Viewing Your Own Performance
Something we do a lot in the class I teach at SUNY Dutchess is critique one another. We all give constructive feedback. We do this by starting with something we enjoyed about the performance and share something we think that could be improved.
I want to explore how we can be doing a better job of that for ourselves! This has the potential to have a big impact on our performances.
I ask my voice students to record their weekly lessons and to listen back and keep a journal. In their journals they write down what they’re hearing: they transcribe the vocal warmups and the feedback they get from me throughout the lesson and as we work on songs, and any insights they have while listening. It’s also practice for them to hear themselves and to write what they like and what they need to work on.
Doing this reinforces the information. By listening back and writing down what you're hearing it gives you more time to process information that you might not be able to IN THE MOMENT because it is a lot to take in, in a short amount of time.
When you are learning how to sing you are learning how to coordinate A LOT of muscles (muscles in your larynx, as well as in between your ribs, abdomen, your whole body). It’s a tremendous amount of information to receive all at once. You need time to reflect and process. Listening back gives you that opportunity and reinforces what we're working on.
Another positive bi-product of listening back is that you become the authority of your own listening process. You are taking charge of the experience. Most importantly, you are learning how to be your own teacher.
Listening back to a performance is equally as revealing. You’re watching all of your hard work as a final product which you can STILL learn from. Because here is the thing- It’s not really the final product.
The thing I love about listening back to a performance is that it gives you another shot at it. It’s an opportunity to relive the moment. You get another shot at it the next time you get up to sing for people. And the time after that… and the time after that…..and the time after that……
If you have recorded your performance and you’re watching back, you can see the aspects that went well… that you liked…. and also the aspects you would like to improve. It gives you an opportunity to incorporate the NEXT TIME what you felt was missing from what you watched. It’s like a do-over.
The more you learn to watch yourself in a recording in a CONSTRUCTIVE WAY, the more you are going to glean helpful information from it and the more you are going to grow and get better.
An interesting observation I've made: the first thing I always hear when I say to a student to record themselves either with audio or video is “OMG I can't stand to watch myself," or "I can’t stand to hear myself.” 100% of the time. (I’m sure there are people out there who actually do love watching themselves…. I’ve just never met them.)
Interesting right? No one likes to watch themselves. Confession: I HATE WATCHING WATCHING MYSELF. This is why I'm writing on this topic! The thing is… and I’m talking from experience… Hating on yourself……Not so helpful. It's not constructive.
One of the things I love most about the class I teach is the generosity shown to one another. No one has trouble finding aspects of a performance they liked and appreciated along with constructive critique. This generosity being expressed- we need to do this for ourselves.
Part of being able to watch yourself in a constructive way is being able to separate, (as Tim Welch would say), "the crazy from the constructive." “I suck” is the crazy… or ”It’s BAD” or OH GOD I hate it… it’s awful….. I’m a terrible singer……it’s not constructive and it’s not specific. You have no where to go from there. In fact when I hear those words I feel defeated. I don’t feel like trying, cause why bother? I suck.
There are definitely moments where you might cringe, but what about it specifically is cringe worthy?
Let’s use a system to critique ourselves. Let’s have specifics to keep in mind while we’re watching ourselves. Concrete things to look for other than general hating on ourselves.
Another helpful tip from Tim Welch: Before you watch your video, go into your body. Check your internal state. Find a way to get centered and feeling peaceful. Why? You're going to be able to think more clearly and be honest and generous with yourself if you're feeling centered.
And by the way, when I say being generous with yourself, I’m not talking about turning a blind eye to the things that can be better. You can see the things that you don’t like and still be generous with yourself. You can break down your performance in a loving way…. just like you do for others.
So when you go to watch yourself, imagine it's your friend or classmate. See if you can show the same generosity to yourself that you show to others.
I have a theory! If you can approach this the same way you would for a friend, show the same generosity to yourself that you show to others, I'm willing to bet that you are going to be more generous in your performance. YOU WILL BE MORE GENEROUS TO THE AUDIENCE. You will be more open, you will be more willing to expose.
OK, so to recap!
When we are about to watch ourselves-
1. Do what you need to do to come to a neutral place.
2. View the performance like you are watching a loved one.
3. When commenting on your performance, be specific. Zero in on what you liked and didn't like by using these guidelines:
1. Connection (Most important in my book!)
Are you being real? Are you connected? Are you being authentic? Could you go deeper? Could you raise the stakes for a more invested performance? Are you conveying what this song is really about? These are questions to consider as you watch yourself.
Are you singing in tune? Did you go sharp or flat on any specific notes?
How is your sound? For example, Is it too nasal? is it pulled back too much in the throat? is it too loud? Is it too breathy? Is there tension?
Do you seem comfortable? Are you doing weird things with your hands? Are you stiff? Are you doing too much? Are the movements enhancing the performance?
Can you be understood? Are you clear?
So give it a go! Record yourself, follow these steps, and see if you can watch yourself in a constructive way! Use all five topics and include additional comments/ thoughts you have. Feedback from trusted sources is great and necessary, but let's learn to be our own authority. Let's stop waiting for feedback from others and and do it for ourselves.