It’s funny how many of my high school vocal lessons translate into guidelines for social media. Here are a few tips I've learned as a singer that have also helped me think about social media in useful ways:
  1. It’s all about the song. I can run scales and hit divalicious high notes till my nose bleeds, but if it doesn’t add to the meaning of the song, it’s all in vain. So too in social media. We are capable of all kinds of fancy, flashy things. But if they’re not adding to the meaning, the value, of what we’re trying to put out in the world, why waste the effort?
  2. Practice. Some are more naturally gifted vocal artists, some have social artistry down pat, but we could all do with a little refresher course. 
  3. Give your voice a break now and then. Same with social media. Turn off, recuperate. It'll do your voice (or eyes, or mental health) good.
  4. Sing your own songs. It’s your voice, literally and metaphorically. Be who you are, be real, and be heard. People will appreciate it.
  5. Sing other people’s songs your way. A couple years back there was a contestant on American Idol who sang “I Will Always Love You” pitch-perfect. The judges’ criticism? She sang it too much like Whitney Houston's version; she didn’t make it her own. There’s always room in the world for a really clever, fun, unique, poignant, unusual, or just damn good cover. How does this translate into social media? Curate good content. Comment on it. Make it yours.
  6. Learn from great voices. When I was first getting in to singing, I focused a lot on being a great belter - it was all about hitting notes high and strong. And that has its place. But then I would listen to Billie Holiday and her deep-blue swing, or Willie Nelson’s southern sentimentality, or Ani DiFranco’s chatty interludes, or James Brown’s vocal fireworks, or any number of unique voices. I took a little bit here, a little bit there, learned from each one, and developed my sound. So too in the social-digital world do I keep my eye on the voices of those I admire, and imitate them, and learn from them, and they help me find my own voice.
  7. Sing with others. It’s hard to give up center stage. But I tell you, nothing teachers you more about being a good singer than having to sing with someone else, and there are few things more rewarding than a really beautiful chorus of human sound. One would think this piece would be easy online; social media is inherently social, right? But you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget this, and how often we can fall into star mode, losing sight of the chorus.
Any singers/social media gurus out there have something to add or amend? Or, has anyone else transferred lessons from another activity, hobby, or talent into the online world?  
 


02/20/2012 10:57pm

As a choir and chorus singer myself, I smiled at the analogy, and agree with what you are proposing here. I would also add that social media is like singing, it does serve a "higher" purpose, that can elevate the level of communication in a different sphere than traditional - non interactive - media!

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02/22/2012 7:43am

I love this post. Some time back, I reflected on my experience at Scratch DJ Academy and how it informed my work. Take a look at http://thenotoriousrav.blogspot.com/2009/08/everything-i-needed-to-know-i-learned.html

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02/23/2012 6:38pm

Interesting! I know there are times when I am my voice, and sometimes when it's THE voice, separate from me. That usually happens when THE voice is off, not at its best, lost... making me quiet and withdrawn, sad and alone. THE voice retreats when it's not feeling well, and so do I. I guess each time I log on, post, tweet, blog etc, I'm deciding whether at that moment I am the same as my voice, or am I speaking with THE voice, something a little distant from my own soul and self. When all is good, it's all the same. When it's not, there is disunity, separateness, and communication suffers. Hmmm....must think on this a little more!

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09/27/2012 9:04pm

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