Perfectionism. It gets the best of me on a daily basis. It gets the best of most of us. One thing I’ve learned from my years of vocal training is that there is no perfect. It’s an unattainable goal. You will never be perfect. Renee Fleming isn’t perfect and neither am I. This was one of the more difficult concepts for me to comprehend throughout all of my years of schooling. I was brought-up to be a hard worker with high standards and a cut-throat self-critic. I would spend endless hours in the practice room going over the same vocal phrase, over and over, striving for my perception of perfection. What I didn’t yet understand was that eventually the practice becomes counter-productive as you wear out your energies and, worse, your voice. Before a performance or an audition, I would practice non-stop in an effort to make the songs just that much better. However, that would end up working against me in the performance because I’d be vocally tired and my concentration would be shot. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword and a psychological hurdle that you have to overcome. Sure, singing takes a great deal of hard work and perseverance and practice, but you also should not over-practice, seeking out the impossible perfection.
On Saturday I had the opportunity to record a few arias to use for prescreening recordings. In a recording studio, perfectionism is the devil on your right shoulder while acceptance is the angel on your left. The pressure in these sessions is a bit overwhelming. You’re paying an accompanist, a teacher, a recording engineer, and sometimes a fee for the hall…. all by the hour, in the hopes of obtaining a marketable recording. You really only have a few chances to create a “perfect” recording before your voice starts to tire and your nerves start to fry. Sometimes I find recording sessions to be more difficult than live performances. In a live performance, if you make a mistake, you have to move on. You don’t have the option to go back and fix any problems. You just keep singing. In a recording, you always have the option of singing through the song again to make things better. It’s a perfectionist’s nightmare because you can always make it better. It took me several recording session fight that devil on my shoulder. You can’t be perfect. Instead, you just attempt to do the best you possibly can. Perfection is obtaining an accurate depiction of what you can do, both the good and the bad, not reaching for this elusive goal of achieving something you are not physically ready to achieve. You just hope to do your best, and that’s all you can ask for…. both in the recording studio and in life.