On New Year's Day, whilst out on a walk, I asked my husband what his goals for 2021 were. He scoffed at me, as if to say, what's the point of goal setting in the middle of a pandemic and a lockdown? I persisted though and we soon found goals that we could still take control over, and I realised that THAT is such a key lesson in goal setting. If our goal is "I want to sing like Mariah Carey" we're fighting a losing battle because everyone's voice is different and we all have different set ups that we have no control over. Another goal might be "I want to be able to sing the high note in Phantom of the Opera", but what if your voice actually suits alto songs more? This is not me trying to discourage you from stretching your voice and trying new things, but I think it's important that we keep our goals realistic and within our control, so that we keep our motivation up and don't just give up, announcing that we're failures. Here are seven steps to setting great goals for your vocal training.
Step One - Assess Where You Are Currently
This is probably the most important step on your goal setting journey. Where is your singing voice at now? What kind of songs do you sing well? What areas of technique do you feel you are good at? Are there areas for improvement? Maybe you feel like you've got a nice rich tone in your lower notes, but want to take that higher, or perhaps you've never quite understood what is meant when you're asked to support your voice. Take a moment to really think about these things and write them all down. You should start to see a list of areas you would like to work on. For example, I know that I'm good at the classic Musical Theatre sound, but I would like to improve my pop vocals, so that I've got more range.
Step Two - Be Specific
You will probably be familiar with the acronym, SMART, and this is a great rule to apply to setting singing goals. The 'S' stands for 'specific', so think about how you can really get down to the nitty gritty of your goals. Let's take my "improve my pop vocals" goal. That can be a bit wishy washy, so I need to think how I can make that more specific. What are the areas of pop singing that I struggle with? Is it less vibrato? Is it riffing? Is it falling off notes or sliding up to them? A more specific goal would be, "Improve my ability to riff" or "Work on singing with a straight tone and no vibrato."
Step Three - Make Sure Your Goal is Measurable
The "M" of SMART stands for measurable, so think about how you will know if you're making any progress towards your goal. If we think about my riffing goal, I could record myself singing a riff using a smart phone. Then, I can pop in my diary some weekly reminders to record it again. This way I can measure whether I am making any improvement. Is the riff starting to sound more free and more in control? There will hopefully be an audible, measurable difference if I've put the work in.
Step Four - Make Sure Your Goal is Attainable
"A" is for attainable. For example if your goal is to improve your pitching, don't expect 100% accuracy all the time if you know that right now you have a tendency to be a bit sharp or flat. Maybe start with making sure just the opening verse is improving in accuracy and don't move on until you feel much more confident. In terms of my riffing goal again, it would be silly of me to start with a really difficult Beyoncé riff, if it's something that's fairly new to me. I would be best to find something a little simpler and start with that. It feels great to have goals which you can tick off and don't seem a million miles away from your current skill set. Each attainable goal can lead on to those epic dream goals, that we think are unreachable.
Step Five - Make Sure Your Goal is Realistic
The "R" stands for realistic and can be a little confusing because it seems very similar to attainable, but I would say that 'attainable' is linked to your current skill set and 'realistic' is linked to your surroundings and also the rest of your life. This is absolutely KEY, particularly during a pandemic. Having a goal of "I want to be in Les Miserables on the West End" is great, but is that realistic this year, when we don't know what is happening in the world of theatre? This is where it comes back to what you can control. Perhaps your goal could be "prepare a Facebook Live or Zoom concert". This way it's up to you to make it happen, there are no gatekeepers stopping you and you are getting yourself out there. You'll be keeping your voice in shape for when theatres do come back and you could even invite some industry professionals to watch.
Step Six - Be Timely
Lastly, the "T" stands for time. All goals should have a time limit of when you would like to have achieved your goal. When I write all of my goals down I look at each one and see which ones are a top priority. There were some that I think I could get done by the end of January and some that could take six months or a full year. I try to order them and write a date next to each of them. It's always much more motivating to work to a deadline.
Step Seven - Be Responsive and Flexible
Once a goal has been set it doesn't have to be completely set in stone. Take some time on a monthly basis to come back to your goals and re-assess them. Life throws us curve balls all the time (particularly in the middle of a pandemic). If your goal was to record an album, but the recording studios are shut, you may have to re-think. Or perhaps there's a goal which you thought would take 6 months and you've smashed it by the end of January, in which case you can look at how to expand and take that goal further, or try a different goal which you had been saving for later in the year.
Good luck everyone! If you need help with any of your singing goals, please don't hesitate to get in touch, as I will always be happy to help.