, the hardest part for me is putting that out there and not going back to critique my own singing. I’m not going to criticize myself, though, because I was singing not for technical perfection or a star performance, but for relaxation, stress reduction, and pleasure. Did I meet those aims? Why, yes, I think I did.
You can do this, too!
To recap, here are the steps to have your own vocal improv session for self-care:
1. Pick a time and place. This is totally up to you. For me, it was spontaneous, in the car, when I needed it most. For you, it could be in the kitchen while preparing dinner, in the shower as you get ready for the day, on the living room floor with your grandkids – anywhere is fine.
2. Cue up the accompaniment track. The ones I listed here are a great place to start – you can choose the style of music you like best.
3. Sing! Start with scatting – singing nonsense syllables like “be-de-bop” or “la-la-la.” Add in some words if you want (positive affirmations work great!).
4. Evaluate your singing based on how it makes you feel, not on how you sound or what others might think.
Of course, you don’t have to record yourself and share the recording with the world, but I would love to know how this works out for you! How does it feel to really let go with your voice? Please leave your comments below.