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Adrenaline in Singing (& How Meisner Helps Us to Embrace It)

Singing, even when we’re well-prepared, is stress inducing.

When we sing, we get a boost of happiness from endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. However, we also get an increase of the stress hormone we all know too well:

Adrenaline directly affects our sympathetic nervous systems, which in turn affects our singing.

You’ve probably had adrenaline affect your voice in the following ways:

Unlike other musicians, singers’ bodies are our instruments. Therefore, we have to understand how to work with our adrenaline rather than letting it sabotage our performances.

Luckily, science tells us that that we can actually benefit from our performance adrenaline by:

  • Normalizing and naming our feelings

  • Engaging the parasympathetic nervous system

  • Deliberately opening up our awareness

The Meisner technique gives us the tools to implement each. Here’s how:

  1. Normalizing and naming our feelings

The more we deny our feelings or think, “Adrenaline is the enemy of my ability to sing well,” the better chance adrenaline has at affecting our performances negatively.

The Meisner activity of repetition helps us to get in our bodies and practice the clinically-proven tool of simply stating how we feel and moving through the experience.

The act of putting a name to our feelings helps us

  • bring them to light,

  • calm our sympathetic nervous systems down,

  • & assure our fight-or-flight responses that what we’re experiencing is not to be feared.

2. Engaging the parasympathetic nervous system

Musicologist Liz Garnett explains that “the rest-digest system is yin to the sympathetic nervous system’s yang.”

When we feel adrenaline while singing, we want to avoid activities that are analytical and would put us back in our heads. This includes:

  • Making last minute corrections or adjustments

  • Reviewing anything that’s already in your muscle memory (lyrics, rhythms, vocal technicalities)

Instead, we want to bring calm consciousness to the present moment. Meisner-trained singers can engage this by repeating with themselves or the room (check out our classes to see how we do this!) or focusing on an independent activity.

3. Deliberately opening up awareness

Singing has the propensity to shut down our peripheral awareness, which can make us

  • Robotic & glazed over

  • Unable to connect

  • Unable to hear & fix pitch issues

  • Unable to respond truthfully in the moment

Garnett asserts that “deliberate attention to opening up awareness both helps moderate the rush of adrenaline and mitigates its isolating effects.”

The Meisner technique gives singers the tools to deliberately train our brains to be open and aware by simply focusing outward.

So the next time adrenaline is affecting your singing, try using the Meisner tools of:

  • Repeating a partner, yourself, or the room

  • Independent activity, focusing on exactly what you’re doing at that moment

  • Opening up your awareness to your environment, letting that affect your inner experience

Adrenaline doesn’t have to be feared.

Meisner just might be the answer to rerouting it from sabotaging your singing to enhancing it.

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