Thursday, December 17, 2015

Finding My Voice

My Other Passion

I have written several posts about my love of writing and my love of dancing, but I have not said much about my love of music.  There are a few reasons for that.  One is that I just self-published my first book, and was in the middle of that whole process when I started this blog, so I naturally shared all of the things I was learning as I was going through that.  I also just began taking ballet lessons and shared a little about that experience as well.  Music sort of got lot in the shuffle of everything else that was going on.

The other reason I haven't written about music is because for a while I really didn't know where to start.  It's been a long, and often frustrating, journey, and there were so many stories that I was at a loss to pick one and write about it.  Maybe I will tell some of those stories in the future, but today I'm going to stick to what's happening in my musical life right now.

A Long Time Coming

Music has been a part of my life for a long time, and I have tried to pursue it as a career in multiple ways.  As I said above, it has often been frustrating.  I have encountered more dead ends than I care to mention.  Now that I am having a go at it from a different angle, I don't know what the future holds.  I only know that I'm giving it my all right now and hope that it will take me somewhere good.

Becoming an Indie Artist

About a year ago I started working on an album with my dad.  He's been on his own musical journey throughout his life, and though it has taken him on a different path than the one I chose to walk, we have ended up in the same place and are making an album together.  The album is almost finished and we plan to sell mp3s online.  In addition to the album I have also recently uploaded my first Youtube video.  It is a simple live recording of me singing, nothing fancy, but my hope is to continue posting videos, some of which will be much more sophisticated and artistic than this first one.  I had to start somewhere, right?

Classically Trained

I was a music major in college.  My emphasis wasn't on singing, but I still had to study it as a part of a well-rounded program.  I took voice class and sang in the concert choir.  All of this taught me a very specific style of singing and very specific rules for pronunciation.  I am grateful for the lessons I learned because classical vocal training gave me a certain amount of control over my voice that I didn't have before.  What it didn't teach me was how to sing with the level of emotion that the average listener wants to hear.  That's what I am learning now.

Coming Out of My Shell

My album has nine songs.  I obviously remember which ones were recorded early in the process and which ones were recorded more recently, but listening to them I have come to the conclusion that even if I didn't remember this I could guess it from my singing style.  When we recorded our very first song, my singing was fairly bland.  I was on pitch and my voice was strong, but there's just a little something missing.  Feeling.  Don't get me wrong, I was feeling the song quite strongly while I sang it, but I had not yet learned to manipulate my voice in a way that could communicate that fact to a listening audience. 

The second song was a little better than the first.  I intentionally did some stylistic things with it that gave my singing a certain oomph that the first song did not have.  But while I was singing it I still felt awkward and shy.  It was weird being cooped up in my dad's tiny studio and singing as though I had this huge audience watching me.  You know that feeling when someone walks in on you as you are singing by yourself in your house and then you get all embarrassed?  That's a pretty accurate description of my state of mind while recording that song.

The third song is where it all started to change.  Actually, I can hear the moment the change happened when I listen to it.  The first verse is all rhythm and pitch with no real emotion, and then suddenly in the second verse it begins to sound different.  It sounds like I'm having fun.  I finally learned to let my hair down and enjoy myself, and to let that enjoyment come through in my voice.  Every song after that has a quality about it that was lacking in the first two, because in every subsequent song I gave myself permission to have fun and not worry about my dad sitting there in the corner listening.  It's amazing the difference that change of attitude made.

Just Another Step On the Journey

It has at times been painful, but I am thankful for every musical experience I have had.  Though I have shed the classical style for a more natural one, I'm still glad to have that on my resume.  I use it when I sing in my church choir, and I also recognize the invaluable lessons I learned about warming up properly and protecting my voice.  Classical singing may not be what everyone wants to hear, but it's a good skill for all singers to learn.  I am, however, also glad that I have now learned to move beyond the strict parameters set by my college education and to explore other forms of music.

If you have been on your own musical journey, I would love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to leave me a comment.

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