Working with your Inner Critic

Working with your Inner Critic

Last week we had our first summer workshop of the season. The 2014 Vocal Workshop was presented by myself and a fellow Westminster College alumnus, Kevin Shields. Throughout the 5 day workshop, students focused on warm-up techniques, solo and ensemble singing, and they also explored a variety of performance topics.

Tuesday’s topic was…

The Inner CriticPicture2

Everyone has an inner critic. Whether you’re a writer, musician, dancer, or if you just live on this planet, you have a little voice inside that can sometimes be super critical. This “Inner Critic” has a tendency to throw us off of our game, and can pull us away from being present and in the moment. (Which is where you SHOULD be when you’re performing!)

While you might not be able to get rid of your Inner Critic, you can learn to make it a bit quieter. Like anything in music, stifling your Inner Critic takes a lot of practice. It takes discipline to be able to acknowledge and let go of our fears.

Inner Critic

One of the techniques we discussed last week focused on getting to know your Inner Critic. Why would we want to do such a thing? The more we know ourselves and our Inner Critic, the less power they tend to have. During the workshop, students were asked to write a description of their Inner Critic.

Personify your inner critic. Give your critic a name. Write a detailed description of what he or she looks like. How does he or she move or sound or smell? Include all five senses in your description. Who is this person? What kind of character does she have? What makes him tick?

The names that students came up with were rather creative! We had Inner Critics named Mr. Meanie, Icky Vicky, Brittany, and Maximillion. Some of our Inner Critics were sloppily dressed and had a rather bad “odor” to them, and others were well-groomed and had a shrewd and professional sort of air.


As the exercise continued, students got more acquainted with their Inner Critic. Sometimes the discussion made us laugh – other times it made us pause and realize that all of our Inner Critics were rather similar. The exercise included five different steps, but for purpose, we focused on the first two: 1) Personalizing the Critic and 2) Asking what the Critic Wants. Most of our Inner Critics actually wanted us to perform well, but rather than focusing on aspects that would help us, our Inner Critics liked to pick apart our performance as we went along.

Discussion: What does your Inner Critic look like? How do you discuss this topic in your studio? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

This exercise came from Marcy Alancraig, from Cabrillo College. It was a resource from her advanced fiction writing workshop, and it can easily be used for any type of performance based activity.  You can download a PDF of the exercise by going here. (Thank you, Marcy!)

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2014 Vocal Workshop