New year, new voice

It’s that time of year again; the time to re-assess habits, choices and aspirations and to face life with new intentions. It’s time to commit to leaving behind negative patterns that don’t fit the mental picture you have of musical and vocal freedom of expression.

At the beginning of each year most of us make at least one resolution, whether it be to eat healthier, get fit or make time for more practice; but few succeed in the long run. Why is this? Why are some people more successful than others at sticking to their guns and making a positive change?

There are clear, distinctive habits, lifestyles or mantras that successful people adopt. This information is nothing new – it’s been tried and tested and found to be life-changing. Here are some helpful tips to make 2017 your most productive vocal development year ever. I hope you will be inspired to make your vocal/artistic development goals part of your regular lifestyle rather than great ideas that get blown away by the changing wind.

Set clear, achievable goals

When you set a goal, it should move you toward something you want, rather than away from something you don’t want. Energy flows where attention goes, so focus your attention on what you want instead of what you don’t want; be very specific. For example say, “I want to be able to hit a belty A flat 5” instead of “I want to be able to belt” or “I want to be able to accurately execute 7 note pentatonic runs” instead of “I want to be able to riff and run”.

Your goals must be reasonable too. If, for example, you’re new to the principle of discipline, choose to practise three times a week for ten to 15 minutes initially, rather than try to go hard core and spend three hours every single day at it. You can always work your way up to the big goals after you’ve had some initial small successes.

Don’t change too much at once

Even if you have identified several areas for change or improvement, break them down into smaller, achievable chunks. If, for instance, you believe that your vocal performance and confidence need a radical change, prioritise things into three categories:

  • Artistic (inner, creative ability)
  • Technical (outer, functional and mechanical ability) and
  • Performance (expressional, communicative and public persona).

Decide which section is most important to you and start with that section. It’s like learning to juggle; you don’t start with six balls all at once you start with two balls and then add more balls, one at a time. Juggling two balls successfully feels way better than dropping six. And if it feels good, you’ll be motivated to keep going.

March to the sound of your own drum

If you set clear, realistic goals, you might feel like they are easy to achieve. That’s good. There is no reason to make things more difficult for yourself and risk losing all the progress you’ve made. If things are going well with your 15 minute vocal practice, don’t extend your goal just yet. If working on stylistic awareness once a day feels really beneficial, don’t then rush into vocal technique.

Instead, stick with what works and add in some rewards – yes reward yourself, you deserve it. When you get to the end of the first month treat yourself. If the reward is in line with what you are aiming for that’s even better. For example, if your goal is to really work on those riffs and runs every day, buy yourself a concert ticket to see an awesome artist who can really riff the house down. Do this as a treat to yourself for a successful month. As I said earlier, you deserve it. Let that treat experience inspire you.

Surround yourself with the right kind of people

When you make the decision to become the best singer you can be, change a habit or create a different lifestyle, prepare yourself for some negative feedback from some of your peers. Some people may think that your choice to change is a poor reflection on their choice to remain the same. And that is ok; if they aren’t ready to change, let them be. But you should spend time with people who inspire you to make positive choices. When you surround yourself with peers who celebrate your success, it will encourage your continued progress. If your goal is to know more about vocal health, join a singing-related Facebook group. If your goal is to understand the deeper aspects of vocal health or voice science, join online communities like iSing or singing technique groups where vocalists from all walks of life share experiences and advice.

Remember, you are worth it

Even if you’re surrounded by great people and have clear goals with built-in rewards, the human tendency can be to let personal wants and needs fall to the bottom of the list. After cooking, cleaning, college assignments or changing nappies, it’s easy to ignore your plans for vocal development practice. You have to ensure your vocal needs are met because you will reap the rewards and you are worth the work. See it as part of your affirmation as an artist. You work hard on your voice because you have something worth developing.

Be grateful

If you fall back into old patterns don’t beat yourself up; be grateful that you realised your slip up. Wanting to change is the first step so have gratitude that you know there is change to be made. If you fall off the horse, get back on and try again. Let your self-talk be continually affirming. This quote from Tia Walker, co-author of The Inspired Caregiver: Finding Joy While Caring For Those You Love, sums it up.

“Affirmations are our mental vitamins, providing the supplementary positive thoughts we need to balance the barrage of negative events and thoughts we experience daily.”

If you want to develop good habits in 2017, think honestly about yourself. What kind of person are you? What worked for you when have you succeeded in the past and why? What appeals to you? What can you control? What can’t you control? Don’t assume that just because someone else is able to change their habits with lightning speed that you have to grow in the same way. Everyone is different and should walk or run at their own unique pace.

Understand what kind of person you are. Don’t force yourself to be someone you are not. It’s simple to change your habits – when you do it the right way for you.

Remember this: “CHANGE” is found within the word “CHALLENGE”. You cannot change, without challenge, so rise to the challenge and your change will come.

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Joshua Alamu is a professional voice coach with over 15 years experience as a singing teacher in the music and television industry. He has been a voice coach for the TV talent show The Voice UK and is currently vocal coach stars such as Fleur East, Little Mix and JP Cooper. Joshua’s video-enhanced vocal style course Mad About Vocal Style part 1 was launched in 2014 to rave reviews. Joshua is also the co-founder of Ultimate Artists, the UK’s most in-demand artist development camp (eight days of music industry mentorship and artist development).