How Comparison Can Help You as a Singer
We all do it. It's human nature to look over to where the grass appears to be greener and react, but it's one of our most unhealthy tendencies. It's a habit that always leads to negative feelings without fail.
Comparison saps our energy, our ability to experience gratitude and our self worth, so why is it so addictive?
It starts off as simple curiosity – we love to learn all we can about the lives of others, to learn from them and gather ideas for our own journey. Unfortunately the longer we linger, the more likely we are to start comparing, moaning and berating ourselves (and those that we’re jealous of).
It’s a hard track to get off and we slide further and further into unhappiness and frustration. Why don’t I have that? Why aren’t I as rich as him? She’s not even that smart/talented/pretty, she doesn’t deserve to have that etc. See how negative that sounds (and feels)?
As singers we tend to compare ourselves to the recording artists we listen to which is unfair for so many reasons, but here are two of the biggies.
#1. Some recordings these days are not a true reflection of the artist’s voice.
I'm not going to start a rant about the state of the music industry, auto-tune or the ways tracks are created nowadays.
BUT remember that the recorded version is often multiple takes all sliced together to create the best possible sound. There's sometimes also layering, echo effects and backing singers that help to make it sound even more epic on the radio.
Make sure you check out videos of the singer performing the song live and take note of any changes they make to the song in terms of melody, range or key to make it less challenging or easier in terms of the energy required.
#2. Try to remember where you're at in your singing journey.
How long have YOU been singing for?
Many of the artists you hear on the radio have been singing for years and have spent hours and hours in rehearsal and with vocal coaches tightening up their technique. Is it really fair to compare yourself with that level of experience? Nope. Nope nope nopety nope nope.
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FLIP THE SWITCH (YOUR PERSPECTIVE)
I’m not going to lie to you and say that there’s an easy fix for comparison because there’s not. I fight that nasty little voice ALL THE TIME.
I don't have the belt range of Idina Menzel. I can't do whistle tone like Ariana or Mariah. I don't have the stage presence of Freddie Mercury.
But you know what? I could probably come damn close IF I took some action and did something about it.
The problem is that comparison is often paralysing.
We are so consumed by our lack mindset (my voice isn’t strong enough... I can’t riff fast enough... I have trouble belting etc.) that we can’t move forward. We don’t seem to get any traction and end up staying put (wallowing into our huge tub of Ben and Jerry's ice-cream).
What if we changed our mindset slightly?
What if when we saw a friend’s amazing gig photos, we used that as inspiration for getting our own tour happening rather than complaining that we never perform?
What if we decided to be inspired by the vocal agility of another singer who worked her butt off practising instead of bitching behind her back?
You want to use the success of others to drive you forward to attain YOUR version of that dream instead of staying put.
THAT'S GREAT IN THEORY KIM, BUT HOW?
Alright, grab paper and a pen (NOW, I'll wait here patiently until you get back).
Write down 5 vocalists that you admire (or used to be jealous of before we reframed it just then as something more positive). Try to have a mix of famous artists at the top of their game and singers that you know personally who are closer to your level of experience.
What do you admire about them specifically?
Is it their stage presence? Is it their vocal agility? Depth of tone? Control? Confidence?
Underneath each quality you admire about them, brainstorm ideas about how you could improve in those areas.
It may involve getting some extra tuition, taking a class, scheduling clear-cut practice sessions on a certain technique, challenging yourself to attend an open mic night, etc.
Then GO DO IT. You've got this, but you need to move forward and take some action. Don't be that person who complains about the success of others but doesn't work towards their own.
Change your take on it and smash those goals!
I also write about comparison in my little book The Moderately Tortured Artist.
If you'd like a peek at this chapter, head this way.
If it's something you enjoy and would like to get your hands on the rest, the book lives here.