How to go from ‘good’ to ‘great’ as a singer

How to go from ‘good’ to ‘great’ as a singer

This is the third part of my miniseries about the four stages of learning. In Part 1 we talked about getting competent; Part 2 was all about getting confident. Part three is about how you go from ‘good’ to ‘great’ as a singer.

Stage three is called Mastery.

Mastery is where the prodigies live. The people who seem to have what we call ‘natural talent’. They might develop that talent very quickly as a child; sometimes they come to that talent later as an adult, but they deliver it quickly. But it can take twenty or thirty years to become a master.

You see, mastery is going from good to great, becoming a virtuoso in what you do. At this level you’ll be performing at an incredibly high standard. You may well be a soloist, or the leader of a band, starting to get more well known for your expertise in your area.

When you are at the Mastery stage, you are using your instrument (be in a musical instrument or your own voice) with great skill. Sometimes mastery shines through in song writing skills.

So, is it something you should aspire to?

Well, often it is, but it might not come for a while. And having potential isn’t a guaranteed route to mastery. It is not a given! But it is a journey of discovery – a kind of hero’s journey – where you move forward in order to really find out where your potential might take you.

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So, how do you go from good to great in your singing – from competence to mastery?


Mastery is about the detail.
It’s about looking deeper.
It’s about listening more deeply and with more clarity.

You’re looking for the difference that makes the difference.

You need to take yourself back almost to a beginner’s mentality, re-hone your skills and reshape them as if you’ve never learned them before. You need to make a commitment to learn at a deeper level.


What should you do if you feel you want to push for Mastery?


Don’t kid yourself; be aware of what level you’re really at. If you feel that you should be achieving mastery by now, but have been let down by a teacher or method, remember it might be that you haven’t recognised your true level. If you suspect that you’re being impatient, and trying to move forward before you’re ready, then hold back and put all the proper steps in place first.

You see, it is possible to fast track this, but you can’t miss out any of the steps. You must go through them all. You must earn your stripes and get those things your muscle memory before you can truly take your vocal training to a deeper level.

In Stage 2 I said it was okay to camp out in Confidence for a long time – even forever. A lot of singers do, and enjoy good careers. It’s not always possible for a singer to progress to Mastery, as not everyone has the right skills to reach that level. And that’s okay!

Acknowledge that you might be holding yourself back. You might be stuck due to your beliefs about yourself, your background, your opportunities (or lack of them), your environment, or your own habits. Sometimes unconscious self sabotage keeps us stuck in the same place.

If you are holding yourself back, it’s time to face the challenge. At this point, you need to work one on one with a mentor, at a much higher level. You need to push the barriers, and push yourself further.


What challenges will you face at Mastery level?


Years ago, when I was kind of hiding out in Confident level, one of my vocal mentors challenged me to take my voice to the level of mastery.

I admit I was scared to take those extra leaps. When you’re already good at something, the prospect of actually choosing to go back almost to a beginner’s mindset, to let go of what works in favour of learning something new, creates resistance.

So prepare not just for physical and creative challenges, but for the mental challenge of showing up and breaking yourself down to build yourself up again. You’re going to need bucketfuls of  perseverance, determination and egoless commitment to the learning process.


How will you know when you’ve reached mastery?


From an internal perspective, you may not know. But you may see some external signs of your developing mastery:

  • You’ll be receiving accolades
  • You might be winning competitions
  • You’ll find yourself being picked for things

And you’ll find that you start to develop a love for detail and for going deeper into your own subject matter than you ever have before.

When you find yourself approaching mastery, you geek out on it a little bit. You’re passionate about it. In fact, it oozes out of every pore of you. It’s that at this point you are sold completely on what you’re doing. You live and you breathe it. You can’t stop yourself. It’s no longer good enough to be enough, or to do it better than you did it before, or even better than those around you.


If you’re ready to move on to Mastery I wish you every success.

And wow! There’s going to be something amazing that comes out in the world when you hit mastery level.

Read the next part of this 4 part series – How to achieve artistry in your singing – HERE

Looking for more support, guidance and encouragement with your singing practise? Join us over at the Online Singing Academy.

How to find your confidence as a singer

How to find your confidence as a singer

This is the second part of my miniseries about the four stages of learning.

In Part 1 we discussed becoming competent in your singing: not being perfect, just getting up and being competent enough to do your thing, regardless of your feelings around it. And once you’ve achieved Stage One, you’re already on the fringe of Stage Two.

Stage Two is the ‘Confident’ stage.

In the Confident stage, you’re not just getting by,  you’re starting to achieve a higher standard and find some consistency. It’s time to move the dial a little further. You’ve now passed the stage at the beginning where your resistance was so huge. You already have skills that you just developed in the competent stage, but you now need to make those skills stick. Stage Two is a good stage: it’s where you start to get good at what you do.  And confident is a very interesting place to be.

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How you know when you’ve reached the Confident stage in your singing

When you start to hear people saying, “Ooh, you’re a good singer. Ooh, you know that was a really good rendition of that song. That was a good song that you’ve written. Oh, that was a good performance,” you know that you’re in that Stage Two arena.

Getting good at what you do is a fantastic place to be. It can take you a long way: it can get you solos; it can get you into choirs; it can even get you paid work. It can get you into writing songs, or going into a recording studio, or getting good enough to go at auditions and succeed.

What it is NOT is a miraculous leap forward, where everything work out and nothing ever goes wrong!

How long should you stay at the Confident stage?

You can stay in Stage Two quite a long time – and many people stay in this stage forever. It’s a place where you can perform or write or create at a consistently good and fairly high standard.

There’s an interesting book written for the business world called ‘From good to great’. The premise of it is that actually at some stage ‘good’ becomes your enemy – it gets in the way of you becoming great. But many professional musicians are at this stage. Teachers can be at this stage, be good teachers and create healthy careers for themselves – and help a lot of other singers also at Stage Two.

So being (or sticking) at Stage Two doesn’t mean that you’ve failed in any way. It’s a great place to be.

And once you’ve mastered Stage One (Competent) I want you to swim around in the Confident Stage Two pool as long as you need to! It’s quite a big pool and actually there’s not always that many swimmers in there. So you’ll have plenty of space to master your strokes, build your stamina – and make a splash!

What reaching the Confident stage will mean for your singing

You can say yes to opportunities that before you may have said no to simply because you were unsure of yourself.

Your voice is consistently working at a good standard – no matter how you feel on a daily basis, you can do your vocal exercises and create an environment where you will perform consistently well.

You can take advantage of last minute opportunities. If somebody asks you to sing pretty last minute, you have the confidence in your ability to be able to take up that opportunity.

Read the next part of this 4 part series – How to go from ‘good’ to ‘great’ as a singer – HERE

Looking for more support, guidance and encouragement with your singing practise? Join us over at the Online Singing Academy.

The secret to achieving Competence in your singing

The secret to achieving competence in your singing

This is the first of series of four posts on the four areas of learning: Competence, Confidence, Mastery and Artistry. I’ll be sharing how to know where to focus your energy and effort so that you can make the right choices going forward, and avoid holding yourself back from the next level.

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Or here’s the scannable version >>>>

How to achieve competence in your singing

Competence is having just enough skill to do the job in hand.

Many people are hobby singers, or they’re just stepping onto the platform for the first time. Their first goal is not to wow the crowd and find an agent. Their first step is to get competent: to show up week after week, do the exercises, lose the nerves, move forward, get things done, write the songs, put them out there. And by doing all this, begin to see transformation work in the voice.

This first area of competence is really important. Because although it’s your first stage, and maybe your first tiny step onto doing what you can do with your voice, it can actually be a really dangerous area.

Because your resistance to your ability, to unlocking your greatest potential, is going to be the biggest at the beginning, and right before a breakthrough.

At the beginning, you might find you’ve got more self-talk, you’ve got more reasons to walk away and not to move forward. This is when we start something, dip a toe in the water, then realise there’s a commitment involved. We know that something needs to change. Our habits need to be reset.

The first stage of getting competent is about consistency.

Consistency in showing up, time and time again.
Overcoming inertia.
Overcoming resistance.

At this stage, you’re probably going to only shift the dial a little bit, and see a few results. There probably won’t be enough of a result to make you feel as if you’ve suddenly broken through every barrier in your singing!

And that is the point.

It’s about not saying, “I just couldn’t! Because life got in the way this week!” Well, hello, you’re human. Life is happening every single day. There are distractions, bright shiny objects, social media. There is work, children, traffic on a daily basis. That is going to happen. You have to get yourself in the game, and find a little bit of momentum.

Sure, you’re going to find loads of objections. Sure, you’re going to find loads of little resistances. But if your dreams are going to happen you need to find that consistency. It’s the only way that you are ever going to find your true voice and be able to do something with it.


Make a choice

So here’s the choice you need to make: if you want to achieve competence, you need to choose to build better habits.

Let’s face it, we’re all human. If it was easy to break your habits, and to move into your desired result, more people would do it. So what’s the difference for those who actually do manage it? The ones who actually have that breakthrough, get competent, and move forward to the next stage of learning?

They understand that time is finite, they understand that there is no such thing as tomorrow.

They understand that the first stage will just be the smallest shift forward – but that getting there will show them what to do next. And that once they’re competent at this thing, they can move on to the next stage.


Questions to ask yourself now

Do you feel that you are competent in your singing?

If so, are you so comfortable that you actually are holding yourself back? (Because that’s an important point to consider as well! It may be that you need to push yourself beyond competency into the next stage.)

If not, it’s time. You can get competent. You can. You don’t have to have variable results. You can be consistent and competent at that first rung of the ladder.

So turn the dial. Move it that one degree, and watch what happens when you do.

Read the second part of this 4 part series – How to find your confidence as a singer – HERE

Looking for more support, guidance and encouragement with your singing practise? Join us over at the Online Singing Academy.

How to unlock the power of your muscle memory

How to unlock the power of your muscle memory

Are you the kind of person who can learn things quickly and remember them very well for a short time (perhaps for an exam), but would struggle to recall anything in detail a month later? Or are you the type who takes longer to learn something, but still remembers it years afterwards?

And how does your memory impact on your singing?

We use the front part of the brain for last minute cramming. It’s about taking in and regurgitating information. Singing is more about recalling a feeling. If you feel certain pitches in certain places, you’ll experience where the pitch is and you know that you can go back to that feeling again.

Finding the power of your muscle memory

Somebody I taught once said to me, “I’m listening for a feeling… I know that probably sounds weird.” I can understand why she thought it sounded odd – because what kind of sound does a feeling have? But there is a tangible inner memory that your body can recall: that place it operates from when it’s you’re working at your best capacity. There’s a tangible sense, there’s a tangible flow and a tangible energy around it.

Because when you’re learning a musical instrument or singing, you’re using a different type of memory: your muscle memory.

Take tennis players. When tennis players are playing at the top of their game, they might not be able to remember what they did in those moves and in all those moments during their practise. But all those shots that they did and didn’t make, all the small adjustments that they did took them bit by bit to a place of working out energetic balance in what they were doing to get from here to there.

Navigating towards the sound you want

Singing is very much like that. Sometimes we see something we want to achieve, say, a new song, or a particular area of the voice that we want to work in, and we see a kind of vague picture of the end result. It has a feeling. We’d like it to sound like this. We’d like it to feel like that. It’s as if we’re standing on the jetty and we can see Paradise Island that we’re trying to reach.

But we just don’t sometimes realise how far away it is. We judge we need this much fuel, but then we get halfway and realised that our perspective was off and we really need this much fuel.

When we become more experienced we become like the good captain of a ship, who can look at the waters after they have sailed the same seas back and forth for years, and even when the sea seems calm, can feel the direction of the wind and know that there’s a storm brewing. When we are learning, some ‘storms’ that come up are not necessarily very obvious to us. We suddenly reach something that we just haven’t got the skill to do and we need to learn how to navigate towards it – and train our muscle memory as we go.

Are you missing this key element?

Our early experiences of learning can condition us to learn with a cramming mentality. When I had to sit exams I would use my photographic memory. I could imagine a picture of the pages in my mind, go into the exam and start to write them down.

But when you learn in that way all you’ve got is information. You’re missing a key element: implementation. When you’re learning to use an instrument (including your voice!) you need to add the element of daily practise so that you can store the information in your muscle memory and recall it at any time, at will.

Think about your PIN number. Can you easily repeat your PIN out loud, or do you need to move your fingers to recall it? If you’re in the second camp, that’s your muscle memory at work.

When you need to rewire your muscle memory

But what if you’ve inadvertently stored the wrong information in your muscle memory? You’ll be playing that misinformation out, and not getting the results you want. Sometimes it’s a case of rewiring your muscle memory: you need to search out new information at that point to retrain, the neuro pathway.

You need to find the right techniques and exercises to practise on a regular basis so you can store the right information in your muscle memory – and start moving closer to being able to recapture that feeling time and time again.

Looking for more support, guidance and encouragement with your singing practise? Join us over at the Online Singing Academy.