Be Performance Ready: #a-Singdaptive-chat

Kathy Alexander quote on Performance Ready
The Singdaptive team discusses how the value of practice and habits work in the life of a singer.

Hey everyone!  Welcome to our 3rd #a-Singdaptive-chat!  We made the point last chat that no matter what kind of music you want to be singing, there are six values that can make all the difference to one’s singing path.

Let’s start unpacking this – first up: “Performance Ready” – what comes to mind for you with these words?  

kevin I like the “unpacking” metaphor. When I get home from a trip, I bring my suitcase in and sometimes, I unpack it and put everything away. Other times, I don’t unpack – my suitcase just sits there. I start living out of it, taking what need. Then suddenly I’m out of clothes, I can’t find anything and realize – I need to unpack. Being performance ready (aka practicing, etc.) is so easy to push a side and delay – but we all know there is no way to sharing our music without unpacking.

kathy I’d say the fun and satisfaction that we can feel as a performer, when we’ve just performed in a situation that was well-matched to us and for which we had the right skills.

greg I’m glad you said fun, Kathy – because for me, I have to admit – the first word that came up was ANXIETY!

kathy That’s just it Greg! The opposite of performance ready is no fun at all: being in a situation that you have not prepared for, and where you don’t feel you have the resources to deliver what is expected.

kevin As a kid I practiced in the spare bedroom. We had a murphy bed, and when the bed was up there was a world map hung-up. I would play my trumpet into that world map. Which actually meant, most of the time I was distracted by looking at that map. No anxiety, but then again – no practicing

image by Andrew Stutesman from unsplash

greg love your about unpacking, Kevin.  It makes me think of times when my family left on a trip and were not ready – lots of scrambling, yelling at each other – frantic questions – and then driving down the driveway and driving back again. Compared to the few times we were ready! Then, ‘getting there’ was half the fun. 

So, Kathy are you advocating breathing exercises as part of being performance ready?

kathy  If better breath management will help you sound the way you want to sound in front of people then, yes! For me performance ready is about skill development.

greg  Well, that is a perfect lead-in, Kathy, to the next question:  we’ve associated two words with each of our values – in this case it is ‘Practice’ and ‘Habits’ – now, those aren’t the most sexy of words, are they?

kathy No they’re not! But the result of those words sure is sexy! The result of dedicated skill development is a performance where the audience feels like the songs are just flowing out of you spontaneously and effortlessly – now, that really draws people in. 

steve Is there something about transforming new skills into habits, so that you can put technique out of your mind when performing?

greg ohhhh I like that, Steve…

kevin I think it’s popular to think of performance ready as being at a certain level – as in someone who is performance ready is professional. But I think performance ready is the discipline of being ready for performance – but that performance is not level dependent. It could be the first time you sang to your dog, or your up on stage for the 10th time.

kathy Kevin EXACTLY!!!!! That’s what I meant when I said “well-matched:” it’s about bringing the rights skills and gifts to the right performance situation. It’s got nothing to do with being better than anyone else. 

greg Comparisons are odious.

kathy Down with comparisons!

kathy it’s about your skills being so ingrained that you don’t have to consciously think about them, you are free to pour yourself into your performance.

greg BUT are we saying that everyone who wants to sing should perform?

kathy That depends what defines a “performance.” I define performance as follows: any time you share something you’ve prepared for someone else.

greg Yah Kathy, I resonate with that.  It is about sharing, after all. I just can’t get away from the feeling that this ol’ world could use a lot more people sharing a lot more singing!

steve Seems to me that building confidence is important.  Probably everyone will feel stage-fright, “choking” at some-point along the way.  Is there something besides just practice-practice-practice that can help avoid the nightmare of forgetting all the words etc.?

kathy Steve – the only way to get better at performing is to perform. So in a way, we all must struggle through those situations where we forget the words (not through lack of prep, but pure stage fright). That is why well-matched performance situations matter so much.

kevin I think everyone wants to perform. But, at its most basic level, I think performing starts before sharing. We may be just making music for the enjoyment of ourselves. But we don’t just want to practice something we want to play through a song in a way that we’re happy about for our level. Next comes sharing. 

greg is singing in the shower being “Performance Ready?”

kevin I think we could swap performance for goal… and it would work. If you’re singing in the shower because your just joyful – that isn’t necessarily being performance ready. But if you’re singing in the shower because you want to get that song to the next level – that is being goal/performance ready.

kathy Singing in the shower can be a valid part of your singing practice routine – it may be a great time for you to cut loose, feel confident and explore your singing voice. This could be a huge step in becoming performance ready

greg plus it’s good to steam those vocal folds…

greg What are we going to do at Singdaptive to help people build this value?

kevin All our lessons will be delivered from showers.

kathy And the bathroom-style reverb is awesome!

steve So if we’re to get better at performing by performing, being performance ready is perhaps more an ongoing process, rather than this stressful barrier I’m trying to cross.

kathy Well put.

kevin I think we have a vision for practice being more purposeful. When we work with our instructors on creating lessons we want to stay away from just “practice”. Practicing starts by having something you want to develop: range, endurance, healthier voice, more dynamics. So, performance ready lessons are about giving you concrete actions you can take in practice to develop those skills.

greg – love the idea of something driving our practice rather than practice itself.

kevin Our lessons are designed in a way to help with practice. Our lessons include actions. These are often audio files, extra videos, checklists to help during practice. So, our lessons include video instruction – but then gives you what you need to repeat and re-use.

kathy My friend asked me to sing a part of a song at a dinner gathering last week. So, I sang a verse and a chorus of something – right there at the table with my dinner in front of me. It was a performance. My kids and I played a Christmas song for an audience of two people – their grandparents – a while back. That was a performance. I got paid to sing at a small local venue. That was a performance. All these different performances are unique and special.

greg I think one of the reasons our lessons – and articles – are so practical that so many of our instructors (even our speech-language therapist) perform regularly…

kathy Yes, and they help others prepare for performances at all levels.

greg Tell me, Kathy – as the most singingest singer in our group – would that performance of singing at a table been a tough type of performance to pull off earlier in your singing life?

kathy Yes! Singing for even just one person sitting in front of you can be the most difficult and awkward situations to sing in! I’ve found it easier to sing a solo under the lights in front of 200 people.  Now that I’m more grown up, I try to be present to what’s happening when I am asked to sing, and bring what I think is right for the situation

greg Let’s consider a different angle on this area – what have you noticed/appreciated about singers who have really worked on this value?

steve In sports, I’ve found that once I set a goal for a particular skill, and practice it a lot, there needs to be one more step to actually bring it to performance.  I find the actual playing of a sport is often stressful, and I too easily revert to my old ways.  I feel like the pros have tricks for that.  Little “actions” if you will to help those skills become habits, even when under stress. 

kathy Steve, your sports analogy is perfect. You may practice a skill but under pressure in the game, it’s not there.

kevin Steve, so true about sports. It also speaks to how we sometimes try something too soon in performance – or at least we should know that things we haven’t woodshedded don’t tend to work out.

kathy and it speaks to the idea that performance itself is key in developing our skills.

greg As we wrap this discussion up, I’d like you to consider the relationship between being performance ready to our other values. Is there a special connection for you between this value and one of our other values?

kathy I’ve heard it said “Don’t just practice until you can get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.” 

steve @greg I think you can’t really be artistically free until performance ready, unless your art is spontaneous silliness.  But that probably takes practice too!  (unless you are my 3-year-old).

greg that makes me think that one has to have a place to practice where they really feel free to be themselves and make mistakes.

kevin One thing we should say: our values overlap and that is ok. With Vocally Healthy, you may be learning about a certain technique to open up a certain aspect of your voice. Yet, Performance Ready may be the value you use to develop that skill you learned. So, I think there are performance ready aspects to all our values.

kathy Performance readiness for most people will connect mostly to musically informed and vocally healthy, as these are the rather large areas of skill-development that we as musicians spend years developing – whether we develop these with formal training, or through performance, or through figuring out things on our own.

greg One interesting connection is with being Audio Savvy. I have seen that singers, choirs and ensembles who know a bit about audio stuff often are more ready to perform, less fearful about tech stuff going haywire. So, I am very happy about Audio being one of the areas we cover in our content!

kathy Thanks for bringing that in Greg! Here’s another one that people may not thing of. How you relate to other people and yourself is a part of being performance ready. What I mean is that you need to be able to communicate with others who share the stage with you. You also need to communicate with yourself, for example being able to respect your own needs for a given performance.

greg OK I am flipping a coin to see who gets the LAST WORD on today’s chat – and…. it is @kevin

steve Hey, coins only have two sides.  Something not right here.

kevin Three sided coin… how about the three eyed raven…

steveI suddenly feel cursed.

kevin My last words (that sounded dark) would be to start with a goal. Practicing is lame when we aren’t shooting for something. The reason why we matched things like practice and habits to Performance Ready is because performance motivates us. Just as important, the performance gives us the reinforcement of what in our practicing works. So, practice goes hand in hand with performance – whatever your definition of performance may be.

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