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You may be surprised by the title of this blog post. “Stop listening, did you say? Am I sounding that bad? Why shouldn’t I be listening?”

I happen to say “stop listening” to my students fairly often. It might be a bit different from what you’re imagining. My voice students work hard in their lessons. They try to do it all: take a good breath, have aligned posture, sing the correct notes and rhythms, not have any unnecessary tension, and on top of that, try to sound good. Singing is a lot of jobs all at once. A lot to get right. I think you would agree that’s a lot to do. Now try to add to that listening to how you sound. At the same time as you’re trying to get all those other things right. This is where those two words come out of my mouth: “Stop listening!” And then, I usually explain. If you’re singing and listening at the same time, you’re doing two jobs at once. When you’re taking a lesson, listening to how you sound is MY job. That’s what you’re paying me to do. And I may be listening for something entirely different than what you are listening for. While you may be thinking, “I’m not sounding anything like Adele right now”, I may be thinking, “she sounds so much better this time, her breath is really working well now!” What can you do instead of listening to yourself in your lesson?

Just do the singing

I mentioned that if you’re listening and singing at the same time, you’re doing two jobs at once. That’s true. What I really want you to do is to just do the singing. That’s hard enough!

How does it feel?

Concentrate on how it feels when you get something right, and how it feels when you get something wrong. This is how we grow as singers, by understanding and recognizing when something has felt good, which is when it usually also sounds good.

Stop judging your sound

This is the toughest one to do. When you judge your sound and compare it to a professional’s, it can be frustrating. It takes the pleasure out of singing and focuses on what it isn’t. When you stop judging your sound and start enjoying the singing, it makes for a much more pleasurable and productive learning experience.

Record yourself

This is not to say that when you are practicing at home, that you shouldn’t be listening to yourself. If I’m not there, who will listen? This is the time to record your practice session, or to record singing your song once or twice. This can give you valuable insight, and a chance to just listen. Please be kind to yourself when listening back to your recording (Adele has a team of people and technology helping her to sound her best).

Your voice sounds different to you than to me

It’s also difficult to hear our own voices as others hear them. That’s why it’s so painful to hear our speaking voices on recordings. Is that really how I sound? It sounds different to us, because our voices are inside our bodies, and we hear them differently than they sound to others. This is one reason why it’s so crucial to have a voice teacher or coach; to have someone to give feedback about how we really sound.

So, stop listening, and start singing!


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