Episode 50 – A Big Mistake I Made with My Singing
In this episode I admit what a whiner I was about my voice and a big mistake I made when I was learning how to sing.
If you’re making this mistake or feeling the same way I did, it will definitely slow your progress!
I’m pretty “In your face” in this episode so I hope I don’t offend anyone. (-:
Time for some real honesty and self reflection. Always a good thing.
This is an important episode for singers even if it “ruffles some feathers”.
Listen and enjoy!
The Inner Singer Podcast
Episode 50 – Transcripts
A Big Mistake I Made with My Singing
Well, hey there, everybody. This is Mike Goodrich. Thank you so much for tuning in. Landmark episode here for me, number 50. That’s almost a year. I know there are 52 weeks in a year, not pulling anything over me. Number 50 today, wow! We should break out the part hat.
Anyway, I’m very excited to be here. I’m thrilled you guys are here listening to the podcast and enjoying it. The downloads keep going up.
A quick reminder if you haven’t ran over to iTunes, subscribed and left me an honest rating review, that would be awesome, awesomely appreciated. For those of you who have, thank you so much. For those of you who are going to at some point, thank you so much in advance.
Anyway, so, yeah, 50, wow! Here I sit, 90° heat in Los Angeles in April and doing podcast number 50. Here we go.
What came to me today—actually, it came to me the other day and I thought I’d talk about it today—I have a student of mine who has become a buddy. I won’t say his name. He wouldn’t mind but I won’t say it anyway. He’s been with me about five years, I think.
I did a program five years or so ago, where I had about 15 people from all over the world sign up for this and it was really cool. I did most of it online because most of the people were not in town, of course, in Los Angeles. A gal is in Singapore, I think somebody was in—oh, gosh! I can’t remember, but really, really far away. I know 17 hours was the time difference, and Scotland. They’re all over the place. Only two were here in Los Angeles, three in Los Angeles. So, he has remained a student and became a friend ever since that program.
Now, what that program was all about, it was me figuring out how to teach this new stuff that I was discovering about the inner game, basically—and it wasn’t called that back then. But the whole Inner Singer thing morphed into what we are doing now, I learned how to teach it and integrate it with these 15 people
And it was really a fun 10 weeks. We got a lot out of it. Everybody got a lot out of it. And this fella stayed a student.
So, I was teaching him the other day and we were having a lesson, and he did something really good. And I said, “Man, that was great!” He was really excited. He said, “Yeah, gosh.” He goes, “I can’t believe it. I couldn’t have done that like six months ago.” I said, “Dude, you couldn’t have done it two months ago.” But he was really excited about it.
And what I said to him was this. I said, “The reason why you can do that now is because you became okay with not being able to do it.” That might sound a little “what the heck did you just say and what does that mean?” but let me say it again and let me explain what I mean because he looked at me funny too, but he totally understood and he totally got it because he knows where he’s come from.
And I said, “The reason why you can do that now basically so well, is because you became okay with not being able to do it.”
What that means is as singers, there are a lot of things that we can’t do yet. I have a lot of thing I can’t do. I’m sure there’s no way you would be drawn to a podcast called The Inner Singer and the work that I do if you felt like you had it altogether vocally and with your mind set and your performing. Why would you be wasting your time? So, there has to be something you feel is still missing, something that you can still find, expand into, grow into, discover.
One of the things with singers—myself included—is that we get so hung up on sounding bad. “Oh, that sounded bad. I couldn’t let anybody hear me. Oh, I’m so glad nobody’s standing outside.” I have people sing a note that they don’t think is so great, then they open the door of the studio, then look outside to make sure nobody is in the waiting room. And then say, “Phew! Man, I’m glad. Don’t tell anybody I sounded like that.
What we really need to do is become okay with sounding bad. There’s a part of us that really just always wants to sound good. It’s that perfectionist part that doesn’t want to sound bad.
But let me segue into something that I’m a big fan of. I was a real big fan of Seinfeld, the show. I’m a fan of Seinfeld as comedy. And I like Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which if you haven’t seen it, you might get a kick out of it. He interviews comedians.
Without exception, when he asks one of these guys that he interviews—he’s interviewed the guys at the top of their game: Jay Leno, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, you name it and he’s had them on the show. He’s asked them pretty much all the same this question. “Did you get laughs when you started?” And universal—I don’t think I have seen every episode that he’s recorded—and without question, everybody, no matter who they are, says, “Oh no, I didn’t get any laughs.” So, when he says, “Did you get laughs when you started?” “No. I didn’t get any laughs.”
Steve Martin told a story. He said “I was at the Ice House in Pasadena, performing at the Ice House.” He said, “I realized that I’ve been on stage for 25 minutes and I haven’t gotten a laugh.” And then he started laughing, and he said, “Yeah, so I thought I’d do it for the record.” That was his attitude. That’s why he went to go on to such amazing success and have the freedom and the nerve to do the things that he did that were so outlandish and hysterically funny, that if he didn’t commit 100 percent to them, they were bombed.
Same thing with Jim Carey. He didn’t get any laughs at all as a stand-up. People thought he was nuts. And Jay Leno, the same thing, no laughs. Chris Rock used to show up at the comedy club early—seven, seven-thirty–sign in, and be there sometimes until one or two in the morning and not get on.
Comedians are the guys who really, really take it in the shorts and they really get up and do it again.
Can you imagine going out there, talking in front of somebody for 20 minutes, not getting a laugh and besides that, getting heckled. Singers don’t get heckled. I’ve never heard of a singer getting heckled.
We all say this—and I’m including myself in this—we, as singers, have got to develop a thicker skin. We have got to man up—even you women.
You guys, can write me, you can get mad, you can send emails and say, “No, I’m not like that at all,” and you may not be. Perhaps you’re totally the exception, but at least you would agree that you know some people like this that are singers. Singers are the whiniest people in the art.
Every single singer thinks that they should always be wonderful, thinks that they should be way better than they are, and way sooner than they are. Nobody wants to work—even people that put in the work.
And believe it, I love singers. I do the Inner Singer Podcast, I’m a singer. My wife is a singer. My little boy sings. My parents sang. All my friends are singers. Everybody I know is a singer. I love singers. I work with singers my whole life for like 30 years.
Singers are whiners. And they sometimes don’t want to do as much work as necessary. There! I said it.
When you compare us to comedians and the nonsense they go through and the discipline they have to have to get up and write their material and go out to a smoky—what used to be—comedy club, and sign in, and stand up, and go and try and be funny, you compare that to us who are like, “Uhh… I cracked on my high note. It’s, uh…” Oh, really?
Seriously, when you really put it that way, when we really put this in perspective, we are the whiniest people. Now, you can get mad. You can write me emails and say, “I’m never listening again. I’m not a whiner.” And that’s totally fine. Maybe you’re not a whiner. But I sure was—and I still am.
Everybody I know that’s a singer pretty much is. I’ve taught thousands and thousands and thousands, and almost without a question, the very small percentage of them have not been whiners. A very small percentage of them have been realistic and expected that it was going to be tremendous amount of work.
So, getting back to what I was saying initially with regards to this student of mine who is also a friend, I said to him—again, I’ll repeat it again—“The reason why you’re so good at that now is because you became okay with not being able to do it.”
We have to become okay with being bad. We have to become okay with the part of us that is terrible in our mind, that makes awful sounds. We have to become okay with the part of us that makes unfinished sounds to learn because if you’re always trying to make a polished,beautiful, wonderful sound and your condition and coordination are not ready to produce that, you’re going to be disappointed 90% of the time when you’re singing.
So, if you’re not prepared to make unfinished sounds—in other words, sounds that are not ready for the stage, sounds that are not ready for recording—if you’re not ready to do that, and you’re not willing to be bad a little bit somewhere, then you’re probably in the wrong business.
Look at me, look how excited I’m getting on podcast number 50. A lot of you guys are probably going to write, “Okay, dude. I hope this is your last podcast because you really ticked me off with this one.” But you know what? That’s good. If I’m ticking anybody off, I’m hitting a nerve.
Hey, I’m right there with you. I totally admit I have been the biggest, the biggest whiner. When I think of the lessons that I had and the anguish that I put my voice teachers through years ago, I just want to go back and apologize to them. I think some of them are dead by now. I just want to go back and say, “Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry. The money I paid you was not worth putting up with my nonsense, my ‘Oh, I don’t sound like Aurelio. I don’t sound like del Monaco. I thought I was going to be good in six months.’” Are you kidding me?
I was so out of the box, off my voice. I was off my rocker. Come on! The most unrealistic. That’s why I can speak from experience.
So, I’m not pointing any fingers. I was the worst. I was totally the worst. I just wanted to sound great. I wanted to sound so good that I wouldn’t even sing for anybody. I refused to sing.
I had this story. I’m a dramatic tenor. I would go out with my parents to opera night. I was in my 20’s. People say, “Oh, are you going to sing?” “No, I don’t sing here. I’m not quite ready to sing.” “Oh, what kind of voice?” “I’m a tenor, dramatic tenor.” Oh, what a load of nonsense. I wasn’t a dramatic tenor. I thought I was. I wanted to be. But I wasn’t willing to stand up and be bad.
I thought that I was going to be able to rehearse like crazy, be behind closed doors, get as good as Franco Corelli, Mario Del Monaco, Luciano Pavarotti, or any of these guys, and then make my appearance blow the world away, and have everybody say, “Oh, my God! Where have you been?” I totally and truly was banking on that, and that’s what I thought.
That could not have been further from the truth. And sadly, if I was getting any advice to the contrary, I was too dumb to listen to it.
So, I could really seriously speak from experience. If you are having challenges with your voice—whether it’s technical challenges, whether it’s mindset because you’re nervous, your confidence level or whatever, your performance, whatever it is in that area, that area of those three things that I teach that are so vitally important to get so they all work synergistically together—if you’re having problems in some areas of that, or all three areas, it doesn’t matter, you have to be willing to be lousy.
And if you say, “I’m an intermediate… I’m an advanced singer. I’m never lousy.” Good for you! That’s great. But I bet you anything, in your mind, sometimes, you’re lousy. People come up and say, “Wow, that was great.” and you’re thinking, “Oh, man. They should’ve seen my rehearsal. I really sucked tonight.” No! You’ve got to be willing to be what is in your mind bad, or you’re not going to make any progress.
You have to be okay with that part of you that doesn’t like it. You don’t have to get rid of it. You don’t have to say, “Okay, this part of me that just really can’t stand my voice cracking, I can’t stand if I don’t get the note, I can’t stand this, I can’t stand that,” whatever, “I just want that part of me to go away.” Yeah, sure we do. Is that going to happen? Probably, not.
So, what if we make friends with that part of us and say—just like that podcast that I did, The Flea on the Elephant—and treat that like the flea and say, “This is my flea acting up. I’ve got a microscope on him now. I’ve got…”—what are those things? Magnifying glass! “I’ve got a magnifying glass on him now. I’m just really honing in on that flea. I’m honing in on how bad that note was. I’m really focusing on how awful that was.”
Put the magnifying glass down. Pull back. Get some perpective. Create some space. Be mindful. Allow that part of you to be totally irritated and annoyed. But turn to the bigger part of you who says, “You know what? This is just a process. And I am willing to go through the process. I love myself so much and I love singing so much that I’m willing to be lousy once in a while. I’m willing to be bad. I’m willing to sing lousy notes, bad notes, and unfinished sounds. I’m willing to experiment and take some risks. I’m willing to do that because I love myself so much and I love singing so much.”
There is where you’re going to make a progress. And that’s why this fellow can now do what he was not able to do before. Every time he has a fabulous lesson, he is in a headspace that is conducive to having fun and a fabulous lesson. When he makes a mistake, he laughs. He blows it off, and he goes right back up on the horse.
When he’s not having a great lesson or not doing well, his headspace is right there with him not doing well. He gets mad at himself. He gets frustrated. He starts breathing. You can tell by the look on his face. He starts doing EFT right in front of me. And then we both start laughing. He starts tapping. He says, “Man, I’m having trouble with myself right now.” And I push him.
And sometimes, I can really push him sometimes. Other times, I can tell, I can’t push him today. He’s not in the headspace. He’s not in a place to be pushed. He’s a deer in the headlights right now. He’s focusing so much on how angry he is, how much he hated that sound, and how much he thinks he should be able to do that that if I push, it’s going to be completely wasted energy for both of us. All he’s going to do is resist and all I’m going to do is push harder. So, I pull back.
I know how to teach that kind of stuff. There’s no use pushing somebody that’s pushing back. You can’t do that. You can only push somebody—and I don’t mean push in a bad sense—you can only guide somebody, lead somebody, encourage somebody, push somebody in that sense, if they’re open and receptive. But if they’re pushing back, forget about it. You have a reverse tug-of-war going. You’ve got two magnets, polarized, that are pushing at each other. Nothing’s working.
So, as a teacher for so many years, I’m sensitive to that. I can see when it’s not going to work. I pull back and do something else. I go to another exercise. I don’t beat a dead horse. I don’t beat over and over and over again. My ego isn’t involved. “I’m going to get this!”
It used to be, but it can’t be now because you’ve got to serve the student. You’ve got to be where they are. You’ve got to meet them where they are. You don’t have to be where they are, but you’ve got to meet them where they are. From there, you can go to another place. You can go to another level. You have to match the energy. You have to do that with yourself, as well.
If you’re singing one day, and you heard a clunker, and you feel like you sound awful, that’s okay. You can get annoyed. You can get totally annoyed. “I can’t stand that sound! That was horrible. Why do I do that?” Give yourself just a little of that, not too much. Then you get in it.
That’s a tailspin and you feel it’s a big doom loop that you get involved in. You start telling the story. You can tell the story alone, or you can say, “I hate this story. I hate sounding bad.” But don’t let yourself wallow in it.
I don’t let him wallow in it. I don’t push him. I let him have his moment. And then I switch directions and go into something else that I know he can do.
And do that with yourself. You’ve got to become your own teacher.
I had a great teacher one time. The first lesson, he said, “My job is to teach myself out of a job,” meaning “I have to teach you to be able to do this yourself, so you don’t need me anymore.” And I’ve always loved it. I thought, that’s my job, as well, is to teach myself out of a job with you, so that you don’t constantly need somebody harping away at you, trying to get you in your mix, trying to get our head right. You know what I mean? You really are present there yourself.
I’m really over the top today, I just noticed. It’s fun though. Hey, there are a lot of parts of me—the real subdued, relaxed, professorial-type, and then there’s this guy. This guy, I feel much more like today. I feel much more animated, much more in-your-face.
And I think this is really important. It takes some nerve to talk about this stuff with singers because I am getting right there and saying, “This is what I see after 30 years of teaching singing and being a singer.”
Now, if anybody has years on me, has been doing it for longer and sees something else, “Hey, I’m open. Shoot me an email.” But this has been my observation. I bet if I talk to a lot of singing teachers and my buddies, they would pretty much agree. They’d pretty much agree, probably, that they were that way themselves at some point.
When you’re dealing with yourself and your own issues, be okay with the part of you that isn’t doing what you think you should do, isn’t doing it as well as you should do it. Be okay.
Be okay if it gets you upset. Be okay with that. Don’t try and resist it. Don’t try and push that part of you down. Don’t say, “I shouldn’t be getting upset. He said I should enjoy this and allow myself to sound bad, but I still can’t stand sounding bad. And I know I need to get rid of that part of me that can’t stand sounding bad.” No, no, no. No. Just be compassionate and understanding with that part of you that doesn’t like sounding bad?
Who wants to sound bad? Come on, we’re artists. We know what sounds good. That’s the thing. We all have really, really good taste. We know what’s good. And that’s a double-edged sword because we know when we’re not good. We’re not dummies. We know when we’re not good. But we have to be okay with ourselves that we can get better.
One thing that Kevin Costner said in an interview years ago, that always stuck with me—Kevin Costner, the actor. He’s done some really good things and then some things I didn’t care for that much. Nonetheless, he’s got a huge career. He’s got an enviable career, a career that most actors would say, “Wow! That’s awesome. What a legacy.”
He said, “You know, when I started”—I’m paraphrasing, obviously. I’m not quoting. I’m paraphrasing. “When I started I didn’t think I was very good. But I knew I could get better, or I thought I could get better, or I deserve to get better,” or something.
There was something in there where there was an observation, a realistic observation of, “Wow, I’m not really very good right now, but I can get better” and a light-heartedness about it.
I think that’s what singers sometimes lack. There’s such a sense of urgency with us because it’s our voice, and we think it’s us. We want to sound good.
I was singing today. I was playing for my son’s homeschooling class, playing guitar and leading them in a song that they’re going to be performing. I sang with it a little bit. I went up for a little bit of a high note and my voice was really scratchy on it, so I pulled back, and really—I mean, there were some people there that probably have never heard me sing and probably didn’t even hear that note, but in my mind, I’m thinking, “Oh, man. I just sang. I’m singing around and I go up to the note, it’s not even high and I sound like, ‘aaaggghhhh…’ I guess I was kind of hoarse, anyway. It was really early” and all the excuses that we make, “Disclaimer. Disclaimer. Disclaimer.”
And that’s okay. But I carry that with me for a second. I thought, “Oh man, I hope they didn’t hear that.” Then I totally forgot about it.
But I am like you. I’m a singer, I’m the same way, I’m a whiner, I’m all of those things.
Anyway, enough said. I have talked on long enough. Episode number 50. I hope you liked this. And if you didn’t, you can email me and say you didn’t. If you did, you may email me and tell you did. Let’s get some engagement, some interaction here. I’m doing this podcast. I know people are downloading it, but I’m not getting as many comments as I would love to see and hear from more of you, folks. There’s my plea.
Anyway, thanks for listening, episode number 50. Onward and Upward. Thanks so much, you guys. Bye bye.