The 20-Minute Anti-Negativity Rule For Singers

The 20-Minute Anti-Negativity Rule For Singers
When you know your heart is protected, you can open up more on stage –says Katarina Henryson.

The Real Group, consisting of five a capella singers, has been performing 60 shows a year for 30 years. They have found a way to stay together, even through a marriage and a divorce within the group.

They believe their 20-minute rule is a big reason why they keep going.

If a member of a group or band feels stifled and unable to be creative on stage – they are not going to last very long. It’s not a nice way to live as a musician, is it?

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The rule is simple: No one can be negative for 20 minutes after a performance, no matter how badly the show may have gone

Katarina Henryson of the Real Group has thought through this problem. Her group came up with a very simple rule. “No one in the group is allowed to say anything negative for 20 minutes after a performance,” says Henryson, “No matter how badly the show may have gone.

At times, the 20-minute rule was awkward. Sometimes they all hated it, but after 30 years and counting, they see its power and they never stray from it.

It is the power of the positive,” says Henryson. She is fully aware that people are sceptical of positive reinforcement, since it often leads to meaningless praise for mediocre work. For their group, however, it has been essential to their success.

She explains that the 20-minute rule releases you from the need to prove you noticed every tiny thing that went wrong, and helps you to focus on only those things that matter most.

She admits that there have been many shows, where the 20 minutes of positive-only talk has been an act, but 20 minutes of being false is still much better than the damage negative thoughts can do.

Singing in a vocal group requires you to be physically and mentally fit, according to Henryson. You have to hit a certain note at the right time in the right way, every time. “We are our own worst critics after a performance,” says Henryson, “We focus on the mistakes, and forget everything that went well.

We are our own worst critics after a performance, we focus on the mistakes, and forget everything that went well

Henryson talks about how important it is to let go of control in a performance. “When you know your heart is protected, you can open yourself up more on stage.” A great performer can embrace whatever is happening in the moment and let the music simply exist, she explains. It is difficult to do this when you fear judgement. It may only be 20 minutes of protection, but it strengthens your fragile singer’s soul for much longer.

You go out on stage with the mental task of collecting all the good things that occur, which is a whole different mindset,” says Henryson. She admits it has taken years for her to see just how big the impact has been on her as a performer.

If you are a singer who sometimes struggles to let go and embrace the moment in a performance, you might want to try this rule out. Next time you walk off a stage after a performance, say only positive things about it. Keep doing that for 20 whole minutes. You might find it’s a habit you want to keep.


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The Real Group has performed over 2000 concerts in 40 different countries since they began in 1984. The award winning a cappella vocal ensemble hails from Sweden, and has been internationally recognized for their contribution to the vocal jazz genre and a cappella singing. The group is the full-time job of all five members, which includes extensive touring, recording, workshops, writing and arranging their repertoire. Visit the Real Group’s webpage

Katarina Henrysson

Katarina Henryson was born in Stockholm Sweden and is a founding member of The Real Group. She sings alto and has arranged and produced some of the group’s hits. Beyond the Real Group, Katarina has worked extensively as a back–up singer, holds a music degree, plays the piano and cello, and is highly regarded as a clinician giving workshops to vocalists world-wide. Katarina’s full bio

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Aarhus Vocal Festival (AAVF) VoiceCouncil.com would like to thank the Aarhus Vocal Festival for facilitating this interview.


  • keith

    At my job (my day job) this idea would be laughed at. If you are professional enough to do a day job, you should also have the smarts and professionalism how to keep it together at night after a show. But our band not at the level you guys are at, so….perhaps your rule is a good one. If it works for you, cool…

  • Kathy Coneys Alexander

    This rule is not about “keeping it together.” She is not implying that she was falling apart after every show. She is talking about how to feel the courage to be vulnerable on stage and take creative risks. An artist has to open themselves up in front of a large group in order to produce music that is amazing and not mediocre. To open up like this, it can help if your band mates and you train yourselves to focus on the positives. If you don’t, she’s not saying you won’t be able to keep it together, rather that you will be stifled creatively speaking.

  • keith

    Kathy, I think you misunderstood my comment… when I’m on stage I always take significant risks with my voice, with my banter, with my personna. Sometimes it works, sometimes not… oh well, that’s art. My bandmates wryly comment my vocal approach is rarely the same, it keeps the songs fresh and best of all, fun.
    I really appreciate their input, positive and more importantly the negative, after the show, the sooner the better. If what I’m doing is not working or sucks, I am indebted for their frankness. And yup, the other bandmates are also under the same microscope, and with a little kindness and caring, it is a wonderful and effective tool. Just doing the positives or making a rule to wait 20 minutes sounds just big egos, insecurity and immaturity at work.

  • Firehawk70

    Keith, by waiting 20 minutes, the giver of the negative can reprocess the negatives into a useful constructive criticism, rather than a “you sucked” comment, or “why the f*@* did you miss that entrance, you threw off the whole band”. 20 minutes gives you some time to breathe, calm down, remember that you are in this for the long haul. How many bands, even famous bands making lots of money, break up in a few years. How many last 30+? I bet egos are often responsible.

  • keith

    Firehawk70, again, I’ll state what I did earlier, I treat our music and our performance as I would as if I were at my day job. No booze, no drugs, no temper-tantrums, no back-stabbing, no sulking. I like being my best at my job, and I also like being my best on stage. I appreciate when my bandmates tell me what works or not. I’m naturally a somewhat shy person. I like their feedback because I’m a little insecure about going to the edge of art… When you work with folks who deeply care for each other, who share a dream, it’s not that hard to laugh at mistakes, or at least blow it off.