A Month of Singing

Black 3D Music NoteI’ve never been able to carry a tune, and have always been terrified of anyone hearing me sing. Those facts, along with some of my experiences at the Inner Journey Seminar, made me decide to take singing lessons for the month of March.

Near the beginning of the month I recorded this video on a karaoke website to document where I was at at the time (I know, it’s pretty bad, but looking back I actually did alright with hitting some of the notes in the chorus!):

I went for trial lessons with 3 different singing teachers, which were all very uncomfortable experiences – the teachers all got to hear my voice! I have a sister-in-law who also gave me a couple lessons via Skype. Anyway, I picked one of the 3 local teachers with the help of my sister-in-law, and have been going for a lesson once every week or two until very recently (have stopped lessons, but not singing).

I had no idea how tricky singing can be – I learned that there’s so much technique that I can get wrong even if I’m hitting the right notes.

One of the first songs that my singing teacher had me learn was “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis. Once I had made some progress with my ability to sing on pitch, I decided that I had to take the next step and try singing in front of people who weren’t singing teachers. So I tried karaoke. What follows is an email that I sent to my brother in early April explaining my karaoke experience:

Half way through today I decided that now that I have a song that I can sort of sing (“Can’t help falling in love” by Elvis), I had to sing it in front of other people, and so I had to try karaoke tonight. For the rest of the day (after I made that decision) I was nervous. Not deathly nervous, but nervous enough. I found a karaoke version of the song on YouTube & practiced it many times throughout the day. I looked up online which places have karaoke today & decided to go to a place on Elgin called the Byward Tavern. I went alone. It’s in a basement & it’s also a Yuk Yuk’s bar, so before the karaoke started at about 11:30 pm, there was a comedy show. I intentionally got there just after the comedy show ended. When I walked in it was packed – all the chairs were facing the stage, and they seemed to be pretty much all full of people, & there were also people standing. The whole place was dark but the stage was lit quite brightly. It was quite intimidating so I became more nervous. Not deathly nervous, but definitely some butterflies.

Anyway, I sat in an empty stool by the bar and waited while they got the karaoke set up, which took about 20-30 minutes. During that time most of the people left so I was happy about that. Also during that time, a guy who I’ve met a couple times at various business events walked in and got a beer & then grabbed a copy of the karaoke book (with the list of songs) and a paper & pencil & sat down by himself at a table. I didn’t know him well enough that I knew his name, but I recognized him. Anyway, eventually (before the karaoke started) I went over & said hi & sat down by him. A little bit of small talk… he said he loves karaoke & just came in to sing a couple songs before meeting some other people somewhere else. I told him that I’ve never done karaoke & was nervous. Bla bla, a bit more small talk. I looked at his copy of the song book & filled out another piece of paper that he had (I wrote down the Elvis song since it was in the book).

So the karaoke began… other people sang first (I was 4th or 5th). The fact that everyone was having a good time while singing, and that they obviously weren’t professional singers, made me feel a bit better. I think they were all at least a little bit drunk, except for the guy I was sitting with. He was 2nd I think & sang an Eminem song & did a great job – he was very enthusiastic & a good singer also. All of the songs that people sang were very upbeat so I thought mine might be too slow & boring.

So anyway the karaoke guy eventually called my name & I went up… I pretty much couldn’t see anyone because of the lights. Oh BTW I was afraid during the day that I might be way off tune if my throat was all tight due to being nervous. & I was worried about the same thing again while I was standing up there just before the song started. Anyway I got through the whole song & I think I hit most of the notes. I was nervous when singing, but not super nervous. I was shaking too – particularly my arm that was holding the microphone & I was wondering if people were noticing – but I think they probably didn’t. I’d say it went quite well considering the circumstances.

So I went & sat back down with the guy & he told me I did a good job & also suggested (nicely) that next time I might want to consider what kind of mood the crowd was in when picking a song (implying that I hadn’t picked a great one). He was right – my song didn’t fit with the atmosphere & the other songs… but I don’t mind – I didn’t really have a choice because I can’t sing any other songs. Although I guess I could have picked the other version of the same song that was done by a group in the 90s (it’s more upbeat). Oh well, next time.

All in all I’m quite happy with how it went & that I did it.

After that, I continued with my singing lessons, eventually bought a guitar and managed to sing in front of my family, and also other people. One of my best discoveries has been that singing WITH other people is more enjoyable than singing alone in front of them, and it feels to me like singing together also helps to connect us.

I’m writing this blog post in July, and I still have a ways to go with improving my technique, my ear, and my ability to be comfortable singing. Here’s where I’m at now (sound quality unfortunately isn’t as good as the karaoke video due to the different microphone):

Still amateur, and I’m still nervous even with only my iPhone camera watching, but that’s where I’m at so far. And when I was recording the video it took me a lot of takes to get through the song without any major screw-ups. Long way to “run” – I’ll get there, I hope.

It seems to me almost like a miracle that I can usually carry a tune now, and that I don’t die when other people hear me sing. Learning to sing had been very worthwhile, and I expect to continue singing for a very long time.

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