When we listen to improvisational jazz, or solo classical violinists, the way they phrase and inflect melodies feels vocal, like they're talking to us. When I was figuring out how to perform solo, I wanted to move back and forth between bass riffs, melody, and harmony, so I often used sounds instead of - or alongside - the words of a song. I found that if I sang a line using the consonants, vowels, shadings, and inflection we recognize as human language sounds, people responded as if I were talking to them.
Here's a little song I wrote You might want to sing it note for note Don't worry, be happy In every life we have some trouble But when you worry you make it double Don't worry, be happy Don't worry, be happy now
If I stand there, appreciating the world around me as full of amazing sounds and the possibility of new ones, I think that invites other people to see the world that way, too. I love sharing the experience of singing with people, and I love sharing my stories. But when it comes to teaching, I have a lot of help.
Remembering that life can be full of surprises is useful in any part of your life. You can try a new way of singing a song you've performed for years, a new way of showing your family your love for them, or a new recipe. Don't just play the licks you know. We're all improvising all the time - it's good to recognize that and embrace it.
If I sing "you broke my heart, you left me flat," everyone knows exactly what that means - they know the story. But if I sing a line that's plaintive or wailing, people can experience their own set of emotions and their own story. Each of us might give that phrase a different meaning. It's open to interpretation, and one song becomes a thousand songs. I love that.
I try not to "perform." I try to come on stage and be myself, to sing the way I would in a room by myself, to interact with the audience the way I would relate to them if we were in my kitchen drinking tea and making up silly songs. Maybe the way to get past the fear of being ourselves is simply to try it more often.