There Are No New Thoughts

How liberating to know there are no new thoughts!  Everything we ponder has been pondered before.  Think about it.

Barring great pioneers such as Albert Einstein, the rest of us should not expect to bring brand new knowledge into the world.  New collections of ideas maybe, but not new ideas themselves. We all borrow or steal ideas from each other as a matter of course.  This is the way of it – across time and across the human condition.

Both Byron Katie and Elizabeth Gilbert discuss this topic in their work.  “There are no new stressful thoughts,” Katie says.  Gilbert agrees: creative work consists of recycled and re-purposed thoughts uniquely brought together.  We are not working with new materials here, people.

So, why would the idea of “no new thoughts” be liberating and not depressing?

Because it takes the pressure off.  If we are trying to be *totally original,* then we miss the opportunity to enjoy creativity itself.  Who planted the idea in our collective psyche that in order to have worth we need to make new discoveries?

Have you ever wanted to write a piece of music or sing a song, but stopped yourself before you ever put down a note?  Because you knew it wasn’t going to be “original?”  (yeah, me too.  we all do it.)

But, that thinking doesn’t make sense.  What’s the purpose of being creative?  It’s to experience being creative!  By embracing that there is nothing new under the sun, you are suddenly free to . . . create, or teach, or even . . . love.

We can also take a great deal of comfort knowing we are not alone.

Let’s use voice teaching as an example.  Justin Petersen writes a blog on historical pedagogy that angles to show how, on some level, nothing much has changed.  He loves hunting down historical texts on voice pedagogy, and observing them through a modern lens.  Guess what?  They were saying the same things about voice and voice teaching we say today.  Again, no new ideas.

For all the voice teachers in the house who feel alone, confused, and adrift in their teaching practices, I guarantee you are experiencing the same things voice teachers have experienced across time.  The voice is complex and mysterious.  We could all stand to read up on what the ancient Greeks had to say about voice, as well as leaf through modern science journals and method texts.

Justin offered me a great piece of advice the other day – for every modern book, read 3 old ones.  And if you don’t have time for that, at least one old book for each new.

Anne Karpf’s research on The Human Voice reveals that Greek vocalists utilized three different kinds of teachers.  One each for resonance, intonation, and inflection.  Again, all concepts of voice training we drool over today.  And again, nothing new.

May this post allow you to enjoy thinking the same thoughts that have pervaded human consciousness across time.
May you feel relief knowing you are not alone.
May you let go of trying to “be original” and just enjoy being!


Continue Reading

The Gift of Limitation

“It is amazing what can happen if you force yourself into a limitation.”
Iris Scott, Fingerpaint Master in 60 sec docs

Life can seem like a series of limitations.  We often don’t have what we think we need or want.  (Notice the word *think.*)

But, as it turns out, what we have is exactly . . . what we need.  Because we have it.  In the moment, we can perceive something as a limitation, or we can become friends with it – stop fighting against it.  This is the only way to find peace.  Because peace happens in the moment and no where else.

We can either let go and fall in love with what’s in front of us, or not.  “Forcing ourselves into a limitation” is another way of saying “let go,” or “accept what is.”

The gift of limitation can turn out to be peace and/or joy in the moment.

Sometimes being backed into a corner, or up against a wall, also yields great creativity and inspiration.  If we let it.


Continue Reading

You Already Know How to Sing

You already know how to sing. Whether you or anyone else thinks you are good at singing is another matter entirely.

For the self professed “singers” in the house, I want to address your fears around voice training. If there are any.

When I started my singing career, I had no clue how my voice worked and had even less desire to learn about it.  I just wanted to sing, which is the case with most working singers.

Why analyze something you’ve always been able to do?  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – right?

Then, like so many other unsuspecting singers, I discovered a love for teaching that dovetailed beautifully with a love for helping people.  (Working with voices is the perfect job for someone interested in music, psychology, and science btw.)

Soon after I began teaching, I discovered the world of voice science. That discovery sparked an insatiable desire to learn about vocal function.

This step, learning the mechanics and acoustics of the body, necessarily requires teachers.  Voice teachers. Ugh. Who wants to take a “voice lesson?”  And where could I go to learn how the voice works without getting accosted with an aria?

Like so many other singers who do just fine on their own musically, I was suddenly frozen between wanting to know more about how the voice works and not wanting anyone to tell me “how to sing.”  In this case, sing jazz.

Fast forward a few years, and finally . . . meet Tom Blaylock.

Continue Reading

3 Common Straw Phonation Mistakes

To supplement the plethora of free straw phonation resources online, here is more to think about.  Aren’t you excited?

Did you know there are mistakes you can make while using a straw for your singing or speaking voice?

If no, then read on dear voice friends . . .

#1 Air and sound leakage

Whether you prefer to use a cup of water with your straw or not, it’s important to keep the lips sealed around the straw while phonating.  This keeps all the sound and airwaves contained in the tube of the straw, which has essentially become an extension of the vocal tract.

Looking to the physics of a moving column of air through a tube, the length (L) of the tube is very important for calculating how that air behaves.  The length used in these calculations assumes a sealed tube with no leaks.  By letting air (and sound) leak out at the level of the lips, you won’t the same effect as keeping your lips sealed.  With leaks the equations are upended, and the system is compromised.

(There are other good reasons for keeping your lips sealed, but that’s another post for another time.)

Continue Reading

Why Are We Terrible at Breathing?

I’m sincerely asking: why are we terrible at breathing?  Why don’t we spend time practicing?

There are endless free resources about techniques and health benefits of breathing.  This post aims to posit questions about why we are terrible at it.  Terrible meaning not paying attention to it, and therefore not practicing it.  We meaning the collective we.

There may be a lot of reasons, but here are a few ideas to get the conversation rolling.

The primary reason we might be terrible at breathing is because the thought of having poor skills or awareness about something our bodies do automatically sounds ludicrous.

The ego will judge the above question seriously flawed and dismiss it before we even realize what’s happened.

Truth: our bodies breathe for us.

At night while we sleep.
After we’ve passed out.
All day long without a conscious thought involved.
Breathing happens.

Truth: the body is very good at breathing.  It is just how we do.

You can see how the concept of “getting better at breathing” can be shot down instantaneously by the ego, right?

Is this why we basically ignore breathing?

Do we ignore breathing because our minds won’t allow us to experience things that are “too simple,” or “too easy” or “automatic?”

“Why pay attention to breathing when I don’t have to?” says the ego. So, it doesn’t.

What Happens if We Start Paying Attention to the Breath?

In order to get better at breathing, we must begin at the beginning.  Albeit breathing is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, it can also be directed.  It is both automatic and controllable.

Continue Reading