Kaleidoscope Voice


If you’re looking for a fresh way to approach your voice and your singing; a way that leads to new acceptance, growth and vibrancy…then this two-part blog is for YOU!

Part one will unpack this quirky metaphor that is the kaleidoscope voice.  What is it and how can it help you?

Part two will explore ways of BEING a kaleidoscope voice!  I hope you find some ideas that resonate and help your voice to sparkle, no matter what is going on around you.

“I have hope
Inside is not a heart
But a kaleidoscope.”

Sara Bareilles, “Kaleidoscope Heart”

I’ve been waiting for the right time to write about my most treasured metaphor for the voice – actually, for the whole of life!  Recently, I realised that now is that time, although I am a bit shocked that it took the Omicron (COVID-19) variant to shake this loose out of me.

While I live in a personality type that is prone to burnout, the kind of total system fatigue I faced in December 2021 was unparalleled even by my own standards.  After three weeks of moderately decent rest and a bumpy start to the new year, I am beginning to see that what is next for me is to accept that the last two years have changed me – BUT THAT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A BAD THING!

A recent ABC news story described the “cognitive leap” we are making as we absorb new ways of thinking about the pandemic two years after its commencement.  That description resonated with me in a powerful way.  Yes – “cognitive leap” – that is precisely what we’ve all been pivoting through several times a year!  No wonder we’re exhausted.

“We are tired of being emotionally stimulated by the notion of risk.”

Dr Norman Swan

And I bet you are too.  Right?  Your experience will be similar and different from mine.  You have your own story of change and challenge.  And like me, that story is almost certainly not only about Covid.

Ok – enough commentary.  Let me introduce you to my kaleidoscope vs mosaic concept.  I hope you will soon see how the pivoting action of the kaleidoscope can help us negotiate the world we live in.


“I propose that we perceive ourselves and our vocal instruments as a kaleidoscope…authentic humans housing unique voices in an ever-changing world…making new music pictures every day as we respond to ourselves and our environment.”

Sharon Tree

I love a good metaphor.  It is a rarity for my voice clients to get through a whole vocal lesson without hearing me drag a metaphor into the discourse.  Used well, and without cross-pollination, they can be powerful teaching tools.  Of course, I don’t always use them well.  But such tools are refined through repetition, and so I persevere.

A favourite metaphor that I have been ruminating upon for some years is the contrast of a kaleidoscope with a mosaic.

We’re all made up of many facets – our genetic inheritance, our personality, our skills, talents, our dreams, our social networks, our health and nutrition, our pet peeves and favourite things….

Here are two ways these facets can be arranged into a whole image…

A mosaic…

  • an artfully placed arrangement of colourful pieces
  • pleasing to the eye and forming a fixed pattern
  • cemented into place
  • not easily rearranged into a new picture without first damaging the original design.
Or a kaleidoscope…

  • a fixed external structure
  • internal mirrors and moving parts
  • enhanced with illumination
  • a new picture with every tilt, lift or rotation
  • an almost infinite number of configurations and designs.

So, while it could be easy to imagine ourselves as a rich mosaic – all our facets arranged in a pattern that we like and that we show to the world, this presumes that we can maintain a constant version of ourselves in the midst of a world that is not constant.  Today our facets are fixed, but tomorrow one or more of them might change.

Instead, what if we see ourselves as a kaleidoscope? An instrument containing many interesting fragments that transform into new and magnificent pictures with every adjustment? Most days will require only a miniscule turn of the mechanism to find a voice ready for today’s storytelling…other days something more dramatic may cause a larger adjustment and the picture might change radically.

But we are still us. We regroup, take a moment to see the new picture, and reorganise our fragments into a whole. And we do this again and again across our broader sense of being.  We’re very very good at it as a rule.  But often, we are terrible at it vocally!  We expect the voice to be and to sound the same every day and then we get a shock when it doesn’t.

I believe that when we try to fix our voices in place (biologically, neurologically or psychologically), we run into trouble and risk injury, burnout and disillusionment.  As humans, we are built with a structure that is more like a kaleidoscope – similar configurations in principle to every other human, but full of variation in colour, dimensions and design.  And while we are capable of being a mosaic, it rarely works in our favour to cement ourselves into a position that restricts the flexibility that typifies our human existence.

This means that if we perceive our singing selves as a kaleidoscope, we can learn to understand our construction and recognise the vibrant individuality which means that the colours and patterns we reveal through our minds and our music will be unique and special and true.

A discovery sequence in lessons could look something like this:

  1. Gain a deep insight into the instrument we have, and how we can grow and develop it to its full potential. The elements that make us similar to other singers.
  2. Uncover what makes us different from other singers and the set ups that bring a wide range of storytelling lenses into existence.
  3. Then learn to take our kaleidoscope voice into a room where we need to collaborate with other kaleidoscope voices. We can assess what our setup could be and make informed, healthy, sustainable choices about our voice from one rehearsal/performance to the next.


How we see ourselves – today or zoomed out to a larger timescale – can have a significant effect on the things we tell ourselves and the choices we make.

Allowing our singing to be more adaptable and self-honouring means that:

As our world reels from this season of change and tragedy, perhaps some of us are experiencing changes in what our kaleidoscopic colours and shapes are like.  Maybe the change is temporary, maybe not.  But perhaps there is a peace that can come from embracing the new colours you possess.

In Kelsey Grammer’s memoir So Far…, he cites this quote from the actor who played the beloved character “Coach” on Cheers

“I was born with one set of fingerprints. Don’t ever forget that. One set of fingerprints. That’s all you get.”

Nick Colossanto (Actor)

Our voice is just as unique as fingerprints.  And yet it has the capacity to morph itself into resembling someone else!!!  Sometimes it does that because it thinks that someone else is better or ‘righter’.  So, sounding like that means you’ve arrived somewhere.  But sometimes your voice imitates someone else because it hasn’t been given a space to discover its own sheer brilliance and beauty.

Sorry it took me so many words to get to my point…but there it is….I hope that you can experience the liberty and exhilaration of discovering the exquisite and stunning nature of YOUR KALEIDOSCOPE VOICE.  For your sake first.  Then for the sake of letting other people see the glorious patterns you make!

In part two of this blog, we are going to get super practical about how to experience this shift toward singing with our kaleidoscope voice.

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Grammer, K.  (1995).  So Far… Penguin Books, New York, p174

Swan, N. (2022) https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/coronacast/wishful-thinking-and-the-end-of-the-pandemic/13740088

Tonkin, Leigh (2022) “This week Omicron and COVID left Australians taking a big cognitive leap, as surge takes us to new ground” https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-02/covid-omicron-cognitive-leap-into-2022/100734564



Photo by Jean-Philippe Delberghe on Unsplash

Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash

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