EVERYONE carries theories and beliefs. Theories and beliefs are what help us stay sane in this world, to navigate the extraordinary flow of information and experiences in which we are currently living.
As singers, we carry beliefs and theories about techniques for singing – they help us step out into the scary world for performers and share our voice and soul in public. Until those beliefs and theories stop working, and then we go to a singing teacher, a coach, a book or a YouTube influencer to learn new ones.
Yet singing teachers & coaches also carry theories and beliefs about singing, performing and teaching. “Our way of teaching is the way that works, because we know it, because we feel it, because it is.”
It’s been fascinating working with, discussing with and observing so many teachers in different countries this month. One or two have similar backgrounds to us, most don’t. Almost all are working with the types of clients we work with, at varying levels of ability. And we’ve witnessed many different techniques and an equal number of ways of communicating those techniques.
The most surprising and heart-warming thing is discovering that we’re all aiming at roughly the same thing, to have a singer in front of us that can do the job well, that can sing with ease, even if they need to “sound” like they’re working hard.
What does a singing teacher or coach need to be aware of? A good place to start is the difference between a belief and a theory. In short, a theory is something you can share and is open to discussion or change. A belief is something you enforce, something that is not up for discussion, something that you must make the other person believe or you’ll have to dismiss them as [stupid/lazy/arrogant/dishonest/crazy you can add your own words as appropriate]
So this week some of my old beliefs have surfaced – some that I’ve carried around for years: “This is how you need to think about it, that is what you need to do, this is how it works”.
When you witness teachers helping their pupils arrive at the same point you envisioned by a completely different route, or explain a technique or topic in a different way to you, you end up sounding like a motor-boat in your head…
But, but, but, but, but, but, but…
I’ve started noticing when I do that, and it’s usually when I’m carrying what I think is a theory in my head and turns out to be a belief. I think it’s useful to spot the beliefs you carry with you. Notice the topics that really get you inflamed, the ones you’ll argue about. They’re often based on a strongly-held belief that you don’t want to examine too closely. It’s those angry, knee-jerk moments that you might need to pay attention to. Notice the heat of the emotion, is it appropriate to the topic? Do you really know what you’re talking about or have you decided on something because you were told it by someone else? Did you used to believe that topic but have discovered more and are angry about being misled? Are you interested to talk about and around the topic with someone of a different understanding?
Once you can separate theory from belief, you’re more likely to be able to spot the reality. Then you can decide to keep your ideas and understanding, or change your map of the world to something rounder!
PS If you want to discover what beliefs about singing teaching you hold, join me and Gillyanne in a safe discussion space on the Joining The Dots event in London, or the Singing Teacher’s Intensive Training in Leeds