Skip to content

Mental block, or lack of skill?

For me, one of the most rewarding parts of being a singing teacher is being witness to changes in my students that go beyond just their singing ability. With great training, singers can improve their self awareness, self esteem, confidence, mental health, and many other transferable life skills. As a champion of the Person Centred Approach, my primary focus in my teaching practice is upon the person who is standing before me. Not only do I need to listen to what each individual tells me is important to them, and ask the right questions about their goals and any vocal issues they are having, I also need to listen very carefully to their voice and closely observe their physical and mental behaviours.

This highly individualised approach has allowed me to recognise patterns of behaviour that my instincts told me were at the root of any vocal issues the singer was having. I found that when teaching a singer who exhibited one or more of these behavioural patterns, even the most scientifically proven and effective teaching methods lost their value. However, I also discovered that if I simply asked the singer not to engage in these behaviours, most of the time they were actually unable to stop. So with no alternative I continued on with my usual vocal training methods, hoping that they would eventually pay off- and a lot of the time they did, but not without a great deal of frustration for both myself and the singer along the way.

In my continued observations of the singers I was working with I developed a theory that it was the (often subconscious) thought processes behind the behaviours that I was observing that were the biggest hurdle to the vocal training process- not a physical lack of coordination or skill. To give an example, a singer who perceives their upper register as being weak may be inclined to push and strain when approaching higher passages of singing in an attempt to sound ‘strong,’ and even singers who understand that this action is counterproductive will still find themselves engaging in this behaviour (I know that I do it sometimes!) As I’m not trained in psychology I did not feel equipped to tackle the root of these beliefs but instead wanted to find a constructive and practical method for working beyond these behaviours within my usual teaching practices. Completing the Post Graduate Certificate in Vocal Pedagogy with Voice Workshop gave me the opportunity to delve into this issue further and design a teaching methodology for working beyond destructive behaviours and mental blocks in singers. This has improved my practice dramatically- myself and my students are much happier and less frustrated, and I am undoubtedly able to help my students find success much more quickly than before.

Read more articles