by Lisa Marie Selow
I’m coming out of the closet as a singer. I was so blocked that it really hurt my heart, since I’ve known for 30 years that I wanted to sing and play guitar in a band. It’s time to get help with your dreams when not following them hurts. So, back in May 2012, I “felt the fear and did it anyway” by signing up for some voice lessons with Amy. I thought I’d share my journey so far with you, especially nudging those who are scared, because if I can do this, you can too! So many blocks have fallen away as I’ve worked with Amy. Each week, it gets better.
I had wanted to play electric guitar since I was about age 10. It was hearing Joan Jett’s remake of “I Love Rock and Roll” that caused me to say, “I wanna do that when I grow up!” (Yes, I’m dating myself here.) I took to guitar somewhat quickly, due to my past music theory background. As of this writing, I’ve been at it for about five or so years, playing for fun and jamming with my husband who also took up the instrument at the same time as me.
After you play any instrument for a while, I think that you start to think about performing for others or putting together a band. Whenever the question, “Who is going to sing?” has come up, everyone has looked at me. I avoided the issue or changed the subject. I was worried about the usual, human things such as, “What will they think of me?”
Amy has lovingly coached me to stop listening to my inner critics and to reduce my worries about what others might think of my singing voice. She has great resources that she shares with you. In my case, it was the book, Women, Sex, and Rock ‘n Roll by Liz Evans. This book features in-their-own-words type of interviews with female musicians such as Tori Amos, Bjork, Kim Gordon, Marianne Faithfull, and with some others who were emerging in the 1990s. It was healing for me to read about how these female artists dealt with criticism and kept true to themselves and their music. When Amy handed that book to me to borrow at one week’s lesson, I knew I had found a teacher who really understood me and wanted me to be a success. She cares about your mindset, which to me, is the sign of a true mentor.
What I appreciate most about Amy is that she’s a safe person who makes you feel comfortable. Patience and love are so important in the learning process. About a year before working with Amy, I had a bad experience with a grumpy guitar teacher who growled at me in one of my lessons, “Play me something that sounds like music!” I’ve definitely been able to recapture the joy of making music and learning again thanks to Amy.
Here’s a few of the many a-ha moments I’ve experienced from working with Amy:
1. Be okay with making mistakes, even if you feel a bit ridiculous or silly.
2. Enjoying the process and make music for the joy of it. As you learn new things, be gentle with yourself. For example, I’m learning to play guitar and sing at the same time. It’s harder than it seems, but not as hard if I just take it one bar of music at a time. It doesn’t help to beat yourself up for not being perfect overnight.
3. Your tummy is your best friend as a singer. Like most people, I used to “suck it in” for vanity reasons. This area needs to be relaxed if you’re a singer because it’s supposed to do the bulk of the work for you. After years of poor body image, I’m learning to love my tummy finally.
4. Be loose! I’ve rediscovered stretching and yoga to keep myself loose, especially my neck, jaw, mouth, shoulders, arms, hips, pelvic floor, and legs. I’ve learned that my whole body is my instrument as a singer. So, it’s important to keep it all relaxed for freedom in the voice.
5. Singing is just communicating. I think sometimes, it’s tempting to make things complicated. If you think about singing as simply communicating, it takes the pressure off yourself. For example, I feel that I can sing without worrying about the labels of “singer” or “musician.” I can just be me and share that with others.
6. Experiment! As an emerging musician, I find that you have to experiment with different genres and songs to find your style. Some of the music you appreciate listening to won’t necessarily be the stuff you sing or play. Play around with things with an open mind. Let your style find you, instead of pushing so hard to define it.
This is the first part of my journey of reclaiming my voice. The best part is learning tools that I’ll have with me for my entire life as a musician. I feel empowered, inspired, and blessed.
Thank you, Amy.
Lisa Marie Selow is a life coach and writer who lives in the metro Detroit area with her hubby, JT, along with a few electric guitars. She is inspired by all music especially blues, rockabilly, punk, garage rock, and rock and roll. Lisa writes a blog at http://lisaselow.com combining her rocker chick essence with personal development.