Let's establish and define the two sides of instrumental and musical execution, keeping in mind that today, I will focus on the latter of the two:
There is the athletic side: the anatomical understanding of your body as an instrument and how to use it in a technical way for enhanced performance;
And the artistic side: the intuitive ability to freely express yourself with your instrument in a way that is compelling to an audience of listeners.
I strongly believe that one aspect could not stand without the other in a way that is effective or sustainable. Think of it this way: if we approach music with a strict, technical approach, it's easy to emotionally flatline. Tricks and runs are fascinating, but you'll eventually lose your audience for lack of an emotional connection.
On the other hand, if we are only able to unleash the wild beast without the ability to control it, we run the risk of compromising the health and maintenance of our voices required for sustainability. Trust me, you do not want to venture down the road of experiencing any type of vocal injury. It's important to maintain a consistent vocal regime.
Arriving at a place of balance is key.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was taught under a staunch disciplinary for 10 years prior to attending Berklee, and he largely frowned upon technical mistakes. Although I am grateful we hashed out technique during my early years, I still do not understand the uncompromising demand for total "perfection". Ultimately, I lost myself in a sea of technique and felt somewhat robotic in my delivery. I don't know about you, but contrived and formulaic music is bloody dry and boring. Give me the heart and the soul! Give me the Janis Joplin! But please don't do drugs or drink too much. I promise it does more bad than it does good.
I want to emphasize that some of my greatest discoveries have been total mistakes, not overly heady or premeditated.
With my technical background, I still sometimes struggle to connect fully with lyrical content, but in efforts to address this, I ask myself bare bones questions. For instance: "Who am I within this lyric" "Who am I talking to?" "What does this mean to me?" and "Why?! What on Earth happened to prompt me to sing this song?"
We also cannot forget the importance of letting go of our expectations of a perfect self or voice.
We must find ourselves within every character we play. We must be ourselves in every story we tell.
While doing some song prep this week, I came across this awesomely quirky video of Sia from an interview back in 2009. What I love about this interview is her carefree honesty and sense of humor in regards to her voice that day. As vocalists, we are all susceptible to subpar days. I can only imagine the wretched mental state I'd be in if I had to perform with an uncooperative voice. But what is so admirable about this is on the surface, Sia doesn't self-judge, even if she might be doing so internally. She's just honest about who she is, and what she's going through. And that makes her loveable and relatable.
I urge you to watch this modern mastermind and aficionado to reinforce the effectiveness of an honest approach (you might experience some chills. Don't say I didn't forewarn you!)
To wrap up this week's post, I'm giving you this assignment readers:
Begin journaling everyday for the next month, even if that means dedicating just 5 minutes to do so. After the month has passed, glance back and notice trends in your behavior and attitude. Conduct a bit of self analysis. Ask yourself, what is my mission? Not only as a performer, but also as a human being on this planet. Open your world up to others so that we can work together to create beautiful and honest art.
And always remember, I am on your team. Just as Jerry McGuire would say: