Take back control of your voice

Take back control of your voice

Take back control of your voice

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel

One of my favorite movies is The Wizard of Oz. I had a mural of Oz painted on my childhood bedroom wall. I even had the theme of the decorations for my bat mitzvah reception decked in Oz technicolor. One of the most creative was a “smoky” sign  made of wire and cotton hung from the ceiling that read “Surrender, Allison.”

(How prescient!)

I think of this sign all the time. It reminds me of the #1 lesson that I have learned in singing, and in life.

Using your voice is easily one of the most vulnerable and courageous acts we undertake. And I am certain that your voice has a lot to say, to express, and to share. But that fact, in and of itself, is enough to make us clam up and hold back. And it triggers an internal response to control the situation.

We are wired to move a hot current of energy through our frames. And when you sing, that energy is amplified. But we are not taught how to effectively manage that energy. We are taught, rather, that we need to manipulate the sound in order to meet some kind of invisible standard of alright-ness. (Fuh-gedda-bout energy!)

For whom does it need to be alright enough?

If you are a human being reading this, I know for sure that your efforts to manipulate your sound may feel frustrating at times. Why? Because you have been trying to control the sound, rather than allow the energy.

Wanting to gain control of your voice is a response to feeling, well, out of control. You have not learned – yet – how to manage that hot current, and it is intense! Possibly even life-threatening.

The mind has its own internal safety protocols that will inherently trigger a red flag when it is threatened. It will begin pulling levers for you. The mind says, let’s work proactively so that this process does not have to be so scary!

The Ego Voice takes over. In singing, this may look like: holding the gut muscles; holding back sound; pushing through the tightness of your throat; over-working the articulation of the words with the mouth; gearing up for a high note with some errant squeeze; and evaluate, evaluate, evaluate every moment of each phrase for quality (ahem) control.

Lack of control in your singing is a terrible feeling. And it’s complicated: there are so many layers to how you experience your voice, including your personality, past experiences, training (or lack thereof), self-esteem, or that you simply have no idea what you’re supposed to be doing other than, well, manipulating your sound to be Alright Enough.

Let’s regain control of the situation.

First, consider this…

What if your need for control was in direct proportion to how much energy is flowing through you? 

  • Can you envision that wild current of energy?
  • Can you feel it?
  • Can you understand that holding on to the sound of that energy is inherently limiting its audacious potential?

Then consider…

  • How can you allow a more free-flowing movement of this energy?
  • What is keeping you from this flow?
  • When do you stop it?
  • What is the internal message you hear when it is moving through you right before you sing?

I believe the real work is to understand that channeling the power of our voice is not a mortal threat. It is part of our purpose.

So how can we transmute the impulse to control our voice? We learn to allow our voice.

I invite you to practice strengthening your Allow muscle. Make it an experiment: tinker with the idea. Try this mantra in your singing practice:

“Surrender, Dorothy.” (But please insert your name instead.)

And remember: when you feel the need to control, remind yourself that there is something deeply powerful that would appreciate moving through in that moment. And the most annoying – but true – piece of the whole surrender puzzle?

When you let go, you regain control.

Hugs,

allison

IMAGE: Photo from The Wizard of Oz

welcome to
The Studio!

I’m Allison Mondel, Transformational Voice Coach and big-hearted seeker on a mission to help others discover their innate, brilliant Sacred Voice, and transform their singing and their lives.

further reading

Are you a Singer or a Non-Singer?
Are you a Singer or a Non-Singer?

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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Take back control of your voice
Take back control of your voice

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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What I really learned working with coaches from the Met
What I really learned working with coaches from the Met

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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shifting gears

shifting gears

shifting gears

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel

I will never forget that time when I stalled out and was stuck in a rental car in the middle of a busy road in Limerick, Ireland. I had literally just pulled out of the rental parking lot, on my way to Kildare, driving crossways east across the country by myself. On the wrong side of the road. With a freaking stick-shift.

Panic overtook me, as people were justifiably annoyed at this disturbance in the flow of traffic, and I could not get out of first gear. “You have done this a million times. You can do it, Allison!” I coached myself.

Nope. Still couldn’t move. What is the problem???

Then a clear little voice from within said: “Look down.” Oof, the parking brake was still on. So, with this quick little fix I was off and on my way on a solo road trip across Ireland, cry-laughing my way out of the city. 

I was rattled. I was also wise to the fact that this trip was a big deal. I was overwhelmed, and I had no idea what I was doing, and I was alone, and I was all backwards.

But I am also aware that some part of my subconscious mind was scared out of its wits to actually head toward my destination. No wonder I forgot the parking brake! I had trained my car to follow my ego voice. And I even placed myself in grave physical danger just to avoid taking the next step.

Wtf?

I was going to Kildare to meet Saint Brigid. It was a pilgrimage. I was going there to unite with a part of myself that was, in the cradle of her holy place, precious and worthy.

It is hard enough to get out of first gear. But when you try to move with your parking brake on, well, you are not going anywhere. And eventually you will burn out.

So the real question I have is: how do we move ahead when we are scared?

How can we receive a desire for our self, for our voice, for our artistry, that is fulfilling, satisfying, nourishing? It may be a Big Thing or a small thing. It may alter your career, or just make you feel better.

You know when something is ready to shift because you recognize that something is off. Not working. Funky. Unsettled. Wanting. Hungry. Uneasy.

This is good.

This is a reminder that your voice is here to speak and sing for a good reason. These are the signs that your voice yearns for its expression, and it means that we have something of great value to share. There is a power moving through you, and it has potency. The hymn within you is ready to be born.

What can be excruciating is the silent withholding of that something, of your hymn.

How long will this uneasiness last? That depends on you. I believe it depends partly on divine timing, but also our willingness to step into the I-don’t-know-ness of change and growth along our journey.

I am knee deep in it, my friend. I have done it before, though. I know what is on the other side of soul voice itchiness: release and renewal. And honestly, relief.

But there is a place in the cycle of artistic growth that is akin to being stuck and panicked in the middle of a busy road in Limerick. For me it resembles an inner frenzy, trying to know what is next and make sure it is the Right Thing or else.

But when given enough mental and emotional space, the soul shines through with an inner clarity that says: look right here. Right in your heart. Yes, that’s it. Hold that for a moment: now go.

The heart always knows the answers.

I believe the hardest part for us is the commitment: to commit to the next course along your journey. Even if you do not know what it looks like, or how many miles it may be, or what people will think, or who you will be at the end.

It is so hard Not Knowing. And it is always hard to change. But our practice is honoring the holy place within that is precious to you. That is, indeed, worthy of being expressed. Can you commit to honoring this aspect of your Self?

Don’t worry if you feel resistance. That’s normal. But when you are ready to move, there is only one thing you need to do.

Just release the damn parking brake.

Hugs,

allison

welcome to
The Studio!

I’m Allison Mondel, Transformational Voice Coach and big-hearted seeker on a mission to help others discover their innate, brilliant Sacred Voice, and transform their singing and their lives.

IMAGE: Some impossible road I encountered in Ireland, 2018.

further reading

Are you a Singer or a Non-Singer?
Are you a Singer or a Non-Singer?

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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Take back control of your voice
Take back control of your voice

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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What I really learned working with coaches from the Met
What I really learned working with coaches from the Met

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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I don’t know what I’m doing

I don’t know what I’m doing

I don’t know what I’m doing

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel

Can you recall a time when you had no idea what you were doing?

(I have these moments, like, all the time.)

Say you are learning something new, or practicing something, or in a rehearsal, and those dreaded words bubble up from your mind:

I have no idea what I’m doing. And I SHOULD know how to do this.

But what is really happening? You may not know how. Yet. Unfortunately, our ego turns this around into some kind of argument, and we tend to start wagging our own finger at ourselves.

You should know! You are failing! You are not capable!

(Oof, that last one hurts a little.)

I have observed that singers, in this situation of Not Knowing, tend toward one of two responses. They either play Offense or Defense.

To play Offense means you approach these uncertain moments with arms swinging, ready to pounce on any problem, to make it disappear as soon as possible. Which typically manifests as over-efforting in singing.

To play Defense means to back down, to leave the situation, to pull our voice back and play it as safe as possible, guard up, and volume down. Which typically manifests as under-efforting in singing. (Right here!)

I do not need to explain that I am hugely overgeneralizing here. My aim is to help you clarify how unconscious fears of not being capable show up in our practice.

And crucially: to pull back the veil on our invisible tendencies so that we can feel more safe, secure, and capable when we sing, no matter our relative aptitude to do the task set before us.

We could choose to close our eyes or run away in the face of uncertainty. We will only exacerbate our fears and reinstate our lack of agency in these moments that are most vital to our learning and growth. 

So what’s the hack? If you know me at all, you know that I appreciate simple and elegant solutions. (Less blunt than a hack.)

The transformation happens in three steps:

First: Notice when you get triggered. Begin to observe when you tense up, push forward, or pull back. Are you playing Offense or Defense? Become aware of these statements if they pop up in your practice: I don’t know what I’m doing. I should know better. I can’t do this.

Second: Zoom your awareness into that moment. (It will only hurt for a second.) Imagine a time-lapse video of your self, and internally observe yourself heading into the situation. Did you blackout for a second? Did your gut tighten? Did your eyes close? Did you start judging yourself? Did your voice stop or falter? Did you look away from the score?

Third: Maintain your inner awareness on your breath through every microsecond of that time-lapse video. Be a hawk about it, don’t look away. Keep the breath flowing, no matter how much you want to leave the situation. 

Maintaining awareness of the breath will keep you in the present moment: exactly where you need to be in order to keep unconscious dialogue from barreling through the scene, and sabotaging your learning process.

Your one task will be to maintain the steady flow of breath energy, which will allow you to manage—both internally and externally—whatever vocal task is on your plate. 

Awareness is key to becoming aware of your fear-based tendencies. And then, all of a sudden, not knowing isn’t such a big deal? 

Hugs,

allison

welcome to
The Studio!

I’m Allison Mondel, Transformational Voice Coach and big-hearted seeker on a mission to help others discover their innate, brilliant Sacred Voice, and transform their singing and their lives.

IMAGE: Photo by Daniel Mingook Kim on Unsplash

further reading

Are you a Singer or a Non-Singer?
Are you a Singer or a Non-Singer?

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

read more
Take back control of your voice
Take back control of your voice

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

read more
What I really learned working with coaches from the Met
What I really learned working with coaches from the Met

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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how does fear show up in singing?

how does fear show up in singing?

how does fear show up in singing?

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel

I love the 80s.

Especially Alf and pop music. (Ah, the music!) My personal Spotify playlist is packed with gems from the 80s, and when I listen to them, I have a smile plastered on my face and feel that all is right with the world. 

One of my favorite bands of all time is Tears for Fears.

Imagine my delight when I came across this video from 1983 aired by the BBC featuring Curt Smith in a proper voice lesson with some British doyen of classical voice pedagogy.

It is excruciating.

It was all some kind of publicity stunt, but I have been thinking about it nonstop, rankled by 1) the public shaming of one of my pop music idols and 2) the lack of clear guidance through a vocal situation he was not equipped to manage. At least in 1983.

However, this video (which I urge you to watch) clearly demonstrates one of the most common scenarios that I see in the studio of how fear plays out in our singing. 

I call it The Flinch.

An everyday flinch happens when we encounter a situation in which we are physically threatened in some way, such as when something is about to strike us, or we are about to get into a car accident, or take a fall.

It’s akin to a mini-blackout of experience. We are not aware of anything because we are busy protecting ourselves from harm. Physically, our bodies respond by closing our eyes tight, stopping our breath, and contracting every muscle in our body.

We make ourselves as small as possible.

It happens in our singing all the time.

What Is The Singing Flinch?

The Flinch occurs unconsciously whenever we feel scared or threatened, for whatever reason that may be. I know this sounds dramatic, but it’s true. I do it, too.

The Flinch is also quite subtle, almost unrecognizable, but is the most common way in which I see fear manifested in singing. 

The most common reason is because we do not feel capable. The mind says: DANGER! You can’t do this! And we blackout for a second, and either interrupt our singing, or surrender our hold on reality and make some cosmically hideous mistake.

My beloved Curt Smith demonstrates that clearly in his “voice lesson.” 

For you and me it may be slightly more subtle. The Flinch shows up most commonly at the:

  • Onset of any phrase
  • Highest note in any phrase
  • Leap (up OR down) in any phrase
  • Rhythmic anomaly
  • Encountering rogue accidentals

But it can happen anytime you feel unsure. (Sight-singing is an extreme case of rampant flinching.)

It is in anticipation of any challenge in our music that we feel the most scared, and we are apt to lose control. There is a micromoment of squeezing our eyes shut, stopping our breath, and contracting all of our muscles.

It happens in an instant. It feels as though time is accelerating, as we try to get through the challenge as quickly as possible, and avoid any discomfort whatsoever.

It feels lousy, confusing, and oh so frustrating. (Right here!)

And, it’s invisible. You can’t even tell it’s happening!

The Solution

So if you feel scared or intimidated by something in your score, congratulations! You are normal.

But how to improve? There is a workaround, but it takes time, patience, and practice.

The key to staying clear, focused, and calm in your singing is NOT to be perfectly capable. Of course, we always strive to improve our skills and knowledge, but you and I will never, ever achieve a state of Perfectly Capable.

Rather, the key is maintaining your awareness of the present moment at all times, even when you don’t feel capable. How?

To maintain your awareness of the flow of breath. How?

By removing yourself from the chatter of the mind (the chatter that says: you are in danger!) and embedded in the heart-centered, embodied, clear-minded presence of awareness.

It starts with your intention to be centered in the heart, and the other pieces will fall into place. The only caveat is that you have to practice staying in this state of awareness as you sing, and apply your awareness when you are unsure, scared, or are working against deeply-ingrained habits that trigger and enforce your fear.

Start with this mantra:
Heart. Breath. Sound.

Sing with this thought:
My breath is flowing.

All other musical tasks will be possible when you are in the flow of the breath. Every onset, every high note, every leap, every freaky rhythm, every Thing you encounter in a piece of music is within your grasp.

It takes some getting used to, and you must have courage to face your challenges with your eyes wide open. You can’t hide from anything. But you will feel more in control and ease, you have infinitely more breath at your disposal (it’s not getting demolished during your Flinch), and you will begin to develop a deep trust of your voice, and your Self. 

I believe that ultimately, we want to feel capable and confident when we sing. When you know the secret places where you hide, you will understand that these fears hinder your capacity to BE capable and confident.

Look your Flinch in the face. Breath your way through it. Watch your fear disappear. 

Hugs,

allison

welcome to
The Studio!

I’m Allison Mondel, Transformational Voice Coach and big-hearted seeker on a mission to help others discover their innate, brilliant Sacred Voice, and transform their singing and their lives.

IMAGE: Cover art from Songs from The Big Chair, Tears for Fears

further reading

Are you a Singer or a Non-Singer?
Are you a Singer or a Non-Singer?

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

read more
Take back control of your voice
Take back control of your voice

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

read more
What I really learned working with coaches from the Met
What I really learned working with coaches from the Met

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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