Overthinking: Don’t Do It!

Written by on in Informative
Gears turning don’t equal work done.

Namasté, Dear Music Lover,

This will be one of my briefest posts here. I just want to acknowledge the importance of gaining control over one’s own mind—being a key aspect of training oneself as a pro vocalist.

We are given notes and guidance from composers about how to approach various texts and melodies (the voice being almost exclusively an instrument for ‘monophony’ [one pitch at a time]), yet in the course of “working up” (practising, rehearsing) a song, we can tend to overthink it.

We get immersed in the text, the style, the nuances of vocal inflections, or maybe the issues with the instrumentation, the mics, the mix and soon our performance suffers from mental overload, especially in live venue performances where distractions abound.

I think back to a U.S. Pritam show where there had been technical issues regarding electrical mains power not meeting contract specs, and the show ended up being canceled. That was a big disappointment for everyone, but often something less profound (maybe a buzzing speaker or sketchy mic cable) can be very distracting (if we allow ourselves to be distracted).

While it wasn’t his fault, Pritam made good for the audience anyway, because that’s his way of showing he cares. He’s like that in all respects, and I for one appreciate how he represents us all as Indian artists, even when easy criticisms could be lodged by the less-informed.

Matters may arise over which we have control; we’re called to act responsibly in any case, and that’s why he just handled it to his best ability. Sometimes the tech flubs just occur (from device failure, poor electrical connection, or whatever). One mark of a pro is they don’t get distracted by small matters.

Professionals also “don’t beat a dead horse“ (expecting a miracle to happen—e.g.. if the power is wrong, it can seriously damage everything and/or maybe even cause a fire). Short of catastrophe (e.g. maybe the tempo or key shifts unexpectedly by human error), we singers are simply expected to roll with it. There is little in life that goes off without a hitch. Still, others‘ mistakes are no excuse for us to let our efforts or principles slip.

It’s like an issue I’ve had with Footman Joe. He must follow through on his promises to me or suffer the pain of separation when I will not see him, yet he misses me so much! But I’ve learned to not let my standards drop merely to make his life easy or to ignore my own needs (and those of our audiences for the best possible performances).

I can speak to the pressure of singing live in a TV studio—possibly going out to millions of homes—where one wants to be a welcome presence singing the best possible version of the song… in any live scenario “stage fright” is one obvious potential issue.

Some slight degree of fear of success is healthy; more than a bit can be disastrous. We must each earn our own levels of confidence; the pressure is built-in; it’s best not to dwell upon (nor to effectively amplify it by focusing on) it, or else everyone’s joy is reduced. In such instances small things can matter.

I’ve been blessed with rather abundant confidence (surely in part from my parents imbuing my early experiences with positive reinforcement as I learned to stand, walk and sing—often, by imitating others, a skill that since then has served me well), and I’ve found music a far better fit for my dreams than acting.

This “stage fright” business can quickly become problematic (especially if the intent of the song is not to be an ambitious concert closer, for which overwrought emotions are usually okay). The main point I want to share here is that every song is different, and will have its own learning curve and trajectory as a “work product.”

Regardless of how ideal or perhaps challenging a given song may be in the present context, getting nervous about how one could fail to deliver it flawlessly certainly won’t make giving your best performance any easier! Be sure to practise your breathing, so you won’t run out of breath whenever you need it.

I think we as playback artists need to convey as strict or loose of an interpretation of any given song to fit the movie soundtrack in the ways wanted by both the filmmaker and the music director (while sometimes admittedly the ultimate goal ‘may’ be to create a “hit song” that will vastly outlive the movie; songs like Pritam’s “Gerua” and “Saree Ke Fall Sa” are such gems for us). 

My point is simply this: avoid overthinking, really meaning don’t dwell so much on minutiae or potential down-sides of anything (to the detriment of what you would otherwise produce in terms of your vocal output). Avoiding that vicious cycle of doubt and stress will help your career. Trust me!

Overthinking: Don’t Do It! 



PS: This goes along with some other basic concepts for aspiring singers: stay as healthy and as happy as possible—including get enough sleep to function well at a high level when called upon for any gig. 

We hear a lot about the new “gig economy” wherein not only musicians but all workers are expected to come in, perform a job function and leave, never expecting it to be a steady thing. 

I will finally close with this thought:

Don’t treat your professional and personal relationships like a gig or one-night thing. Word. Common sense (2 words), lol. It’s a good way to think, even for the most cerebral artiste!

PPS: Underthinking? Don’t do it, either, lol.


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