• No one belongs here more than you…

    ..I borrowed that title from a collection of short stories by writer Miranda July, (which I still haven’t read!) but I’ve always loved it. How many of us have needed to hear that now and again?

     

    Today I want to talk about imposter syndrome, a silent epidemic of self-doubt that effects many performers, both professional and otherwise. It’s the belief that you don’t really deserve the success you’ve had. Perhaps you feel that you’re going to fail publicly if you take a risk?

    I probably don’t need to point out how counterproductive this is to giving an honest performance. It’s impossible to be truly present in the moment when we are second guessing ourselves. I have witnessed this phenomenon with singers who freeze when they hear their own voice through a PA system. It’s so easy to over-listen to your voice, and fall down a rabbit hole of analysis- this distracts us from (our true task) of communicating with our audience!

    This is true for all of us– life is a pitch after all! Perhaps you need to give a presentation in your office job, but you freeze, cotton mouthed while you have an out of body experience (and not in a good way!)

    Harvard professor Amy Cuddy describes imposter syndrome as feeling like a fraud. “impostorism causes us to overthink and second guess. It makes us fixate on how we think others are judging us (in these fixations, we’re usually wrong), then fixate some more on how those judgements might posion our interactions. We’re scattered- worrying that we are underprepared, obsessing about what we should be doing, mentally reviewing what we said five seconds earlier, fretting about what people think of us and what that will mean for us tomorrow.”

    Phew. sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s a link between perfectionism, performance anxiety and impostorism.

    Ironically, those who feel like frauds are often the most successful!

    However, external markers of success do not make you immune to feeling like a fraud.

    Writer Neil Gaiman suffers with impostor syndrome and has shared this anecdote with a fan who also suffers with impostorism. He talks about how he met Neil Armstrong:

    “Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

    On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of,” I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

    And I said,” . But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.

    And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.”

    If this is something you’ve ever felt, I hope you will find reassurance that you’re not alone.

    About 6 years ago I was offered a place on a group training program for music leaders. This was great news- but as a singer that couldn’t read music I was racked with self doubt.

    Despite my anxiety, I went along, made friends, and had the best time. Most of the musicians there were from leading conservatoires, and could play multiple instruments. I initially felt intimidated, but then I realised I wasn’t alone- there were other singers like me in the group. Singers from pop, rock and gospel backgrounds who learnt to sing by ear.

    We were split into small groups, and asked to devise a short composition together. To our surprise, many our formally trained classmates were in awe of our ability to improvise and create melodies out of thin air (even if we couldn’t say what those notes were!).Of course the admiration went both ways- but I learnt a valuable lesson from it.

    That’s not to say I won’t ever have those moments again- but I now know that it has a name, and that I’m not in terrible company either!

    So what is the solution? 

    Well, the first step is realising your not alone- there are others feeling just like you, but most people don’t like to share their insecurities. Being aware you have imposter syndrome can help you to ignore those doubts in the future.

    So keep singing, and know that no-one belongs here more than you!

    Want to read up on imposter syndrome? Both ‘Presence’ by Amy Cuddy and ‘ Beta: Quiet Girls can Rule the world’ are good places to start!

  • Do you need to change your mindset? Find out how..

    Hello singers!

    So, today I want to tackle the concept of mindset and how it relates to us as singers.

    I’d previously heard of the term ‘mindset’ in relation to positive thinking or being strong willed. i.e.. something you were told you should have- a kind of inner strength or resilience. So far, so good- however, what does that mean in practical terms? How does someone acquire this illusive ‘mindset’?

    According to Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck, there are two types of mindset, a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is where someone believes that their nature, talent and abilities are fixed. The problem with this is that it becomes far too easy to write off yourself and others. A fixed mindset is a powerless place to be. It leaves little or no room for development.

    For example, if you believe you were born with a finite amount of talent, you’re probably going to take it a lot harder if you mess up on stage, than you would if you believed that you can grow your talents. Instead of being useful, mistakes will feel like a threat to your very identity as a singer, perhaps even as a person!

    Generally speaking, those with a fixed mindset struggle to push themselves out of their comfort zone more than their growth mindset counterparts. If you believe you can’t grow or improve, you’ll be less likely to risk failure- because that failure will be interpreted as you being a failure.

    The truth is, we all need to fail in order to grow.

    According to Daniel Coyle, author of the Talent Code, ‘talent isn’t born, it’s grown’. Developing our talents takes commitment and persistence, and this is the only way to improve.

    Recognising that you have a choice can be hugely liberating. You decide- do you believe your talent is fixed? Or do you believe it’s grown? Which of these beliefs would you prefer to steer your creative path?

    Creating takes a great deal of humility. You have to get comfortable with operating at the edge of your ability. There really is no place for perfectionism or ego in creation. Give yourself a break from these tyrants and get to work!

    The below video will give you more insight into Carol Dweck’s research into the ‘growth mindset’.

    If you’d like to learn more about this topic, I highly recommend reading the following books:

    Mindset by Carol Dweck (of course)

    The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

    Presence by Amy Cuddy

    Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

    Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I hope you enjoy reading them, and that they blow your mind in the same awesome way they blew mine!

    If this post has been useful to you, please feel free to share it with your friends!

    Hannah 🙂

     

  • Singing Barbershop with the Hannah and the Hurricanes!

    On Saturday I went to a friend’s wedding. The bride sings in a barbershop quartet and her friends, the incredibly talented ‘Hannah & the Hurricanes’ performed. I was blown away with their impeccable timing, perfect pitch and memorising performance.
    Hannah & the Hurricanes are a mixed quartet, comprised of Andrea Day, Hannah Braham, Tim Briggs and Duncan Whinyates. They won the silver medal at the World Champion mixed quarter championships in 2016.
    After telling Baritone Tim Briggs how impressed I was by their performance. he kindly invited me to join them for a sing-song! I was given a melody to sing while the group sang beautiful harmonies. The harmonies moved around the melody, creating a gorgeous  clash and then resolution! (a process known as ‘tagging’)
    It was a LOT of fun and thanks to H&TH I’m now officially a barbershop fan! Check out the below video of Hannah, Andrea, Tim and Duncan smashing it!
    To find out more about Hannah and the Hurricanes, check out their Facebook page!

  • THIS IS THE ART LIFE

    Before studying vocal technique and becoming a teacher, I was a film student. I still love film, and enjoy getting lost in a great movie. Art has always crossed over with music, and veteran film director David Lynch has had an extraordinary influence on music! His influence is not only heard, but seen in countless music videos.
    Lynch’s cinematic style can be summarised as twisted, dreamy Americana.
    Bat for Lashes’ latest album and accompanying music videos are littered with Lynchian imagery. Lana Del Rey even covered Blue Velvet, a song ubiquitous with Lynch’s film of the same name. Lykke Li and Karen O have both worked with David Lynch on tracks. Watch the videos below to see what I mean. 🙂

    A few years ago, I spoke to David over Skype at a live Q&A session at the photographer’s gallery . I only had a moment to speak to my hero, but I was able to ask him how he stays so creative. (The answer apparently lies in his passion for transcendental meditation!) I’m always curious to learn more about his process and I got another opportunity last week when a new documentary about Lynch premiered in UK cinemas.
    As always I found his commitment to creativity and following his gut motivating and inspirational. Here is what I learnt…
    David talks about how he ‘sucked at painting’ when he started out (his first medium before film) but that he just carried on and on until he got better. He worked hard and stayed committed to the process of refining his craft, even on bad days. Amen to that.
    Lynch is known for being a bit of an enigma, and he rarely talks about his personal life. During filming he opened up about the experience of being a young artist- he recalls showing his father research for an art project (decomposing fruit and insects) and that his father believed him to be deeply disturbed as a result. He describes his parents as supportive, kind people. Despite this, they doubted the legitimacy of his career as an artist. On fathering his first child, his father and father in law put pressure on him to abandon his art and take a steady office job. David was heartbroken but channelled his desperation into making his first film a success. He went on to make one of the most celebrated TV shows of all time (Twin Peaks) and direct several critically and commercially successful films including Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive.
    Dedication to your craft and your purpose, even when others doubt you? Dedication to your craft and purpose even on days when you don’t feel like it, or you realise you suck at painting (or dancing, or singing)- and doing it for the love of it anyway?
     THIS IS THE ART LIFE.
    July 27, 2017 By @HannahMarie Inspiration Lifestyle Video , , ,
  • 5 music memoirs to inspire YOU

    I have a confession to make. I have a book problem. A genuine book problem. at any given moment I have an audio-book on the go, and my bookshelves are always overflowing. Don’t even think about letting me loose in Foyles. In good news though,  consider me your faithful music memoir reviewer. Here are 5  memoirs that have valuable lessons for every musician out there..

    1)You don’t need to come from a rich background (and have piano lessons from age 2!) to be a rock star!

    One of the best memoirs I’ve ever read is the hilarious, witty, and at times heartbreaking Clothes, Music, Boys by Viv Albertine. Viv grew up without any female guitarists to look up to. She was from a working class background and thought music was the domain of rich men. So what did she do? she jumped right in and became the guitarist in The Slits (one of the most influential punk bands to date!) By doing so, she paved the way for countless women after her. In my opinion, the most inspiring  part of the punk movement was the ‘can do’ attitude.

    Takeaway: Can you string a couple of chords together? You can make music. do it.

    2) Even legends make things they hate sometimes. oh, and they’re just people! 

    I enjoyed reading Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, and I was hit by the fact that being Bob Dylan has involved quite a lot of mundanity at times. Yes Dylan had a meteoric rise, but he’s also had years of plugging away at music since, and he’s no stranger to the daily grind. He’s also put time and money into projects he ended up hating and scrapping.

    Takeaway:Bob Dylan is a genius. If he gets stuck sometimes, perhaps we can be a bit more patient with ourselves? 

    3) Singing is a job. It’s not always glamorous!

    Want to understand the reality of being a singer? Read Tracey Thorn’s Naked at The Albert Hall. Tracey fronted Everything but the Girl but was a reluctant pop star.  Tracey discusses the wide spread fantasy people have about singers. It’s easy to assume singers are born talented, like angels that fell out of heaven with perfect voices. This is not so. Yes talent is a big factor, but hard work is a much bigger part of the puzzle.

    Takeaway: Singers are made not born. So keep practising!

    4) You don’t have to be an extrovert to be a performer!

    Often it’s the introverted, quiet types that long for the stage. Take Carrie Brownstein, guitarist in Sleater-Kinney. Carrie might have looked cool rocking out on stage, but she’s suffered from anxiety along the way. Sleater-Kinney broke the rules when it came to music. Lead Singer Corin Tucker would often tune the guitar to her voice, rather than to the other instruments, which gave Sleater-Kinney a discordant sound. Talk about doing things your own way.

    Takeaway: Don’t be scared to be yourself! 

    5) Follow your dreams, at the very least you’ll have an adventure!

    Last but by no means least, I can’t recommend Just Kids enough!This is Patti Smith’s memoir, and at it’s heart is a book about daring to be an artist. I don’t think Patti knew what she was going to end up doing (becoming the ‘Godmother of Punk’ couldn’t have been predicted!) but she knew it was going to be special.

    Takeaway: whatever you need to do to support your dream, do it. Have faith in your purpose and hustle, hustle, hustle!

    Is there an amazing memoir I’ve missed? drop me a comment and let me know!

    June 20, 2017 By @HannahMarie Advice Inspiration Singing Uncategorized
  • Why I joined a choir- and you should too!

    A few months ago, I discovered an article on the Voice Council website- How a choir inspired my Solo Artistry  by Anil Sebastian. I was blown away by the video of Anil and London Contemporary Voices performing. Their talent, beautiful arrangements and interesting song choices left me seriously impressed. I hadn’t come across a choir like this one before. Then I found out a friend of mine ( the talented musician Billy Boguard ) was in the choir too, AND LCV were auditioning new singers. I’ve since joined the choir, and recently performed with them at Oval Space.

    LCV at Oval Space, London, 6 April 2017. Photo by Carsten Windhorst / FRPAP.com

    Our ‘Guilty Pleasures’ set included Lady Gaga, Bon Jovi, and One Direction- all while dressed in our most fabulous clothes. I can honestly say it was a great night- uplifting and full of dancing! Several of my friends left wanting to join a choir, and I would definitely encourage them to. Here’s why:

    Being in a choir is good for your health

    According to the British Voice Association, Choirs have been shown to synchronise their heart and breathing rates, increasing and decreasing them in response to the music. It can also help to reduce high blood pressure, and improve breath control.

    It’s a great way to make connections 

    Whether you want to make friends with like-minded people, or are looking for other singers to collaborate with, a choir is a great opportunity for this.

    You develop your musicianship

    Depending on your vocal range, you will be assigned a voice part (Bass, Baritone, Tenor, Alto, Mezzo or Soprano). More often than not, you will be singing harmonic lines that differ from the main melody. You may even be using your voice in a rhythmic way or singing a guitar riff! This all helps to “train your ear.”

    You can be part of something amazing without being centre stage

    Not all singers want to be the ‘lead singer’ and that’s OK! You still need to ‘perform’ as a member of a choir, but the focus is less on you as an individual, and more on your role within the group.

    Its a lot of fun

    This doesn’t need much explanation- there’s just something so joyful about singing with others, whether its with friends at the end of night out, over karaoke or onstage in a choir.

    Our next gig is Beneath The Tracks at Omeara on May 8th- Come along!

    If you’re inspired to join a choir yourself, why not check out www.choirs.org.uk to find a choir near you.

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    LCV at Oval Space, London, 6 April 2017. Photo by Carsten Windhorst / FRPAP.com

     

    April 20, 2017 By @HannahMarie Uncategorized
  • Films to inspire the musician in you

    Whilst my primary passion in life is music, I am also a film lover. There’s something so comforting about getting lost in a movie. My favourite films are those that not only entertain, but inspire you to create. Films are often a source of inspiration for me, and here is a list of films I recommend to inspire the musician in you.

    Searching for Sugar Man

    This documentary is beautiful, moving and so inspiring on a human level. I feel like this film must be good for your health 🙂

    La La Land

    Sorry to those of you who feel you’ve already heard enough about La La Land, but what’s not to love. Great songs, dazzling visuals and amidst it all- poignant gems of truth. Every artist doubts themselves at times, and finding your own path can be hard. La La Land is sure to resonate with many hearts- now and in the future.

    God Help The Girl

    This film is both happy and sad, and peppered with stunning visuals. The portrayal of mental illness, supportive female friendship, and the solace of music elevates this film beyond your average coming of age drama. Don’t be surprised to find yourself inspired to write your own songs..

    Sing street

    Sing Street will make you laugh and cry (and laugh again!) The message is clear- life happens, but music is a life line.

    Supersonic

    Whether you’re an Oasis fan or not, I highly recommend this documentary. Using archival footage, it follows their meteoric rise. This is a rock and roll fairytale that could never be repeated. Nevertheless, the band’s early self belief, passion and hard work will inspire you. Oasis were a band that performed for the sheer, unadulterated love of it. That’s something we can all aspire to.

    So put the kettle on, sit back and fill your brain with inspiration!

    Are there any films you recommend? What inspires you to create? Feel free to share! 

     

    April 6, 2017 By @HannahMarie Inspiration Lifestyle Singing , , ,
  • Loving your voice- right now: appreciating your strengths in the present moment

    For a lot of us, January is a time of resolutions and good intentions. We may want to make positive changes to our lifestyle and set goals for the year ahead. I think it’s important to work towards goals, but it’s also important to appreciate where you are right now.

    Taking a moment to reflect on what you do well (as well as what you’d like to improve) is important. Appreciating your current level of ability and the obstacles you’ve overcome to get there is a strong motivator. Think about the skills you have to offer your audience right now. Perhaps you have a gift for touching people with your vulnerability or you have a vital message to share?

    It’s desirable to develop strong technique, but if we become obsessed with perfection, and overlook the strengths we already possess, then singing quickly stops being enjoyable. And wasn’t that the point to begin with?

    So when you’re setting your goals this January, don’t forget to build upon your strengths as well as working on your weaknesses. If you’re not sure what your strengths are, ask a couple of people (you trust, who have heard you sing.)

    Jenny Lee Lindberg, solo artist and bassist in Warpaint recently discussed the unrealistic demands she imposed on herself: “I didn’t like my voice for a very long time- I’d have to tell myself, ‘You’re not gonna sing like Barbra Streisand, Patsy Cline, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston… Eventually I asked myself, ‘What is your strong point? Go there.’ And when I started doing that, all of a sudden I didn’t hate the way my voice sounds. You know what? Now I kinda like it.”

    Look at the singers and bands who have inspired you. Often the things that move us in other singers are reflective of our own strengths, even if those strengths are not currently being used. Use this time to get clear on who you are as an artist, and what the new year holds …

     

    January 9, 2017 By @HannahMarie Advice Singing , ,
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