Outlining vs Creating Perfection

Perfection.. What a concept. Unattainable yet highly desirable. Sorry, guys, I’m feeling a bit poetic in this New Year mood. LOL! Anyway, back to the task at hand..

Which is the discussion of perfection. What is your approach to perfection? How do you sing in perfect harmony, perfect pitch, perfect expression, etc? The conventional method has been to try to create perfection. Start out with nothing, and sing to the best of your ability, in the hopes that what you end up creating would come as close to perfection as possible.

People learning the how to’s of singing are often taught to get as close to perfection as possible. Don’t you feel the same way? The vast majority of exercises, techniques, and methods assume that we, as the artists, are the ones who are supposed to create the perfection.

The problem with this approach is that it’s always unrealistic – demanded of the singer who has barely practiced and barely into his 2nd year of singing. Even for seasoned professionals, there are always different needs for different situations. A set that’s perfect for one situation may be disastrous when used in another setting.

We are always conditioned to strive for perfection, to get as close to it as possible. What we’re not taught, however, is how we should define perfection. Is it perfect notes? Or is it perfect posture? How about showmanship? Is audience participation important? How do you sing perfectly?

My approach to this question has always been twofold:

  1. Take pressure off myself and help myself to relax
  2. Focus on getting the audience comfortable with me

Taking pressure off myself

This might sound obvious, but as humans, our impulses often sabotage us by getting us to do stuff that are counter-intuitive. Have you ever been in a conversation where you’re so nervous that you go blank and are unable to come up with anything to say?

In these situations, you tend to overcompensate: either you keep asking questions of the other person to the point of interrogation to avoid saying anything yourself or you just keep talking nonsense non-stop just to avoid having awkward silence.

Both situations are uncomfortable both for you and the other person you’re engaged in conversation with. The best way I find to deal with this kind of situation is to deal acknowledge the problem. Just acknowledge whatever you’re feeling at the moment: “I’m feeling very nervous today, maybe because I haven’t gone out in a long time”.

This takes pressure off you and the other person because they don’t have to keep guessing as to whether it’s them that’s causing the problem, and you don’t have to put up a front to show how confident you are when really you’re not fooling anyone.

But best of all, it makes room for conversation. This is one such example:

Person: “Oh, that’s okay. I’m not good at these kind of situations either. So you’re an indoors kind of person? What do you do for fun?”

You: “I like to sing. I spend my time practicing on my voice. There’s this site called No Note Singing.com that’s got me glued for weeks now. Are you a musician?”

Person: “Actually, yeah. I play guitar. I sing too. What was the site again? Maybe we could hang out some time!”

So when the pressure is off, creativity flows. That’s how you can outline the perfection that already exists in the moment, instead of trying to create it from scratch, and screwing it up.

I like to use conversation examples because as singers we don’t sing to trees or walls. We sing to other people. They must connect at some level. There has to be  a dialogue that happens in their minds when you play out all those ideas in your lyrics and melodies and what not.

The only way that ensures you get the most out of your sets is to take pressure off yourself and after you’ve done that, get the audience comfortable with you. Getting the audience to warm up to you is easy when you’ve done the first part. All you need to do is get yourself straightened out first, then how you lead your audience is just a matter of your own personality.

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