Finding your inner artist, day 27: About being wary of those who seem to know it all

Today’s quote:

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. ~ André Gide

English: André Gide, Nobel laureate in Literat...

English: André Gide, Nobel laureate in Literature 1947 Deutsch: André Gide, Nobelpreisträger für Literatur 1947 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is another post about technique…

There are various schools of thought in vocal pedagogy. Some are open-minded, others not so much. If we are talking about pedagogy, methods and technique, I would imagine this to be the same in every other artistic field.

Today, we have many so-called “scientifically proven methods”, which claim to be valid for everyone. I am glad we have them, because they did us an immense amount of good and removed a lot of guesswork. However, the danger is to become complacent and narrow-minded once something is “proven”. The validity of any study, experiment or trial hugely depends on its set-up. Provided there are no other methodical errors involved, the results of single subject studies are valid for one person (still not that uncommon in the singing world, believe it or not). Others are valid for the majority of people; some maybe even for all in that very moment. This doesn’t mean however that it is, and will stay, universally right. Large studies, including thousands of people, are still rare in singing pedagogy. I won’t even start to talk about bias and scientific misconduct now…

Physics and Chemistry are usually classed as exact sciences, Biology and Medicine already rank somewhere in the middle (this is, for instance, important to consider in my field of work), and Humanities – well…

Where am I going with this? I guess what I am trying to say is that art is definitely not an exact science – this includes its technique and methodology, but I guess most people know that. That’s why it never ceases to amaze me that some still argue as if it was. Some scientific studies related to the more technical aspects of our work are the best we have at the moment, and that’s good and helpful. I am generally wary of those though who try to tell me there is only one proven, or “best”, way of doing things, especially if there is some sort of financial interest involved.

Many roads lead to Rome, and it is important to stay open-minded, to exchange ideas, and to accept that no matter how convinced we are of our own methods, they are usually not the only way to do things…

© Petra Raspel 2013

Finding your inner artist, day 19: About not constantly judging and projecting

Today’s quote:

The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only look at the work clearly — without judgment, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes. Without emotional expectations. Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen, the way a good parent listens to a child.  (from “Art and Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland).

Art & Fear

Art & Fear (Photo credit: alternatePhotography)

Another quote you can understand in many ways…

There’s this singer, let’s call her Charlotte. Charlotte has huge natural talent, but she also has a lot to learn from a technical point of view. So I recommend she records her lessons to monitor her progress. She blocks. “I cannot stand listening to myself”. “Why is that?” I ask. “Because I hear all the mistakes”.

This is not unusual at all. There was a time when I didn’t particularly enjoy listening to my voice, despite other people telling me it sounded good. I could only hear the mistakes, never the good things. Like Charlotte, I had this “zooming in on mistakes” mentality, no matter if 95% of the song sounded great. Can you imagine the frustration if those 5% are all you are able to take in?

It took me years to learn to listen to my singing (sort of) objectively. Without “need or fear” for things to go perfectly, or hitting a bum note; “without wishes or hopes” that this recording would finally be the one without a single mistake. I needed to let go of projecting, insecurities in other areas of life included, because nothing of this would help me to progress and grow – neither as an artist, nor as a person.

Once I learned to see it from that angle, and I just listened without judgement, I could also hear the good things. I could still hear what went wrong as well, but now it was fine.
“Mistakes” started to turn into a compass; through them, I could pinpoint what my art needed to get better. This wasn’t just technical work, even if I had very often thought so in the past:

Little adjustments in my daily “non-artist” life also helped to become a better singer, probably at least as much as working on my voice…

© Petra Raspel 2013

Finding your inner artist, day 7: About head and heart

Today’s quote:

If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing. ~ Marc Chagall


self-portrait (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am a singing teacher. I know a lot about technique, the physiology of singing and teaching methods. And sometimes, it annoys me greatly that I analyse every tiniest detail that is “off”; that I analyse technique instead of just letting music be music.
If I do this in my function as a teacher, it’s fine and often needed; if I do it as a singer, being too “brainy” about everything usually leads to nothing good: Self-doubt, trying too hard, being too technical, getting frustrated. This approach just doesn’t work, unless I only want to work on technique.

Then I need to remind myself, again, that my muscle memory knows all this stuff, that I can trust my body to take over when it matters. Most of the time, that little reminder does the trick. Sometimes, the little nagging voice refuses to be silent though. I meanwhile have a strategy: If the inner critic is too loud on a particular day and tries to sabotage me, I take that day off.

Do you sometimes catch yourself using “craft” and “art” synonymously? Do you create art from your heart or your head?

© Petra Raspel 2013