Mind

The Life Changing Power of Breath and Taking it Easy

It’s 9:30pm Sunday evening (29 April) as I am writing this and I’m finally in bed after a huge day including an epic gig tonight performing in my band.
 
I’m not sure if you know this but I’m in all girl jazz band called Yas Queen. We play mostly jazz but also leave room for old school pop, rock, blues and soul in our set lists. I don’t want to toot our own horn, but I will. We’re a bloody load of fun. Come and see us sometime!   
 
We played this evening at a quirky little bar in Woolloongabba called Can You Keep a Secret? If you live in or come to Brisbane, you should definitely check it out. It’s run by a fellow Bundabergian and I swear it is where all the big-hearted, creative souls go to hang out. You would feel at home there.
 
Anyway – I had ambitious plans of rushing home tonight from the gig and write you a lengthy article about mindset and how to abolish our singing blocks. This will happen in the near future – but not for now.
 
Instead, I will tell you about a couple of experiences I had today and tonight, which I hope you will draw some meaning from.
 
So where do I start?
 
Let me just repeat - it was a big day. A big weekend, in fact, of cramming in a whole lot of things to do and people to see.
 
It’s Greek Orthodox Easter too, which I inadvertently celebrate as a quarter Greek and a christened Greek Orthodox. *Christos anesti, by the way! 
 
I also live extremely close to the Greek Orthodox church here in Brisbane and it was pumping until 2:30am last night with the clergy singing all of their classic hits from ‘Behold Jesus has risen’ to ‘God Bless the Queen and our politicians’. So, as you can imagine I woke up pretty tired this morning and with a bad case of the Byzantine blues. Google ‘Byzantine Music’ to get that reference.
 
Anyhow after this extravaganza of an evening, I still managed to do a lot today from editing my first video for the Beginner Singer’s Course on my website to celebrating Easter with my cousin Goldie, to learning Aretha’s ‘Natural Woman’ and Gloria Jone’s ‘Tainted Love’ for tonight’s gig. I also made a couple of trips to Officeworks after buying the wrong ethernet adaptor for my Macbook.
 
You are probably thinking, where is she going with this?
 
Well, you see, I had two moments today where either my soul or my body told me to calm the farm down and go easy.
 
Epiphany One: There's always more than enough time and 'rushing' is a choice. 
 
The first epiphany came to me as I was rushing home in the car from Officeworks and I was centimetres away from running into a car in front of me that had diligently stopped for the yellow light.
 
I had the realization then and there that ‘rushing’ can actually be bloody dangerous and there was actually no need for it.
 
It dawned on me that I had time. There was actually plenty of time and it was my belief in a lack of time that was causing me to rush.
 
I not only could have had an accident, but my body was also being negatively impacted. I was in a state of fight or flight for no reason at all.
 
I took a deep breath, forgave myself and did 10km under the speed limit the rest of the way home.
 
Epiphany Two: Breathe and choose to opt out of shit stories + Make friends with Sophia. 
 
After a big first set tonight, I was feeling pretty frazzled mcdazzled.
 
I ignored my inner wisdom to take myself out of the bar for fresh air and have some alone time during the set break. Instead I kept myself ‘on’ and was chatting away to my mates. I was in the middle of talking to one of my friends, when it was like a fuse blew in my brain.
 
I was suddenly very faint, and I literally couldn’t talk anymore. My body became the travel agent from Little Britain, the one who’s catch line is ‘computer says no’.  
 
I excused myself and went outside for air, but instead of chilling out, I bought into the drama of what was happening.
 
I was convinced that I couldn’t do the second set. How was I going to muster the energy to sing three corker soul songs that are taxing on the voice and the body? Aretha Franklin, Gloria Jones, Sam & Dave – c’mon?!  
Anyhow - I had learned this week that Sophia is the Greek word for wisdom. For me, ‘wisdom’ is something we all have access to through awareness. And thank God for Sophia. She brought me back tonight and reminded me that by diving deeper into the story of my body being weirdo and feeling so energetically drained that I couldn’t function wasn’t actually going to help my situation.
 
I took more deep breaths, returned to the bar, collapsed on my best mate Jake and watched our incredible guest artist sing her heart out. Seeing her so connected to her voice and to the music, stopped the negative loop I was in.

[Picture shows the happiness on my face the moment Ella starts to sing and my energy returns. And that's Jake - my bestie.]

[Picture shows the happiness on my face the moment Ella starts to sing and my energy returns. And that's Jake - my bestie.]

I got out of my head, came back into my body and my energy returned in order for me to blast through the set and lug my equipment home.
 
Now it’s 10:55pm, so I should really rap this up.
 
All I want to say is, this week, learn from my experiences today and be gentle with yourself.
 
Let Sophia be your friendly Greek guide. Listen to her. Listen to your body. Say no to the things that don’t suit you and please don’t feel the need to justify yourself. Do things that bring you joy and don’t feel as though you need to cram so many things into your days, unless of course it's exhilarating for you. Meaning, it gives you energy instead of taking it away from you.  
 
When you feel yourself tensing up or your heart racing, remember to breathe. If your mind tries to create a story about it, let Sophia in to remind you that it is simply that… a story.
 
And remember, you are precious.
 
Take care of yourself!
 
Mel Xx
 
P.S. The first video to my Beginner Singer’s Course is in the Student Portal. You get access to this when you book in for your first singing lesson with me.

*Chrisos Anesti is Greek for 'Christ has risen.' Another way of saying 'Happy Easter.' 

Our Mind is our Singing Instrument: Establishing Healthy Beliefs about our Voice

There is a lot of information out there about how to take care of your singing voice but did you know it is equally important to look after your mind?
 
In fact, singing is a neuromuscular activity, which means that our brain is essentially our instrument. It tells our body what to do in order to make the sound we want (and to make sound full stop).

So we need to be aware of what we think and say about our voice as well as our ability to use it.

I'm a big believer that our thoughts and words shape our experience. Our subconscious mind is extremely powerful and pretty much runs the show, which we call ‘our life’. Therefore, what we say and believe to be true about our singing voice is what we are going to experience.

Let's go deeper here... What is the first thing that pops into your head when you think about your voice?

Is it words and feelings such as: "Oh I love it!"; "It's unique"; "It's strong"; "I'm getting better at developing my voice. I can hear an improvement every day."?

Or does your inner monologue sound more like this:   "I'm tone deaf!"; "I can't sing to save myself!"; "I can't hear any improvements. I should give up.”?

If it’s the latter, just giving you the disclaimer now, I’m going to get all Louise Hay on you.
 
Keep reading if you like all this self-love stuff…
 
I can tell you from personal experience not to give up – YOU CAN improve your voice by adopting a set of healthy beliefs. That means loving the shizzle out of your voice, despite it’s apparent weaknesses.
 
Let me tell you a story. In the past, I struggled with a weak chest voice, which makes it pretty difficult to sing contemporary music, especially jazz. I struggled to sing notes below a middle C and sometimes on a gig these notes would completely disappear.   

This caused me a lot of frustration. It didn’t matter what exercises my singing teacher (a head honcho, internationally renowned vocal pedagogue in contemporary music) gave me to strengthen my registration, my body was not complying. And why? At the time, I had no idea either, which of course kept feeding my frustration and to be honest, sadness.  
 
When I got to a particularly low point (excuse the pun!), I realized that I had some major self-enquiry work to do. And what did I discover? An icky web of beliefs that can be summed up as:

  • I didn’t believe I could change.

  • I didn’t believe the exercises would work for me.

  • And that my voice was inherently flawed.

So What do you do when you get to this point?
 
You start to exercise your love muscle! And I don’t that mean in a sexy-time kind of way. Moving on quickly…
 
I mean that you start practicing thinking and saying positive things about your voice.
 
That doesn’t mean proclaiming “I sound like Whitney Houston, therefore I am!”, when you are still developing your sense of pitch. On a side note, it’s always best to sound like yourself but that’s another blog post.
 
It means saying things to yourself that you will actually believe straight off the bat. You need to see it as those you are trying to brainwash a sceptic. Therefore, it will be easier to believe affirmations like, “I don’t care what my voice sounds like, it’s cool. It’s me. Bob Dylan or Marianne Faithful don’t have the most polished sounding voices, they have things to say and they do it well.”   
 
Or:   
 
         “I like how my voice sounds in the higher register.”
 
                 “This song suits my voice.”
 
                      “I like learning about how to build my voice.”
 
                         “I’m starting to hear some improvements.”
 
                            “It makes me happy and fulfilled that I’m even pursuing this.”  
 
Eventually your negative beliefs will begin to morph into positive ones and that is when the real magic starts to happen, my friends.
 
Your new beliefs will just get stronger and so will your voice. Your body will begin to integrate your technique practice, which will continue to reinforce your positive beliefs. It’s the gift that keeps giving!
 
Of course from time to time, negativity will rise it’s unfortunate looking head. But see it as an opportunity to do some weeding and the planting of new pleasing thoughts.  
 
More on this… I was at a Vince Jones workshop once. If you don’t know who he is, Google him, he is an incredible musician, national icon and top bloke. Anyhow he made reference to a wonderful piece of wisdom from David Suzuki which went along the lines of “Your body will do what you ask it to do, and why, because your body loves you”.
 
And as for me and my weak low register… Well I continue to strengthen it daily however it has become much stronger than it was. I no longer see it as an issue and those notes below a middle C stay put over a three to four-hour gig.  
 
Now I want to hear from you – have you stopped ‘hating on your voice’ and learned to love it quirks and all? Have you seen major improvements in your singing practice and life through changing your mindset?

Please leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you!