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Measuring Your Own Success: Do You Have What it Takes?

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At least a part of your growth as a singer can and should be done alone, free from the opinions of others. Self-critiquing is a valid tool of development. But your success with it is dependent upon the manner in which it is done. Perhaps there are already a number of methods you employ in an effort to improve your vocals: voice lessons, rehearsing with a band, recording, performing, asking others what they think of your voice, listening to other singers, singing with recordings of other singers or cursing yourself when you make mistakes. You may have greater success with some of these methods than others. Let's take a look at the color palate from which you paint the picture of your success.

Attitude On assessment, you might realize that you are most creative and sound your best when your creativity is not being challenged and you are free of self-doubt. This safe environment must start with you, from within yourself. I'm talking about being your own best friend. This does not mean you claim yourself as the next messiah of the music world, or strut around bragging about how great you are. You don't have to give yourself false accolades and chant every morning, I'm good, I love myself.It does mean that if you have a ways to go to reach the summit of your vocal prowess, you don't whip yourself for not yet being there, or spew yourself with hatred when you make a mistake. It also means that you need to ensure you have a program of doable steps, which will walk you to your goal. Then, as long as you maintain your discipline and scheduling, you can appreciate yourself for making progress and for the accomplishment of each step as you draw closer to your goals. Constructive vs. Destructive Criticism Perhaps not so obvious to some, there is a big difference in effect between constructive and destructive criticism. I'm bringing this up now, because how you critique yourself can have either positive or negative results. Let's start with a working definition of Destructive Criticism. The bottom line is that destructive criticism gives you no means by which to correct or enhance your actions. The result can often be that you feel less sure of yourself. You may feel hesitant about continuing to sing or perform. It reduces your self-image. Examples of destructive criticism could be: I sounded horrible on that song. Or: You call that singing? And on a subtler level: What's wrong with me? I never open up to an audience. Now let's define Constructive Criticism: OK. So first of all, this does not imply you say something was great when it was not. That's actually pretty vicious, as it is a lie. Constructive criticism leaves you with a way of changing your approach so that you can enhance yourself and actually become stronger and more certain. An example of this would be: That note went off pitch. The reason it did, is because I was pushing in my stomach, which resulted in air over-blow and tense throat muscles. I'll sing it again, and this time try letting my stomach relax. Or even simpler, I can put more feeling into that song. Let's do it again from the top. Along with learning to change your way of criticizing yourself, it is important to be alert to the type of criticism others may give you. If you know when you are being given destructive criticism, and what the effect of it can be, perhaps you will be less likely to let it get under your skin. Helping Yourself Grow Using constructive criticism can take some practice. Some people have, by habit, become so used to giving destructive criticism that they don't know how to change the angle of their critique to make it positive. Hopefully, now that we've begun to examine this, you will notice any time you critique yourself and will be able to keep it constructive. Or at least you'll be able to change it to constructive, if it started out negative. Oh, one more thing. If you use a negative self-abasement approach: That was horrible; Oh. I did it wrong again; Why can't I ever... you have mistakenly internalized destructive criticisms from another and have become your own enemy. If you use positive self- direction, you will keep moving ahead and making progress. This in turn will boost your morale, self-confidence, and ability. The choice is yours. It can be easy to grow frustrated and impatient when you know where you want to be, but either you don't know how to get there, or aren't making fast enough progress. It is better to ask someone knowledgeable and competent in this field to help you figure out the best program for you, than to resort to demeaning yourself out of frustration. After all, we are all individuals and steps that are good for another person may not apply to you. Even if the steps you take are similar to another's, the order they are taken in can make the difference between slugging it out and rapid progress. Most importantly, be a friend to yourself by not allowing destructive self-criticism to defeat you. This essay first published December 1, 2008 on The Modern Vocalist.com the Internet's #1 community for vocal professionals, voice health practitioners and pro-audio companies worldwide since November 2008.


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