I have an announcement to make, and it’s pretty amazing.
…No, it’s not about the direction I swing.
Before I make this groundbreaking announcement, I should probably tell you a little something about myself.
There’s a tendency that I have to plunge headlong into activities which I have no prior experience in with an inconquerable feeling of invincibility and absolutely no concept that I could possibly fail, which seems to be based in the fact that no one has ever said I couldn’t do such a thing. I hope it’s something you can all identify with.
This tendency surfaces on a regular basis when it comes to my current level of ability (or perhaps inability) to sing.
And the crushing feeling of despair I feel when it blows up in my face is somewhat akin to being slammed into the ground by a Monty Python-esque 16-ton weight.
I progress through four stages of increasingly intense self-loathing whenever I get an inkling of hope in my mind that I might be able to sing and fire up Propellerhead Reason so that I can unleash my godlike singing talent.
- Stage 0. I listen to a vocal line or hook from a song – and I feel good, because the song is either my own (which means that it should be piss-easy), or a really good one by another artist that I’m listening to. At this stage I am fully ready to plunge headlong into the task – my voice is already priming itself for what will undoubtably be an absolutely stellar performance. The melody is in my head. I can already see that the end result is going to be completely awesome. I’m absolutely undaunted.
- Stage 1. I warm my body up for the task ahead of me. I’ve got a clear head, a clear throat, and… hang on, where’s my breath gone? I’m suddenly incredibly short of breath and my diaphragm seems to now have a mind of its own. I inhale repeatedly but can’t quite get in “the zone”. My lungs now seem to only be able to hold the amount of air you might find in a pouch of Capri-Sun. Oh, well – no point in getting wound up about things like breathing at this stage… I’m still gonna give it my all! (Providing I don’t suffocate before then, of course.)
- Stage 2. With what little breath I actually can muster at this stage, I actually start singing. The moment the first note comes out of my mouth I realise I might have been a little bit overoptimistic in my earlier predictions – I’m singing in some kind of otherworldly octave which would only seem in place if I were doing some kind of cover album of all of the works of Michael Jackson in reverse. I notice this almost immediately, and with the speed of a roadrunner but with all the grace and elegance of a coyote, I attempt to reconfigure my voice into a tone that actually makes sense, but clearly the damage has already been done. No matter – maybe I can just cut that bit out, and the rest of the take will be fine! …maybe?
- Stage 3. I’m now suddenly drained of all of my previous vigour, and with a trembling hand and shaken faith, I press the “play” button and hear back what I’ve just recorded. When the ensuing racket assails my eardrums, I curl up in the fetal position on my bedroom floor, trying my best to stave off a cascade of shameful tears and the notion that I have all the musicianship of a depressed elephant.
I am usually not one to doubt my self-worth by any means – some might even say that my ego could use a break once in a while – but this crushing feeling of inadequacy bites down into my very soul and sends me into a spiral of depression. I actually feel physical pain and sickness, as though someone has shot me in the spine with a crossbow bolt covered in some kind of liquid worthlessness toxin, whenever I have to present my god-awful wailings to other people. The breathlessness, the lack of vocal experience, the years and years of dairy product consumption (which I’m told ruins a voice), all scream out, and I feel like just writing instrumentals for the rest of my life and never, ever, trying to sing covers.
Recently I wrote a set of lyrics on a particularly heartfelt subject, which I was fairly pleased with, and then wrote a song to go along with it – which turned into a kind of sombre, ballady kind of pop song – not something I was particularly used to writing, but something I was nonetheless satisfied with.
Then I tried to sing it.
…After the psychotherapy session I needed immediately after hearing the less-than-amazing results back and having to show them to my dad because I honestly couldn’t identify, let alone crush, the cause of my voice being so unforgivably terrible, he suggested that I’m just not confident enough. Which was unfortunate, because that meant that the process was in fact a vicious cycle – I was singing terribly because I wasn’t confident enough in my own ability, and I wasn’t confident enough in my own ability because I was singing terribly.
The situation was now at a point of desperation – I was sick of this disappointment happening to me so frequently, and I eventually turned to my younger brother for help, who’d had a bit of singing tuition in the short time he spent at Sixth Form. As it turned out, he was better at singing my own vocal melodies than I was. By quite a long way. In fact, all I had to do was sing the whole song to him once, and he was somehow able to not only sing it better, but also improve on the existing melodies.
So… I decided I would instead rely on him for all future vocal endeavours.
Okay – all that out of the way, time for the announcement! 😀
Hold onto your butts. Are you ready?
My brother and I are going to pull our collective creativity together and write a sod-buggering EP.
It’s not something I’ve always wanted to undertake, having never been the least bit confident in my vocal abilities, and also having never been keen on having to rely on someone else to sing over my stuff – but seeing how I’ve been learning how music works for the last six or seven years, I figured it was about time I started learning how to control my voice properly. I’ve been seriously composing (that is, writing with the intent to publicly release my work) since about 2008, and only recently has the idea of attaching vocals to my music really resonated with me. Up until now, I’ve written purely instrumental tracks. (And, just so we’re clear on this, I will continue to do so, purely because they’re easier and more fun for me to write – I certainly won’t be orienting all of my future songs on having vocals put on them.)
But now, with the help of my brother, I’m starting to write some proper songs with actual words, like I’m an actual songwriter instead of some bedroom-dwelling mook who sits all day programming individual notes manually into MIDI editors. He and I are together writing the lyrics, doing a bit of jamming to come up with some decent riffs, and messing around with the vocal melodies that he will eventually be singing over. (What with him having the better voice out of the two of us.)
What kind of music am I now dabbling in, you ask? Oh ho, all will be revealed soon. 😛 (Okay, I’ll narrow it down. It’s not death metal. Or hip-hop.)
That’s not to say my self-confidence struggles are over, of course. My brother and I have proven that we still struggle with some aspects of singing (and as the songwriter in this new duo that he and I have formed, I’ve tried not to write anything too demanding for either of us to perform in a live setting). We are, as of today, now attending weekly vocal lessons with the lovely Rachel at the Joondalup School of Music. She has even said that she will provide us with feedback on the existing vocal tracks. However, in order for her to do so, I’m first going to have to overcome my morbid fear of presenting my work to other people.
Hmm… might take some work, that.
(Ack, I spent way too long on this one post. D:
Also, BY GUM IT IS STILL ENTIRELY TOO HOT.)