Episode 16 – Do You Practice or Play?
Updated: Sep 13
Do you practice or play at your singing?
As you’ll discover in this episode there is a distinct difference between the two.
Research shows that being in a playful, joyful attitude and brain state is much more conducive to learning and making fast progress.
The old “No pain no gain” when it comes to the mental game is very outdated!
Is singing or “practicing” on your “I have to do it” list, or on your “I get to do it” list?
I have a lot of experience with both, and the “I get to do it” is much more productive and expedites your progress!
Listen and enjoy. (-:
The Inner Singer Podcast
Episode 16 – Transcripts
Do You Practice or Play?
You’re listening to episode number 16.
Welcome to the Inner Singer Podcast providing tools and techniques to strengthen your inner singer, your beliefs, your confidence, your mindset. And now, your host for the Inner Singer Podcast, Mike Goodrich.
Hi there, this is Mike Goodrich, and thank you for listening to the Inner Singer Podcast.
We’re going to talk about something today that to me is very important (not that all of these aren’t). This is something that I discovered that I have been doing. Actually, I made a conscious decision to do it after I realized that I was doing it.
It just made sense. It’s interesting after a life reflection. I’ve been really looking back at a lot of times over my life lately. I just noticed a pattern. I was looking at things and trying to figure how did I get good at something and how did I get good at something fast because if we’re going to have fun, we might as well get good at something fast enough to have some fun doing it, right?
Not that we don’t enjoy the process because that’s also what I teach. Clearly, we have to enjoy the process, but there’s no use wasting much of time if we don’t have to, especially if we’re wasting time based on old, limited programming and wiring and it’s causing us to frame something in a way that makes us waste time and not have as much fun as we should.
Really, the idea is about fun. And that’s what I want to talk about right now. That’s the idea of this. Do you practice or do you play?
They’re really framed in two very, very different ways. I think by now, there’s been enough research done all over the world to know that the best and most conducive atmosphere for learning anything is an atmosphere of joy, is fun, is playing. And one of the least conducive to learning anything quickly and well and having any fun doing it is in a stressful environment under pressure. Sadly, that’s how a lot of our schools work. It’s completely archaic, but that’s another podcast.
When you see our kids so stressed out and people at work so stressed out – a lot of studies in positive psychology these days are coming out, thankfully, to validate what many have known for a long, long time. And that is that creating a joyful atmosphere in school or in the workplace gets you into the part of the brain that is much more ready to receive and learn and repattern and reprogram.
So taking a page out of that, do you practice singing or do you play at singing?
And if you practice – let me just go over a potential little scenario clearly because this is what I used to do. I think we’ve all done this in whatever way, but we’re going to talk about singing right now.
Let’s just say that we have a desire or a goal or something. We want to get our high notes stronger. So we say, “Okay, I’m going to practice an hour a day.” And so that goes on your “have to do” list, right? “I have to practice an hour a day.” So that’s one list. That’s my “have to” practice. That’s my “I have to go to the store” and “I have to practice” and “I have to go to the dry cleaner” and “I have to mow the lawn” and “And I have to do this and I have to do that.”
And so you put practicing singing somewhere in there and you hope you get to it. And then if you don’t get to it, you feel bad about yourself. So you’ve created something that is now the double whammy of stress. Not only do I have to practice for an hour today, I didn’t get to it, “Oh, my gosh! What a loser I am!” It’s a little bit of a doom loop there. So you’ve got your “I have to do” list. So singing is on that, practicing an hour a day.
Let’s say you actually do get to it. And now, you’re practicing for the hour. What do you generally do for a lot of that time? Well, you look at the clock. “Oh, my gosh! Twenty minutes, I’ve got 40 minutes left to this. I said I was going to do it, so I’m going to get going here. 40 minutes, phew! Now, I only have a half hour left. I can get through this half hour, half hour.”
And by the time it’s over, it’s like, “Phew! Okay, I got through it. I practiced an hour a day. Good for me! That’s awesome. Okay, I did it. I’m going to do the same tomorrow.” Boom!
So I don’t know if any of this sounds familiar to you, but any time that I had to practice anything in my life, that’s what it felt like. I had to do it, I had to make myself do it, I was incredibly conscious of the time while I was doing it and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. And then I feel like I had survived it.
None of this is sounding very fun, is it? So that’s not hugely conducive to doing well or having a good time, focusing on when you’re going to be finished so you can be just relieved.
Now, as I’ve said in previous podcasts, I spent most of my performing life relieved when the show is over rather than enjoying the moment and playing within the show. To me, it was something I had to do. That was on my, “I have to do this. I have a show at 8 o’clock. I have to be there. I have to perform. I have to be really good. I have to meet all these standards. I have to meet all these criteria. I have to meet all these conditions” rather than on my “get to do” list, “I get to do this. I get to do a show tonight. I get to go play for a couple of hours.”
So my suggestion would be to get your singing, put your singing on your “get to do” list. “I get to do this.” And rather than practicing, make it play. So you’re re-framing practicing into playing, and you’re taking singing off your “to do” list, “I have to do” list to “I get to do this,” “I get to do” list and it’s now play.
I get to play. And you’re not going to do it for an hour. You’re going to give yourself 10 minutes to play. I get to play at singing for 10 minutes.
Now, what usually happens if you set something up like that? Well, if you’re anything like I am, I don’t look at the clock. And if I do, after eight minutes, I’m disappointed because I think, “Oh, man! I’m almost finished. I only have two minutes left. Well, I can probably go longer. I don’t have to make it to the dry cleaner. They don’t close real soon. I can put this other thing off. I’m not that hungry. I’ll eat in a little while,” or whatever. All of a sudden, you’re looking for more time to play.
And all of a sudden, 10 minutes, 15, 20, maybe an hour goes by and you’ve played the entire time and he only consciousness of time that you’ve had is that you don’t want it to pass very fast because you’re having a good time.
So that is what I would suggest you consider if you have practice in your vocabulary. If you practice singing, don’t practice anymore. Just play at singing, put it on a different list, put it on your “I get to do this,” and shorten the time and watch how you somehow figure out a way to stretch it out because all of a sudden, you’re having fun. Now, you’ve framed it from “I have to practice,” tedious. “I have to do this. There’s no way I’m going to get good in this. I do this. I have to work this.” It’s always about work. No pain, no gain.
That is such an old mindset that is scientifically proven is not being correct anymore. Now, we get into our “I get to do” list, “I get to play at singing for 10 minutes.”
Now, that doesn’t mean you don’t do scales. That doesn’t mean you don’t vocalize. But switch everything from practicing to playing. And when you do your scales, you’re vocalizing. And it is playing. You’re having a good time.
Now, in my early childhood – this is one of the reasons. Actually, over the last year, I really haven’t practiced singing at all. I just played and I’ve made tremendous strides just having so much fun, just singing, just playing, just popping off a note here and there, nothing formal at all.
And recapping how I used to get good at things when I was young, I took a trip back in time and I looked back. I had discounted this for years because I was young and I thought, “Well, I was young.” That really doesn’t count, “I was young.” Now, I’m an adult. So only the things that I do when I’m an adult actually matter. I certainly can’t teach anything I did when I was 11 and 12 years old, or 13, 14, 16, 17. That’s not valid. How can I teach that? I was a kid.
I realized that instinctively and intuitively, as kids, we really do a lot of things right, and we really do a lot of things well, and we really do things intuitively.
So let me take you back in time into a little picture of my life when I was a kid. I’ll make it brief.
But when I was young, I used to love baseball. I wasn’t very good when I started. As a matter of fact, when I was 10 years old, my dad made me join an organized baseball league, “little league” it was called back at the time (I don’t know if it is these days. I’m sure I’ll find out soon. I have an eight-year old. It probably still is). So I joined. I was in C league. That’s the worst league you can be in.
Well, I shouldn’t say – let’s say the least experienced league you can be in. I shouldn’t say worst. I don’t know who’s listening to this. So if you’re young and you’re listening to this and you’re in C league, it’s not a bad thing. It just means that I was a beginner. I was totally a beginner.
And all I could remember of C league is one moment in C league. And that was in a game where I was pitching and the bases were loaded. I walked in the winning run for the other team.
I don’t know if you know baseball, but what that means is the bases are loaded. That means there’s somebody on every base. I’m pitching and I need to get guys out because it’s a tie ball game. And if somebody scores, somebody gets a hit off me or I walk somebody or I hit somebody with a pitch, that means that they get to go to first base and run scores and we lose the game.
It’s not so bad if somebody gets a hit off you, but when you walk in the winning run, and you’re 10, and you lose the game, imagine that. At my age now, that’s all I remember about C league. Zippeedee-doo-da. That’s it!
I don’t even remember the name of the team or anybody who was on it. But I can close my eyes and picture that moment like it was yesterday, feel the disappointment and feel how awful that felt.
Now, so what did I do?
Well, I certainly didn’t know much back then about visualizing or anything like that, but I wanted to be in the major leagues. So I daydreamed all the time and I rode my bike to the major league field and I would watch my friend, Rick, play on the Pirates. I remember his major team. I do not remember the name of my C league team. Isn’t that weird? I just would imagine being picked up by the Pirates, imagine being picked up in the majors.
And then, I would go home. The counterpart to that is I’d play with my buddy, Alan, all day long, wiffle ball. He’d throw the wiffle ball and I’d hit it with a real bat. I’d throw the wiffle ball and he’d hit with a real bat. And we got really good.
The next year, tryouts came and I went right up into the majors on the team called the Phillies and I made the All Stars when I was 11 and 12. And ever since from then on, as I went into senior league and everything (and in high school), I became a really, really, really good player.
How? By playing a lot. I never practiced. We had an organized practice for the team, of course. But I never thought of that as practice. I’m going to practice to play and we would play. I would play all day and I would visualize all day and I would imagine all day.
So let’s jump into high school now when I’m playing guitar and drums. I do not ever remember not being somewhat proficient. I remember a little bit, but I wanted to play every Eric Clapton lead there was.
So I took a few guitar lessons (not that many, not enough to do a whole lot). I got a guitar when I was 12. I played a little, then I put her away until I was about 15. I just remembered one scale that a teacher had taught me. And I thought, “Wow. All of Clapton’s leads fit in this scale.”
And so I started practicing. But I didn’t call it practice. I started playing a lot just for fun.
And then, since I was a lousy student in school (which I don’t advocate, I just didn’t like school), we’d get into study hall, then the first thing the bell would ring, I would put my head down on the desk and I would start humming Eric Clapton leads to myself in my head. I would start visualizing and daydreaming about playing really well.
So the bottom line is, I daydreamed a ton. I visualized a ton with emotion and I also played physical instrument.
It’s the same thing with drums. I got really pretty darn good pretty darn fast. And I was in bands playing drums and one playing guitar.
So as I was reflecting back on that and I thought, “There’s a really terrific validity to this whole idea of playing and not practicing and daydreaming and visualizing, all these things that I was doing unconsciously basically.”
I was doing them, quite frankly, because they were fun, and I was bored with where I was. I couldn’t stand school. I didn’t want to be in study hall. So anytime I was in study hall or the library, I was just visualizing and humming to myself and I just daydreamed. And I played the actual instruments or I played baseball.
And so in retrospect, that’s what happened when I was singing actually. I felt, “Wow!” as I was reflecting the other day, “I got good at these things relatively quickly doing a combination of what I now call mental rehearsal and playing either the game or the instrument.”
And you know what? I’ve talked before about this study, then I found out where it was from. And a key note, I talk to so many people and I do these podcasts – half the time, I can’t remember what I’ve said in a podcast and what I’ve said to a student or what I’ve given in a talk or wherever. So if I’ve said this before, please bear with me. It will only take a second. But I finally found where this basketball study was done with mental rehearsal. It was done at the University of Chicago. I don’t know what year, but they had three different teams.
They picked these teams randomly with the same average skillset. They said, “Okay, we’re going to test to see the power of this mental rehearsal thing.” So we have three teams. The first team, we’re going to say, “Okay, for the next month, don’t touch a basketball. Don’t practice. Don’t think about it. Don’t do anything.” Boom!
“Okay, team number two, for the next month, each one of you guys is going to practice free throws one hour per day from the free throw line.” Boom!
“Team number three, you’re not going to touch a basketball, but one hour a day, you’re going to visualize the ball going through the net and you making free throws over and over again for an hour.” Boom!
At the end of the month, they tested all the teams. Obviously, the first team that did nothing, there was no change, no improvement whatsoever.
The second team that had actually physically practiced on the court (and I’m just using the word practice because that’s what they used) practiced on the court or played on the court, had a 24% improvement in their shots.
Now, this is staggering. The team that did the mental rehearsal and did not touch a ball had a 23% improvement in their shooting without actually physically touching a basketball.
So can you imagine? This is what I teach now. Can you imagine the synergy of actually physically playing the game of singing and adding the mental rehearsal to it?
I don’t have any proof about this, but imagine this. If the people that actually physically shot the basketball improved 24% and the people that just thought about it improved 23%, you add that together that’s 47%. What if the synergy of both the thinking about singing and the mental rehearsal and taking advantage of the mirror neurons (what we’ve talked about) and also playing the game of singing, what if the synergy of those two only increase you to, maybe, 30%?
But what if the synergy of it, since the sum of the parts might be more than – the one and one might equal more than two, what if it’s actually even more than 47% better?
I don’t have any numbers to base that on, but I know from experience that that is a possibility. And if you add mental rehearsal to the game, it’s going to really expedite your progress.
Now, that’s not necessarily what we’re talking about today. I went off on a little bit of a tangent. But hopefully, you see how it all ties together. The main point I want to drive home today is I want you to begin to re-frame the idea, if it feels right to you, of practicing into playing.
I don’t know how old you are, obviously. But if you think back to sometime in your life when you played at something and feel into that and see if it wasn’t easier to get good at it.
I’ve had things in my life that I detested doing. I used to sell cars. I couldn’t stand it. I was horrible at it. I read sales books. I tried to be good. I did everything I could do. And I just couldn’t sell anything. I sold some, obviously. But I didn’t do like the guys did when I got into it because all these guys were making all this money. “Well, I could do that.” No, no. They like it. They’re having fun. They like to talk to the people. They’re going out there. They’re talking. The next thing you know, they’re in the closing booth, they’re selling the car.
I’d just be talking, talking, talking. At the end of this, “Okay, great. Can I have your card?” “Sure, here you go.” Oh, I was terrible. It was not play to me. It was work. I saw a customer coming, I used to go hide.
So we want to get into the play yard. We want to get into the sandbox with this stuff. We want it to be fun. Get out of the practice mindset, get out of the stressful mindset, get out of that “I have to do this” now into “I get to do this” and “I’m going to play for this much time.”
Anyway, at least that’s been my experience. I hope it’s helpful. No need to belabor this. I look back down, it’s 20 minutes again. We’re right on the clock. So I hope you found this valuable. I hope you found it helpful. I hope that it makes sense to you. And I really look forward to talking to you in the next Inner Singer Podcast.
You have a great week. Bye now.
Thank you for listening to the Inner Singer Podcast. And please share this with all of your singing friends. And head on over to iTunes and subscribe. If you found it a value, give us a nice rating. Thanks so much.