Episode 12 – Raise the Bar on Your Singing!
Updated: Sep 13
In this Episode I describe something that may be limiting your vocal ability and slowing down your process of reaching your wonderful singing potential.
It has to do with something that you probably use everyday in your car or your home.
Of course, in the car or home it’s a mechanical “thing”, however, what I’m speaking about is just as real in our singing lives.
Understanding and utilizing this will raise the bar on your singing and help you reach you wonderful potential – and ENJOY the process!
Have fun with this. (-:
The Inner Singer Podcast
Episode 12 – Transcripts
Raise the Bar on Your Singing
Twelve used to be a really great number for me when I was a kid. I had number 12 on my baseball uniform because it was half of number 24, which was Willie Mays who was my favorite baseball player. I’m totally dating myself. Who’s heard of Willie Mays out there? Well, he was amazing. Amazing! I was so happy to have number 12. Here we are at podcast number 12 already. I can’t believe it.
Anyway, let’s take off today with talking about something that you may or may not be aware of. It’s fun to know about it. That is what I would call your vocal thermostat. We all know what a thermostat is and some of you may have heard me talk about this before, but it never hurts to hear it again. And there are a lot of people, I’m sure, that have never heard me talk about it before.
So anyway, the vocal thermostat – what is a thermostat? A thermostat is what we call a cybernetic mechanism. There was a book, years ago called Psycho-Cybernetics. As a matter of fact, my dad read that years and years ago. But anyway, I digressed.
The cybernetic mechanism is one that keeps things where they’re supposed to be in a thermostat. Let’s say out here in California where we rarely in Southern California turn on the heat. But when we do, let’s say we put it on 72 and let’s say it’s about 60. You put it on 72°. When the heater comes on, when it gets to 72°, it goes off. That is the ceiling. The 72° that you set is the ceiling. That’s when you set the mechanism, cybernetic mechanism, the thermostat.
So this relates to our singing how? Well, I’ll tell you how. First of all, we’ve talked about money just for fun. Everybody likes to have lots of money. I’m sure there are many people that think, “Wow! Having lots of money would be amazing.” I am one that thinks as well. It makes things a little more convenient. It buys you a few more options maybe.
But then why do 85% of lottery winners lose their money, their winnings within three years of having won the lottery? And then when interviewed, they say that winning the lottery was one of the worst things that ever happened to them. Why in the world would that be? And what in the world does that have to do with singing?
Well, I often talk about finances because there’s a lot of research being done in neuroscience on the brain obviously and its relationship to success and finances, making money. It’s been discovered of course that we have, some of us, a financial thermostat or a glass ceiling that once we hit that particular amount of money, per year or per month, however it is set, that’s about as good as we do until we re-calibrate that mechanism. So if we’re calibrated to a hundred grand a year, that’s about all we hit until we learn how to re-calibrate that mechanism and raise our financial thermostat.
How does that relate to singing? Let’s say our singing thermostat is set at being only so good. Now remember, even though consciously, we want to be really good, we want to have a great voice, great high notes, tons of fun singing, we love our voice, great vibrato, great style, everything that goes with great singing – that’s what we want, right?
Well, let’s just say on an unconscious level, our vocal thermostat or singing thermostat is set considerably lower than that. Now how might that happen?
Well, it could be any number of ways. It could happen by our own conditioning. It could happen in mind conditioning from well-meaning parents, not so well-meaning parents, friends, family, teachers. It doesn’t matter. It’s what we begin to believe on an unconscious level about our voice. That begins to set our vocal thermostat.
I have seen this so often. I’ve seen it in myself. I’ve seen it in students. Actually, I had to become very aware of this. I really didn’t know what it was at the time. This is years ago. But I remember having a couple of students in particular.
Now they were both men. It also happened with women. These fellows came in and they didn’t have much awareness of their potential. Let’s say that. They really didn’t have the awareness of the kind of voice that they have and the potential that they had.
One in particular – actually let’s say both really. They’re very similar. Let’s say both were pulling up their chest voice pretty high. One guy was pulling it up to about G, A flat and A, yelling and losing his voice halfway through shows. The other wasn’t pulling up as badly, but he was letting go into a really over-released weak coordination.
So I really worked with these guys and it really didn’t take long. One guy only had one lesson quite frankly. The other came a few times. But I learned something very valuable from my experience with them. I’ll tell you my experience. It was as follows.
Running them through a series of exercises and freeing up their voice, I was able to get both of them singing up to B flat, B natural, C really strong but free – both with very spinning consistent vibratos. One guy was just unbelievable. He was just a kid. He just had a show at UCLA and he was losing his voice every single night because he was pulling chest voice up so high and he didn’t know how to access his mix or his head voice.
So anyway, he was doing this. So he came in and we worked him. We had an hour lesson. And by about midway, he was popping off B flats that were enviable. I was thinking, “Gosh, I wish I could do that.” This kid is unbelievable. He had never done that.
To this day, I don’t even know if he realized what he was doing or if he liked it, but they were phenomenal sounds. They were going to be his ticket to some kind of a career. The interesting thing is I never understood whether or not he got that, whether he knew, whether he recognized it. And he never came back.
The other fellow, it’s the same thing. He came back a few times, but he never utilized that part of his voice. He never owned it. He never really took ownership of it. He never used it. And there you go.
So I remember telling my wife. Gee, maybe I’m working too fast with these guys. I mean I get all excited. I see what’s going on and I can guide them into these areas of their voice. But I don’t know. I was really trying to think of what would benefit the student or would benefit people.
In other words, what am I doing? Am I doing this for me? Or am I do it for the student? I really questioned myself. Am I just doing this so I can feel this ego-feeling of “Wow, I can really get these people to new vocal heights?” Am I just falling into that? And I thought for a second that I really think that there is maybe a little bit of that in there.
I think for the most part, I just really get excited when I’m working with the singer and things are really hopping and working. So I really think that 99% of it was just me getting excited and maybe there was 1% of it that was like thinking, “Wow, I’m so wonderful.” Yeah, that’s okay, whatever. We always think of that once in a while.
But anyway, I really had to give that [inaudible 00:08:45]. Should I just work slower? I didn’t know this at the time, but now I do. Now I can see this. Should I let their vocal thermostat get used to raising a little more gradually?
If I take them into areas of their voice that they’re completely unfamiliar with, in their internal map of reality, they have no road that goes to being able to sing like that. They don’t recognize it. They don’t appreciate it. They don’t get it and they can’t find it on their own.
Am I doing this too soon? Should we go at a gradual pace over a little bit of time so they begin to get excited rather than going from zero to 60 in five seconds or two seconds or whatever it is?
It’s like a guy who becomes a famous movie star overnight who has tons of money, but can’t handle the success and drinks and takes drugs. It really is the same thing. I mean it’s the same thing. The same thermostat is set. This is a success thermostat.
I can certainly identify with that. It would be very, very weird and disorienting that all of a sudden, overnight, everybody knows you when you go out for lunch or dinner. You got a ton of money that you never had before. You don’t even know what to do with it. Everybody wants something from you. That’s going to be weird just as it must be strange for somebody to walk in and have only pulled chest to a G or an A flat and all of a sudden, within the course of 20 minutes, they’re singing high B flats, Bs and Cs and sounding unbelievable. That’s got to be a little weird.
So anyway, I have since taken it a little easy on that and have been a little bit more sensitive I think to where a student is rather than trying so hard to just get them from zero to 60 in two seconds.
Anyway, that is your vocal thermostat. So if you have a vocal thermostat that is set lower, then your conscious goals are set. Your financial thermostat – I mean your vocal thermostat, forgive me. I guess we’ll talk about money later. I don’t know. Your vocal thermostat will win. Just like the heater kicks off at 72°, you will kick off at some point in your vocal progress by either stopping your practice, deciding that it’s not important to do this anymore and that maybe you don’t like it as much as you thought you did, “Oh, I don’t really need to get that good.”
And you will tell yourself what one of my old mentors said about rationalizing. He said you’ll begin to rationalize why your old behavior is better. And he said rationalizing is telling yourself rational lies, which I think are great. That’s exactly what we do. If you consciously set an intention or a goal to practice an hour a day and you start getting a lot better and you start getting higher than your vocal thermostat, you will on some level begin to feel uncomfortable because it’s an unfamiliar territory.
Even though it’s desirable to your conscious brain, your unconscious brain where your vocal thermostat is set is saying, “No, no, no. This is new territory. This is dangerous. We better go back to our old behavior as fast as we can.” That’s a little bit of a simplistic explanation, but it’s pretty much what happens.
How do we recalibrate this vocal thermostat of ours? One thing we can begin to do is understand where it’s set. As we’ve said before, it’s set with your unconscious conditioning. As we become aware of the unconscious conditioning, we can shed some light on it, we can bring awareness to it and we can know that “Wow, that’s just a part of me that’s afraid to be better for whatever reason.”
I gave you a framework in one of the podcasts, a five step framework. If you begin to dig deeper and question, you’ll discover what your vocal thermostat is set at. You can really see that by looking at your results right now and seeing what’s going on. You can begin to recalibrate it by doing what we did let’s say in the last podcast when we talked about mental rehearsal and the mirror neurons and you can create in your mind and in your imagination the voice that you want. You can begin in your imagination having the vocal experiences that you want.
As we talked about in the last podcast, when you do that, your brain actually thinks you’re having that experience. So you begin to gently recalibrate that vocal thermostat to accept more success, more vocal success – better high notes, better vibrato, more confidence. You can do that all in your imagination just like an actor playing a role. At the same time, you’re doing the physical work of the vocalizations and the singing and all the exercises and all the things that we know will benefit you.
But they are only going to benefit you inasmuch as you can accept them with your unconscious programming. So let’s get our unconscious programming to match up and sync and be congruent with what we actually want with our conscious intentions. We can do that through mental rehearsal and practicing in our imagination.
Take advantage of the fact that the brain doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined just like we talked about in the previous podcast. Go ahead and implement that and work that. Have fun with it. Let’s raise our vocal thermostats. Okay. And maybe your financial is in the bargain. I couldn’t resist.
Okay. Have fun with this and I look forward to talking to you in the next podcast. Okay, now. Bye.
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