Ability, Capacity, and Efficiency

Very quick thought today, with the intent of helping you to think a bit more critically and with neutrality about your singing.

Believing the wrong thing

Many people convince themselves that they can or cannot do something based on incorrect or incomplete information. For example, just because you can squeeze out (say) a particular note in a song with a good run up and a following wind behind you does NOT necessarily equate to having the ability to hit that note. Similarly, if you find you can do something (say) during a lesson in exercises without issue but then coming to a song it doesn’t carry over, this doesn’t mean you lack the ability to do that specific thing – if you can do it once, you can do it twice, thrice, and repeatedly… what you lack is the capacity to repeat it in a more demanding context.

What I’m trying to point out is that there is a difference between ability, and capacity:

Ability = Can you do something correctly, even if it’s just once or twice?

Capacity = Over what repetition range or duration/level of difficulty can you sustain doing that thing for? Especially

Efficiency = What you need to turn a “one and done” into something you can repeat over and over.

The difference between having the ability to do something just once, and the capacity to stretch that ability over a whole song or set of songs is governed by your efficiency.

It’s a bit like driving

When we first acquire the ability to do something, we are horrendously inefficient at it. We overmuscle things, we commit lots of mental resources to focusing on the task at hand. It’s physically and mentally hard, and it takes a LOT of energy to deliver. We fatigue quickly, even if we’re doing it right.

Think of it like when you first learn to drive a car. Think about how mentally and physically taxing it was at first. After a year, how easy was it? After 5-10 years or more, how easy has it become? And yet, the actions involved in driving don’t change or become easier, and our ability wasn’t lacking in the first instance. What changed was we became more efficient at the actions involved in driving, and in turn our capacity for driving grew. This all hinges on correct repetition, in order to became more efficient at the task in question.

The same is true with singing

Simply focus on acquiring a basic but correct ability, then work on improving your capacity through correct, repetitious practice. This will inherently make you more efficient at the task in question, and in turn grow your capacity. This is powerful because it works, but totally lacks glamour. Put in the work in the right way, and the results will inevitably follow.

Go and practice – keep up the hard work!

The Two-Factor Model in Strength Training, and the Voice

I was doing some reading about strength training the other day, and came across this excellent article about the Two-Factor Model in the world of strength training. As I was reading it, it struck me how similar this model was to the philosophy we have in our voice coaching system, and also how we effectively build a voice. It’s relatively straightforward in principle, but the outworkings are profound. Let’s have a look at the two-factor model. Continue reading “The Two-Factor Model in Strength Training, and the Voice”

Bad Voice Day?

This is something that every singer can relate to. Whether it’s legitimate illness, or hayfever, bad night sleep, excess revelry the night before, or something else entirely, we have ALL suffered from bad voice days. Worse still, we are all going to continue to experience bad voice days in the future. With that in mind, consider the following: Continue reading “Bad Voice Day?”

Recording Studio on a Budget

A good client of mine messaged me earlier this week about recording and performance equipment, e.g. practicing for singing with a band, or backing tracks, or recording studio on a budget. I’ve spent quite some time figuring out my own vocal studio gear over the years, so I thought it was worth putting down my recommendations here as well, for others who may well be interested.

Before we get started, we need to point out that the order you should buy these in will differ if you’re looking to record versus if you are wanting to practice with backing tracks etc. If you just want to practice with backing tracks then monitors/speakers would be the first port of call. If you are wanting to record vocals and mix songs etc then I’d say audio interface, headphones, and a decent microphone is your first port of call. As you add more equipment (like all of the following) you’ll find the setups start to converge. Continue reading “Recording Studio on a Budget”

Tongue Tension – a.k.a. Sounding like Kermit

For most people, singing (at first) tends to involve unnecessary tension. Sometimes this is extremely obvious, e.g. veins and tendons popping on their neck. Sometimes it’s moderately obvious, e.g. the vocal tone sounds strained. And sometimes it’s downright invisible.

Unnecessary tension

This typically occurs when *something* isn’t working quite right. This then means that other muscles that shouldn’t be involved in a particular function try to get involved and “assist” unnecessarily.

One of the most prevalent and frustrating sources of tension lies in tongue tension. Believe it or not, you’ve probably heard dozens of people sing with this kind of tension throughout the course of your life. Continue reading “Tongue Tension – a.k.a. Sounding like Kermit”

The Difference Between Amateurs and Pros

“Amateurs practise until they get it right, a professional until he can’t do it wrong.”

Extract from “Psychology for Musicians” by Percy C. Buck, circa 1944.

I’ve talked before about the importance of putting in the reps, and to be honest, I feel like I should have multiple articles devoted to this very topic, just for the appropriateness of illustrating the importance of repetition… by writing repetitiously about it! Continue reading “The Difference Between Amateurs and Pros”