Building Resilience: Sticking with Singing Even When It’s Hard hero

Building Resilience: Sticking with Singing Even When It’s Hard

Posted Saturday, March 23rd 2024 by Tim Rosser
In this article, we will explore some principles I find useful for practicing singing that may help us overcome a "rut" in our progression toward vocal growth. Practicing singing can at times feel impossible, but a shift in mindset can potentially change that feeling.

Everyone who practices singing knows it’s every bit a mental challenge as it is a physical one. I’ve found that a handful of principles tend to guide me back into a helpful frame of mind when I’m trying to get out of a rut. Consider these suggestions to support your singing journey:

When you are faced with a vocal exercise that you really struggle with, don’t let it discourage you. This is not a sign “from above” that you should accept defeat. On the contrary, this is a terrific opportunity. You finally get to address that tight tongue, that unruly larynx, that tricky vowel, that inconsistent register, that messy vibrato. Some people will go their whole lives never getting to address these things head-on; never even knowing they could. Addressing the struggle will take you out of your comfort zone, but when you’re finally working with it, you’ll be surprised by what opens up for you. A challenge is your invitation to grow. Embrace it as a gift.

Singing well is a lifelong process. Try to be present with the journey rather than focusing on those results. Show up every time and just do your best work. The results will eventually and continually speak for themselves. You also don’t have to wait until you feel you’ve mastered your voice to share your work. There are many small victories along the way. Try to savor them, and share them if you want to. By design, this is all a process, not a destination.

When you make a mistake, forgive yourself. It is human to make mistakes, and your absolute favorite vocalist has made tons of them. Seriously. You, a mistake-maker, are in good company. Even if it feels like the biggest mistake in the highest-stakes situation, soothe yourself, allow your support system to support you, accept that it hurt and that it happened; forgive. Even if someone else won’t let you off the hook about it, that’s too bad for them; forgive. What other people think about you (or your voice) is none of your business. Mistakes are just a symptom of trying.

Our voices embody polarities: bright vs. dark, breathy vs. glottal, thick vs. thin, loud vs. soft. None of these qualities are the answer in themselves, none of them define you as a singer. You might not know what you are capable of if you are only sticking to your go-to approach. A voice teacher’s role is to help other people find the balance they are looking for, and oftentimes the way to that result is counter-intuitive. Know that you can learn new things. If you feel stuck, don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

When your mind is being a little too insistent, telling you everything has gone wrong, telling you old stories that are not true; or when you’re having trouble tapping into that vocal sound you want to make, you feel tightness you thought you had overcome, you feel anxiety and pressure: the breath is a great place to take your focus. Exhale the old air. Inhale and send the fresh breath low, expand, feel the air go in, hold it for a few seconds, release. Allow your inner gaze to track this amazing life process for a couple of minutes. Accept any feelings that come up. Try to sing again with this lower, calmer breath. Go low with your breath: take your focus away from your mind and connect with your body.

I believe the world needs the most open version of you. Finding that is the best thing you can do for yourself and everyone around you. There’s nothing selfish about taking the time you need to take and investing the resources you need to invest to shine. If you are feeling stuck, I hope one or two of these concepts might help you realign yourself with the patience, joy, and courage to continue to find your best voice.

Tim Rosser

Tim studied music at Oberlin Conservatory and since then has pursued a 14+ year career as a voice teacher, vocal coach, music director, and pianist here in New York City. He’s worked with many of Broadway’s biggest stars in these capacities, including Kristen Chenoweth, Tituss Burgess, Chita Rivera, and Andrew Rannells, and on several Broadway shows as a pianist and conductor, including The Addams Family, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and Carousel. Tim is always honored to join singers on their vocal journeys. Helping a singer to unlock their vocal powers is one of the most gratifying things he’s ever been a part of. He has tremendous respect for anyone who has the courage to challenge themselves to grow, and is eager to be a positive force in that process!

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