For the first twenty-six years of my life, I was uncomfortable with my own voice. According to my parents, the first (and last) time they ever heard me singing was when I had come home from Sunday school at five years old. I was bouncing up and down on the bed, singing, “It’s happy, happy time, it’s happy, happy time!” Overjoyed, they came running to listen to me, but as soon as I had an audience, I clammed up. For whatever reason, I didn’t get over this shyness until about a year ago.
Self-expression did not come naturally to me, and it still doesn’t. The unfortunate thing about singing is that it is one of the deepest and most vulnerable forms of self-expression known to man (I’m not going to mention the other one). When someone sings, the colours of their soul are visible. That can be terrifying.
The upside of singing is that it can make us brave, even if we are just singing to ourselves. Singing can help us turn the light on in our own dark rooms and look hard at what we’re feeling. It can release pain, sadness, and anger. It can provide a vent when we’re happy and desperately want to share it with someone to keep our hearts from exploding. It can relieve loneliness, especially if someone is listening.
Whether you have a trained singing voice, an out-of-practice voice, or a voice that has never practiced, it’s okay! You have the right to use that voice. Many singers will tell you that singing is mostly improved with repetition – just working with your breath and vocal muscles.
The act of singing also has proven physiological benefits. These include improved breathing, circulation, and the release of endorphins. It puts us back in touch with the power of our lungs and vocal cords, and helps us to stand with feet planted firmly in our sense of self.
Singing can also be a form of prayer. The repetition and solemn melodies of chant, or sacred singing, steady the breath and calm the mind. If done with others, chanting can also increase feelings of belonging and connection. YouTube is a great resource for finding traditional recordings from different faiths.
Have you always wanted to try singing with others? Consider joining a virtual choir! The Sofa Singers invites people from all levels of experience to sing together from their living rooms via Zoom. Lifefulness Live offers a virtual sing-along on weekdays, and encourages everyone to get their neighbours involved!
There are still times I would rather listen to rocks and rusty nails in the dryer than the sound of my own voice. But I’m making progress! I’m learning to laugh when my voice falls miles short of the note I was aiming for, and to be patient with my early morning croakiness. One day I will sing the way I already sing in my soul.
Launay, J. (2015, October 28). Choir singing improves health, happiness – and is the perfect icebreaker. The Conversation.
Layton, J. (2009, June 2). Does singing make you happy? HowStuffWorks.
Walker-Arnott, E. (2020 March 24). You can now sing along with strangers in these virtual choirs. TimeOut.