Letting Go of Perfection

 
As I come to the end of a four-year recording project, I look back on vocal tracks I did two years ago versus a month ago. The difference is striking. After trying so many versions of the same song, I have come to understand something so fundamental but which has eluded me for years:

A good vocal track is not about being perfect.

I am a classically trained chorus girl ‘til the end. I’ve spent my entire musical career aiming to sound as perfect as possible. And while I have managed to make an impression on many, I know now that this attitude held me back from truly finding my voice and delivering my message.

To let go of perfection is to let go of fear.

I recently played at a friend’s music video release party (you remember Volary, yes?). Keeping in mind the things I had learned during the recording process, I didn’t push my voice too hard, but instead let it settle into its “sweet spot”. I used my eyes to communicate with the audience, which instantly translated through my voice. I playfully played with dynamics, which kept my listeners’ interest.

Enveloping myself in the song’s message, my voice became expressive in a way that it never could if I simply thought “sing expressively”. I don’t know if I sang any wrong notes because there were no wrong notes.

The biggest difference though, was how firmly I now believed in the songs. In the past, I have often rushed through my tunes with the mindset that I have to fit in as many as possible before people get bored. But after recording them and hearing them with lush string arrangements, I knew that, as long as I hear those parts in my mind, the pared down versions would hold up. And they did! The trick was to not be impatient with them and to give them room to breathe.

True, many other factors came together to help create this magical set. The audience was extremely receptive and patient (there were plenty of technical delays which they happily drank through), and I had received a great introduction. But I would like to think that, should circumstances not be so forgiving, I would be just as confident in my delivery having learned these lessons.

3 comments

  • Adrian Flame-on

    Adrian Flame-on

    I like the article. I was thinking about my voice in a perspective such as your own. At the age of 29 I just started singing and are putting together a hard rock band. I never sang a day in my life but have been strongly into production and engineering. My mom is a wonderful and powerful singer and apparently I have inherited the same talent but I was just never interested in voice. I am no Justin Timberlake but I can rock out like Lajon Witherspoon IE "Sevendust" or can emphasize the emotion of expressing a word like Maynard from "Tool".

    I like the article. I was thinking about my voice in a perspective such as your own. At the age of 29 I just started singing and are putting together a hard rock band. I never sang a day in my life but have been strongly into production and engineering. My mom is a wonderful and powerful singer and apparently I have inherited the same talent but I was just never interested in voice. I am no Justin Timberlake but I can rock out like Lajon Witherspoon IE "Sevendust" or can emphasize the emotion of expressing a word like Maynard from "Tool".

  • Jonathan

    Jonathan

    Meaningful and helpful thoughts, thank you.

    Meaningful and helpful thoughts, thank you.

  • Katie

    Katie Belfast, Northern Ireland

    I have had the same experience recently - a producer told me that he didn't believe what I was singing (in a constructive manner) and after years of trying to get my voice to sound a certain way I was shocked and at first put off. However as soon as i started to take a step back, really think about what he was saying and experiment I found how much i could do by holding back, how much more emotional I could make the performance and also how much more people listened. I always prided myself on being able to belt out songs - but I think I lost the meaning somewhere along the way... So I totally agree with this article - thanks for writing it!

    I have had the same experience recently - a producer told me that he didn't believe what I was singing (in a constructive manner) and after years of trying to get my voice to sound a certain way I was shocked and at first put off. However as soon as i started to take a step back, really think about what he was saying and experiment I found how much i could do by holding back, how much more emotional I could make the performance and also how much more people listened. I always prided myself on being able to belt out songs - but I think I lost the meaning somewhere along the way... So I totally agree with this article - thanks for writing it!

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