Working Within My Abilities (How I Got Over My Apprehensions About Singing)

I’ve finally done something that I had put off for a long, long time.  It’s singing.

I’ve written about my home recording studio and doing what I call “sketches” of songs.  Basically they are all the parts and tracks of a song less a melody.  These “sketches” are like a groove that has an arrangement but needs the melody to tie it all together.

I struggle with melodies and I believe this is due to two reasons.

First, as a drummer my focus, what I hone in on, is the rhythm parts of the groove, the bass, rhythm guitar, keyboards etc..  Melodies and lyrics are like the mile markers for me.  They help me keep track of where I am in the arrangement.

So coming up with these grooves using bass, rhythm guitar and keyboard is somewhat natural for me.  How they all work together is something I understand.

The second reason is my limited keyboard talent and music theory knowledge.  I have a difficult time in transferring a melody in my head on to the keyboard.

So I sit and I search for the notes.  I hit the wrong note. It pulls the melody in my head to that note and then I am lost.  I need to go over and over the melody in my head to get it ingrained in my head.  That makes it tough to create on the spot.

Now I’m not a singer and don’t profess to ever being a singer.  My singing career with bands is extremely limited.  I did background vocals and sang lead on one song with one band in my entire musical career.

The reason I broke down and tried my singing with that one band was if I didn’t they were going to add a keyboard player with vocal abilities.  That meant my cut of the gig money went from one quarter to one fifth.  Money is what motivated me to sing.

I have no idea how I sounded with that band.  I could never hear myself and I don’t know if anyone else could hear me.  I guess I wasn’t too bad or I’m sure the rest of the band would have told me to forget it they’ll just add the keyboard player who can sing.

Anyway I am very, very, very self conscious about singing, especially about anyone hearing me sing, even my own wife and family.

But the best way for me to create these melodies is by singing them and even worse recording them.

Finally I figured so what if I’m a little (or a lot) flat.  The idea is to get the melodies down before they are lost.

I had a song that I had written around a specific set of lyrics.  I got the groove and the arrangement laid down and I liked it.

The arrangement fit the timing for the lyrics so all I needed to do was get the melody.

I burned a CD of what I had recorded and for two weeks spent everyday in my truck singing uninhibited (except at red lights) and working out the melody.

Finally I got up the nerve to record.

I actually sang and recorded what I sang.

The biggest hurdle, which I have mentioned in other posts, was getting over the sound of my own voice.

Once I got over that and got use to how I sound, I realized that singing is just like playing an instrument.

First you come to grips with this is how you sound, you’re not going to sound like anyone else.  It’s the same thing with my drums, how I play is my style, my sound.

And just like playing drums, I had to learn my parts and get comfortable with them.

I notice when I first worked on the melody in my car I was all over the place finding notes.  Even though in my head I knew where I wanted the notes to be, it was difficult to find them with my vocal chords.

But after twenty or thirty times running through the song I found them and then I could start to work on my phrasing and style.  By style I mean trying to work within my limitations.

I am not a singer.  Singing doesn’t come naturally to me and that’s probably because I kept my mouth shut for most of my musical life.

After singing my song I did realize that I can do this, at least I can get my ideas down to share with others, maybe even share with a real singer.  And just like drums the more I work at it the more I develop my style, my technique and learn to live and work within my limitations, hopefully removing some of those limitations in the process.

I can’t just sit down and sing something.  I can’t expect that anymore than I would expect to sit down at a piano and play something.  Like everything I need to work at it and develop it.

What I learned from doing this song is that I don’t sound quite as awful as I thought I would, I just need to keep working at it.  The more I work at it the more I’ll enjoy it and the more confident I will become.  I just need to work within my abilities while expanding them.

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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