Struggling to find singing gigs? Not feeling inspired? If your passion is dwindling, it’s time to take action. Don’t give up singing just yet! Read on as Sacramento, CA voice teacher Kevin B. shares his advice…
Let’s face it — when you have a job or any kind of regular commitment, there are going to be some days when you just don’t want to do it. This goes for everyone — even musicians who couldn’t imagine doing anything else!
If you find yourself feeling this way, don’t freak out. Don’t think that you’ve become jaded or depressed, or that you don’t care about your art anymore. The fact that you’re willing to resist the call of the TV, put on the big-kid pants, and go do your craft just shows how much you do care, and it sets you apart from thousands of musicians everywhere.
But here’s where the problem lies: being a singer, much like being an actor (or any other sort of entertainer for that matter), is not a job where you get the luxury of being able to lack enthusiasm. You’re front-and-freaking-center, and when you don’t want to be there, it shows. So suck it up kid, and put on a smile!
Or better yet, refuel your passion. Here are 21 ways to do so.
1. Re-envision your dreams – and be specific about them!
I’m willing to bet that you remember the experience that set you on this path. Whether it was that musical that made you cry, or that singer that blew you away with his skill and presence, you haven’t forgotten what makes you hit that practice room when it’s time.
Much time has probably passed since then, and you’ve got a good grip on your skills, your strengths, and what you bring to the table. So now is the time to turn your dream from an ambiguous entity into a concrete goal: is there a certain part you want to play? An ensemble you want to join? A venue that you dream of performing in? Whatever it is, you’ve been working hard, and you’re well on your way to achieving that dream! That ought to put a smile on your face.
2. Leave the student behind – just for a bit
Whatever you’ve been learning in your voice lessons, chances are you’ve taken it with you in your everyday music listening. When you listen to music, your head is probably racing to apply everything you’ve learned: “Oh, he’s totally singing with a high larynx in that part!” “Oh man, she was not in tune on that belt!”
This is normal, but turning off that part of the brain also has its benefits. You enjoyed music before you started taking lessons, and enjoying music with that same blank slate that you used to have can help you remember why you started doing this in the first place. Give it a try!
3. Apply what you’ve learned to a new genre
Most of us, I’m pretty sure, have thought about singing multiple genres before. And one of the things I love about studying voice is that so much of it applies to many different genres, or even all of them!
Sure, you loved how you got that perfect vibrato going on your Italian art song, but what about using that same technique on the classical crossover song you love? You’re really nailing the breath support with your music theater repertoire, how about seeing how well that support works on that old jazz standard your grandpa used to play? You’ve worked hard on improving your instrument, you deserve to play around with it!
4. Challenge yourself
You should feel challenged in your lessons. If you don’t, that’s definitely something you should take up with your voice teacher. However it can also feel empowering to challenge yourself on specific things.
After all, no matter how much your teacher gives you to work on, you only have them for a certain amount of time each week, and there’s bound to be more things to work on than just what you’ve talked about in your lessons. Just think of how much fun it will be at your next lesson when you get to say “Hey teach, look what I can do!”
5. Learn from the pros
Sometimes it takes a pro’s touch to get your spark back. Fortunately, there are many opportunities available to learn from the best! The queen mother of all such opportunities is a master class: if you have the chance to attend – or better yet participate in – one of these, be there. Period. In the absence of such an opportunity, you can also find interviews or master classes on YouTube to help you stay motivated and get back on track.
6. Keep a practice log
When I was seeing a personal trainer to keep in shape, he told me to write down all the workouts I completed. That way each time I went to work out, I would see what I did the previous week, and I could decide whether to do the same thing or try something more challenging.
For many vocal students, practicing can be the same way. In terms of keeping your passion on track, the benefit it has is that you get to look back and realize how far you’ve come.
7. Go to a concert
This probably seems like an obvious one, but it always strikes me as odd when musicians spend all their time practicing their craft, and no time watching it! Seeing someone up on the stage doing what you love might just make you wish you were up there, and then – BAM! There’s your motivation to keep singing.
8. Focus on finding that music job you’ve been wanting
Sure, you’ve thought about how wonderful it would be to get paid to sing. Perhaps, though, you didn’t think about how empowering it would be. When people pay you to sing, to do what you love, it boosts your confidence, and confidence is a singer’s bread and butter.
If you don’t know where to start, ask your voice teacher. They’ll be able to tell you if they think you’re ready for such a thing, or at the very least how to get you ready. For those interested in being a professional singer eventually, this is an important step!
9. Switch it up!
When it comes to practicing, repetition is the quickest way to kill enthusiasm. There’s no more effective way to kill a piece of repertoire than to work on “that one phrase” over and over again. If you haven’t learned to spare yourself from this kind of torture, now you know.
Instead, work on “that one phrase” for a while, then switch to another piece of rep, or at the very least a different part of the song. Singing should be hard work, but there’s no reason it has to be boring work!
10. Try on a new hat
No, not literally. What I mean to say is try a new role in music. If you haven’t tried your hand at songwriting or composing yet, you might be surprised to discover how empowering it is. If you’re not the creative type, try learning a new instrument or even learning to dance. Not only might this give you a new perspective on your singing, but it’ll help you beef up your resume!
11. Absorb the arts – namely the ones that inspire your music
There’s a reason that they talk about painting, architecture, and literature in music history classes. It’s because the different schools of the arts influence one another. The lyrics to art songs come from poetry, and many pieces of music correlate to paintings and other art. So go to an art gallery, a poetry reading, or a play! As a student of the arts, you are a part of a rich, vast, and diverse culture, and that is something that should be celebrated!
12. Take on a new project
Singers should have voracious appetites. You should want to get involved as often as you can with as many different projects as you can. If you’re feeling particularly unenthused about your studies, maybe you just haven’t found the project that really fuels your passion yet. There are an abundance of talented musicians out there, so go find them!
If you’re worried about the time it will take out of your week, stick to something small. Find a pianist who can pick up music really fast, practice with him or her once a week, and then just like that you’ll have another project under your belt.
13. Make a lunch date with a teacher or mentor
The best teachers I know are the ones who will do anything for their students. If you’re struggling with how to stay motivated (or anything else related to your singing), your teacher or mentor will likely have advice for you. They’ve probably experienced what you’re going through at one point! If nothing else, you’ll get to spend a lovely afternoon with someone who cares about you!
14. Take a break!
Perhaps your problem is that you’re just working too hard! One of my favorite pieces of life advice I ever got is: “Music should be inspiration for life, and life should be inspiration for music.” Musicians should be happy people who live a fulfilling life. So make time to do what you love, and you might just end up falling in love again with what you do!
15. Go kill it at karaoke
As I’ve mentioned before, confidence is a singer’s life’s blood. So if your compliment reservoir is running low, go and fill it! Pick that perfect karaoke song, have a couple drinks with friends, and soak up any compliments you get from the experience.
If you’re under 21, see number 12 and find a duet partner to do open mic nights with you. Often these places are filled with lackluster musicians, so if you put even a little effort into your performance it’s bound to get noticed.
16. Invest in your future – even if it’s something small
Sometimes in the midst of all our hard work, our destination can seem so far away. To stay motivated, find a way to bring home the reality of the next big thing in your singing life.
Have a recital coming up? Go buy the dress you’re going to wear! Have a rock show coming up? Maybe it’s time for a new mic. You’ll have to do these things anyway, so why not do it now? Spend the afternoon daydreaming and getting pumped… and then go practice, so you can nail the performance!
17. Add to your collection
Another investment that you can make to fuel your enthusiasm is in the form of books and DVDs. Singers should have large collections of repertoire books, as well as DVDs of live performances to model their craft after. If you need an enthusiasm boost, maybe it’s time to beef up your collection. It can only help you grow!
18. Discover something new
The best singers are curious people. So, get out there and be the first among your group of friends to discover an opera or musical that nobody has ever heard of. The music that can give you your new inspiration could be out there, but if you don’t seek it out you will never know!
19. Research one of your favorite singers
In keeping with number 18, be curious about the people who have helped you get where you are. If you have an idol, you should know where they grew up, how old they were when they first got signed, who their first record label was, and so on. If you haven’t figured out from reading so far, I believe in learning from the pros!
(Editor’s note: You can also learn what not to do from watching famous singers!)
Sometimes the answer to how to stay motivated won’t come from a mentor or a professional singer, but someone a little closer to your level.
If you’re in college, you’ve got it easy – join the local chapter of a music fraternity and you’re instantly connected with individuals just like you. If you aren’t in college, go to lots of shows and network there. If you get enough musician friends, perhaps you could even start a weekly meet-up, and get fuel for your passion every week!
21. Summer programs
There are a million reasons to look into summer music programs, one of which is that there’s nothing quite as motivating as spending a few weeks continually working and improving your voice, surrounded by individuals who are doing the same. Summer programs are often expensive, but if you can spare the dough, the rewards will be more than worth it.
The most important thing to remember is that you have to make time for these ideas. That might mean skipping hanging out with your girlfriend on Tuesday night so that you can rehearse with your duet partner, or taking a night to watch a recorded master class when you would normally watch Netflix.
To become a singer, you need to have a fire in your heart for it; neglecting that element of the music is just as bad as singing off-key, breathing in the middle of a word, or any other technical mistake. So go get your passion on track, if it isn’t already… and then rock that practice time like the awesome singer that you are!
Readers, how do you stay motivated and make sure singing remains a passion? Leave a comment with your own tips and advice!