Monday, May 7, 2018

I Don't Hate How I Sing Anymore

I never thought this day would come. If I'd had faith that it would, it might have come faster. But I'm not going to complain.

I don't hate how I sing anymore.

A mix of voice exercises and songs have helped me to build up physically--my vocal cords, or whatever muscles are used in singing. I've also learned not to sing from my throat but from far below it, and to open my throat and my mouth and not "mumble-sing" (my term, I think). And it's not just that I've learned the how; I was told the how over a year ago with my voice teacher in Asheville. But now I've practiced enough that the how is becoming habit. I liken it to going all your life thinking you can't walk, and living in a wheelchair ... then suddenly learning that you can learn to walk if you try, and so you start trying, and at first you can't do it because your leg muscles are so weak ... and then you start being able to walk. The second sentence of this blog post refers to the fact that, if I had actually believed I would eventually walk, I would have worked harder. But that's the past, and I'm not looking back.

So I'm there. I'm in those first phases of being able to stumble along on my own. There is still a long way to go, but I've finally accomplished a significant "baby step," and it's a thrill.

When I first moved to Augusta, I took voice lessons with a non-classical teacher. She was a good teacher and very nice, but I wasn't in a good place. I was out-of-my-mind stressed at work (a common theme of my life), and I either didn't have time to practice, or I didn't make it a priority--not sure which. I finally quit because I wasn't getting anywhere and was ending up in a puddle of tears at my lessons more often than not.

So recently I started taking lessons again, this time with a classical teacher. What is it about me and classical, hm? (When I write classical, I mean it in the general sense--serious music, or the whole shebang of music from Renaissance to Stravinsky.) Is it that I just know it's superior, or that it's a more comfortable world for me than the world of pop? Probably both.

Anyway, I'm working on three Italian songs and two English songs, and doing voice exercises every day. I love the songs, so I'm singing them constantly, whether I have the music in front of me or not My teacher is caring and encouraging, and I find myself relaxing the moment I walk in the door for my lesson. Plus, he's an accomplished musician, and it's good to be around someone who loves and knows a lot about music. Someone like me. Well, I'm not an accomplished musician, but I do crave the company of music people.

Yesterday I listened to my recorded lesson from last week and thought, "Hm, that doesn't sound bad." I could still point out where improvement was needed, but the vicious critic who usually descends upon me during those listening sessions was gone. Or she was there, but saying, "Not bad."

That's an important point I want to make. Yes, it's true that I'm not beating myself up. But part (perhaps all?) of why I'm not doing that is that I'm better. There is less to beat up. It's good to accept yourself as you are, but it's important to have the inner critic push you to do better, as long as the critic doesn't paralyze you or otherwise make you miserable.

This morning I recorded myself playing guitar and singing John Denver's "Today"--something I did a lot when I first got my guitar in 2016. I pressed "Play" and tensed for the inevitable cringe ... and it didn't happen. My pitch was good, except for a few notes here and there, and I'd recognized them when I'd sung them--oh, that's a little flat, or I didn't quite hit that one. So no big deal. The fact that I'm correctly judging my pitch? That's another giant baby step right there.

So I listened, and I heard a strength and quality in my voice that hadn't been there before. I'm still not ready for a coffee-house performance, but I've come a long way. And now that I have faith in this whole process, along with a good voice teacher, I'm feeling hopeful about the improvement to come.

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