Just read a great article on how different mindsets affect achievement. The Growth Mindset is one where intelligence and ‘talent’ are recognized as requiring a lot of effort and hard work to bring to fruition. A Fixed Mindset believes that ability is innate and if you don’t have a talent for something, there’s no point in trying, resulting in the avoidance of that skillset, or making the individual feel disillusioned by lack of success, rather than spurred on to greater effort as happens with a Growth Mindset.

You can read the article at Scientific American: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-secret-to-raising-smart-kids&print=true

When I read it, I immediately recognized that this theory applies to singers as well. So many, many times I’ve been told by people that they’re not good singers, or that it’s all right for me, because I’m talented so singing is easy for me… What a bunch of crap! It’s when people truly believe that they will never sound good that improvement is impossible. Every time I make a learning tape or learn a song, I am aware of deficiencies in my performance and strive to correct them. When you watch me singing, I’m feeling each note and tuning it, caressing it, lifting it… a lot of practice has made it ‘easy’, so don’t belittle the achievement by telling me it’s just talent!

Just recently several people have, quite separately, told me they hate to listen to their voice (on recordings) because they hear all the deficiencies and failings in it. This indicates to me a Fixed Mindset – you don’t want to hear your deficiencies as you believe you can’t correct them. It’s also a major problem with vocal freedom and truly giving yourself to the music as your vocal self-image is something you hate. It sounds a bit naff to say ‘learn to love your own voice’ but your singing confidence and ability will definitely improve if you can get over that aversion.

Dale Syverson has a vocal lesson every week. Luciano Pavarotti had a voice teacher and lessons all his adult life. You think they’re not talented? Effort is rewarded in this artform. ‘Talent’ is really just good technique, and the only gift some people have is starting out with better natural technique, or fewer problems!

So tape yourself singing a song you love. Listen to it, to the sound of your voice. To start with, don’t get hung up on technical faults you hear, but listen to the vocal character – what makes it sound like you. Listen to it and listen to it (you may want to do more than one song!) for weeks and months and slowly you’ll get used to that voice. If a technical flaw is bugging you, work on fixing it, record a corrected version of the song, and enjoy hearing the improvement! As you continue this process, you’ll not only lose the ‘hate’ for your voice, but will start to feel proud of your voice, proud of each correction you make. You’ll start to feel great satisfaction, knowing what you are achieving, and this will only spur you on to greater improvement. Practicing in front of a mirror is a great way to eliminate bad vocal habits by the way: you can see posture problems and see when your mouth isn’t the right shape or moves on a target vowel. It’s another thing people hate doing, because they don’t like to look at themselves – yet not looking isn’t going to solve the problem!

So don’t hide away from your voice – that’s defeatist and Fixed Mindset and will never allow you to grow beyond your current abilities.

Growth Mindset
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3 thoughts on “Growth Mindset

  • December 31, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Hi Jo,
    Chris Peterson (BHS singing category judge – as well as a university lecturer in choral music) has written about this in terms of 'attribution theory' – i.e. whether you attribute your success or failure to your innate talent or to your own efforts (or lack thereof!). The article is ‘Recruiting for Choral Ensemble by Emphasizing Skill and Effort’, Music Educators Journal, 89/2 (2002): 32-35.

  • July 30, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Hi Jo. I loved this article. You've pegged me. I hate listening to my voice alone. I like it when I hear a taping of the quartet, but alone is awful and I must work to change that. You are right. And again, I am the person who hates the mirror. I find it very intimidating. It is very hard for me to relax and watch myself sing. I feel like I am being phoney and not just letting go….I wish I could relax and let it happen.

  • February 27, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Very good Jo … I like the sound of my voice when I just hear myself singing, but hate to hear it on recording (which I know is the more accurate version to everyone else listening). It’s very hard to listen to yourself objectively … pretend it’s someone else and appreciate the good bits. As you say, we’re tuned in to listen out for our faults. It’s very ‘selfish’ of us, but even in a group, our ear will pick out our own voice above everyone else’s … even if it isn’t sticking out to anyone else’s ears. Anyway, good blog – I haven’t looked at it for a while, so I’ll have to have a catch up! 🙂

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