One of my students is just now learning the “hummy-yummy” exercise for vocal resonance: hum and chew at the same time, feeling the vibrations in the mouth and above the palette.
“Like you’re eating ice cream,” I say.
What’s interesting is the deep-seated memory this triggered inside of her:
She was a little girl at a restaurant with her family, and she was humming while she was eating. She had a habit of doing this, especially when the food was really good, and so her parents scolded her:
“That’s not polite! No one wants to hear you eat!” and so on.
This admonishment came on top of all the times they said she was too loud, too smart for her age, too this or that, and the net result was her shutting down her inner artist and putting a lid on her singing voice. Heaven forbid she let her creativity run riot all over life itself! The horror!
And so she grew up believing she was a horror, a vibrant but imposing organism growing far too quickly to be contained in any socially prescribed box. All she wanted was to fit in, but she had a hard time doing that even among misfits.
Singing lessons are a great forum for having a “stop the insanity” moment when these things come up. And come up they do.
So what do I say in response? Stop trying to look for outside permission to enjoy something. Give yourself permission! It’s perfectly okay to hum while you eat, especially when the food is good – we’ve all done it! We deny ourselves enjoyment and pleasure quite enough already; shall we strike out our expressions of pleasure too?
This is one of the places where singing comes from: the freedom to express pleasure.
Someone in your life may have tried to shut you down when you were really young by saying that you shouldn’t sing, that you should “just mouth the words” or only play percussion. Or whatever else. Because you tried to sing and it came out as an obnoxious wail of enjoyment that shook their world order to its foundations.
Well, here’s what I gotta say: You mean to tell me that they’re still right? Did they speak the truth? Are you still going to believe that?
From this present moment on, you have only yourself to blame for holding onto that belief. It’s not about them anymore. Who’s the grown-up now?
Write it down on a piece of paper: “I am a singer. I love to sing. I love music…” Speak YOUR truth. Then go have some ice cream. Really GOOD ice cream. Eat it slowly and let yourself hum a little as you do it.
When you get back to practicing singing, remember that moment of pleasure. Let yourself start humming again, and let it feel good.