Outside In And Inside Out

Some people tend to think too much. In the process experience is cheated and not fully realized. On the flip side there are those who get so caught up in the spontaneity of riding the highs and lows that the experience is never fully appreciated because it isn’t understood and therefore can’t be repeated.

Obviously (or hopefully) each of us thinks and feels our way through life every single waking day. As a singer the key is to strike some sort of a balance between the two. That is not to say that if you tend to lead by emotions that you need to numb those feelings. You simply need to identify them, understand them, temper them when necessary and direct them to heighten your experience.

Thinkers And Feelers

For those that lead by a tendency to “over think,” you need to cut loose a little and allow yourself the freedom to feel your way through things. Many times an overly analytical person will hesitate or procrastinate and eventually become so paralyzed by thought that opportunities are missed. These are the types for which “just do it” is often a good thing. On the other hand “just do it” can lead the sensation-driven individual down a very destructive path.

So what does all of this have to do with singing? Plenty! Many of these articles emphasize communication, connections, and relationships. The same applies here. The goal is to get “I think” and “I feel” to work together on becoming “I can,” “I will,” and “I do.”

Many mentors and coaches in the arts refer to what appear to be diametrically opposed approaches as working inside-out or outside in. Inside out starts with a feeling or a thought and pulls it out to create something while outside in starts with the experience or thought and reels it in to catalogue and use for future reference.

Think of a moment you’ve had performing or playing with a song where you were taken someplace beyond anything you thought you knew or to a level you had never felt before. The same applies when hearing a song or when seeing someone perform. You were taken some place or made aware of something you’d never thought of or felt before. In its simplest terms these are those inside-out and outside-in moments that become part of your creative consciousness, that “I think” or “I feel” and now want to be able “to do.”

We all engage this to some extent. The key goal is to get those who think too much to free themselves up to experience and feel. What they think will naturally find some place to file it. For those who feel without thinking, there needs to be more care taken to consider goals and reasons for engagement so that those feelings can be most fully realized and appreciated by the performer and by the audience.

A Liberating Exercise

Here is a simple fun, freeing exercise that will (1) help you identify if you lead more by thinking or feeling and (2) engage the “just do it” and “let’s think about it” parts of your personality that when properly engaged are vital to your growth and success as a singer.
Begin by writing down two “styles” of music that are your favorite to listen to and two styles that come most naturally to you. It can be classic rock, hip-hop, sacred hymns, whatever comes to mind or heart. Make sure you have a recording device ready to go as you’re set to learn something about yourself that will be fun to revisit on both crappy and happy days.

Next, think of two or three singers, friends, actors, or cartoon characters that you’ve been known to imitate or maybe you just wish you could sound like them, look like them, or even poke fun at them. Whoever or whatever they may be, write these down .

Now think of a familiar or favorite song, something that you could sing backwards, forwards, and sideways while sleepwalking. In other words take a song you either “know by heart” or have fully “committed to memory.” You want it to be a song you have strong feelings about and clear thoughts of how and where it should be sung – period.

I’m sure you know where we’re headed now. The objective is to grab your list of styles and to sing your song of choice straight through style by style until you’ve made it through one round of all four styles at least once. But you’re not done yet.

Imitation And Style

Now, assign a specific style from your list to each of those individuals on your “imitation” list. Then, proceed to sing your favorite song as each of them in the style you’ve assigned. Again, make sure your recorder captures these historic very strange moments.

Once you have held your mini-concert or demo-session or audition, take out a piece of paper and write down what you thought and felt, what was hardest to do and easiest to do. Then think about any moments you had where you felt most “connected to” either to the imitation, the song or the style.

Take Note

Now, listen to the recording one time through. Afterwards write down what you enjoyed most and what completely turned you off.

What this exercise does is get the thinker to feel silly enough to cut loose and force the sensation driven type to have to think a little more about how to pull the pieces together and then make some sense of it.

Once you get this exercise you’ll be amazed at just how versatile you really are or maybe how open you need to become to new ideas or sensations as a performer. It will also get you better acquainted with both of the “I think” and “I feel” parts of your creative self.

It’s also a fun exercise to relieve stress, warm up the voice, or torture, annoy, and entertain your friends and family.