Something I’ve noticed is that we, as artists, always compare our secondary and other areas of expertise quite harshly. Our lack of confidence or consistency in other areas is something of which we can be painfully aware. I have this one friend who is a phenomenal dancer – teacher, choreographer, performer. She’ll always say of her singing that she’s not very good at it.
As a qualified ear, I think she IS good. But I do the exact same thing with my dancing, which just doesn’t come as easily to me. As a dancer I suffered setbacks including growing pains, injury, and the fact that I sometimes felt (through my very human, teenage lens) that I didn’t know how to please my dance teachers. I’m working on my dancing now and having technical rehab with an amazing dance physio, but, I think time has been lost and getting it to a standard I’m happy with is going to take time and dedication.
I have insecurities regarding my piano playing though this is mostly due to my own laziness! I have the tools to get my piano playing up to the standard I desire because it uses the same learning techniques I use every day in the singing studio, but it is going to take perseverance and a lot of time. I think about this often. But the thing I hadn’t thought about is who these comments are really hurting.
I’ll never forget the time I remarked about my poor piano playing in a singing lesson with a student who had recently recommenced her own piano lessons with a colleague. As I said “I’m sorry my accompanying is so crap,”, she responded “Well if you’re crap, what am I?”
Recently I read an article on genius Lin-Manuel Miranda where a professional in the industry said, “Lin can’t sing”. Now, I’m not a concert pianist, but I “can” play the piano, right? If I can play Twinkle Twinkle, I can play! How good a singer does someone need to be before we say they “can”?! (I say Lin’s voice is exactly as skilful as it needs to be for what he does, and is out-of-this-world expressive as he is a consummate actor).
When we put ourselves down in front of others, especially our students, true or untrue, we are running the risk of accidentally criticising them by comparison. Outside of the teaching studio, putting ourselves down in front of other artists plays on their insecurities, which really does not make other artists nicer to work with!
So what’s the solution? I have some favourite terms to use in the studio these days: “Beginner” and “yet”. You can be a “beginner” as opposed to “expert” rather than being “bad” as opposed to “good” to not only more accurately express your learning journey, but also to keep yourself in a positive, growth mindset. You can also say “I’m not good at that yet” to encourage yourself without having an inflated self-view. In the end, any singer worth their salt is still learning, addressing their relative weaknesses (hey! These words are good too). This week, I encourage you to adopt the words “beginner” and “yet” when talking and thinking about your artistry. Happy singing!