I’ve been working on my singing, lately.
I love to sing and have since I was a little kid.
I remember playing records of musicals — including “West Side Story”, “Oklahoma,” “South Pacific,” and “Guys and Dolls” — in the basement of my house, pretending I was in those musical numbers. I danced and sang across the basement floor. Nobody saw me doing that (except for my cat, Tuffy). It was one of my favorite and most joyful things to do, during some difficult times as I was growing up.
I also took singing lessons, starting when I was a kid. The main thing I remember about that teacher, Mr Payette, was that he had some strong opinions about what was good and not good about my voice. He told me that the main thing that made my voice special was that I could sing really, really high. I was a Super Soprano — I could hit B flat over high C. I remember him laughing, with delight, when my voice would keep going — up and up — as he played the scales.
He also characterized my voice as thin, with not a lot of power. He told me that if I wanted to pursue singing, that I should only sing songs that highlighted my strength — the high notes.
So I sang mostly sweet, pretty songs, that had a high range, with not a lot of dynamic changes. Songs like “Those Were the Days,” by Mary Hopkins:
I loved singing these songs, but I never stretched beyond them, into something more dangerous or bold.
I remember something else Mr Payette said to me, during my singing lessons. He told me to make sure that I never, ever hit a note wrong, when performing. That would be disastrous, he said, because …
you could sing every other note beautifully and perfectly, but if you hit one note imperfectly, THAT’S what the audience will remember.
I can remember him saying those words, so vividly. That really stuck.
I liked working with Mr. Payette. I think he was a good guy.
But I have been working on letting go some of those lessons he taught me. Because for most of my life, I’ve been kind of a timid singer. I’ve focused more on the imperfections in my voice. I’ve thought of my voice as weak. I’ve thought that there were only certain types of songs that I could sing. I’ve thought of myself as a “stiff” singer, not able to show the full range of human emotions.
I’m realizing that those ideas about my singing were formed when I was a kid, and they may be …. rather outdated.
When I was a kid, I DID have limits as a singer, especially as an interpreter of lyrics. I mean, I couldn’t give the lyrics of songs a full-bodied interpretation back then. Geesh! I didn’t even know what some of those lyrics meant.
I didn’t have the experience to give life to all those words about love and loss.
However I’ve been realizing lately that I’m not a kid any more, when it comes to song. Now that I’m an adult, I can sing like one.
I don’t have to be timid — holding back for fear of making that one mistake that people will remember. I don’t have to imagine the audience forgetting everything else I may have sung, no matter how beautiful it was, if I sing one note imperfectly.
Now, I DO understand lyrics. And I can channel this understanding — and the full range of human emotions — into songs.
Also, about two months, ago, I made a real change in how I sang. It started when I suddenly made room– through song — for a certain powerful emotion.
About two weeks ago, when I was angry at somebody, and was considering trying my new anger technique of Screaming As Loud As I Could In the Car, I tried something different, instead.
I made up an anger song — which included some rather rude words — and sang THAT in my car, as loudly as I could.
Man, it was fun singing that song. It helped me let go of the anger. And — holy moly! Did my voice sound different! It sounded clear and really strong, in all registers. No matter what notes I was hitting in The Anger Song — high notes, low notes, in-between notes — everything sounded good — and different — to my ears.
Since then, I’ve been singing differently. I’m singing with feeling. I’m not holding back. I’m not afraid of the imperfect notes.
I’m thinking I’d like to keep singing more, this year. I may take some chances — maybe go to an open mic night and sing a solo. That’s always been a dream of mine, as yet unfulfilled.
Maybe I’ll sing, in front of an audience, a full-bodied, adult song, with complicated lyrics, and trust in my ability to deliver that song. Maybe I’ll have faith that I can translate my ability to communicate passion and conviction — while using my regular speaking voice — into the musical realm.
I’m hoping that before This Year of Living Non-Judgmentally is over, that I will overcome some fears about singing in front of other people and do something new and spectacular.
No matter what, though I’m really lovin’ the different ways I’ve been singing lately.
Thanks for hearing My Bloggy Song here, today. And I hope you let your full voice out, too, in any ways you can.