Singing. Is there anything else a performer can do that is more personal? Maybe dance. Probably dance. But singing is right up there.
Being an instrumentalist, at least at first, is a lot about taming this thing we are trying to coax a melody out of, learning its quirks and intricacies, and figuring out what we can do to make something beautiful come out. If the instrument doesn’t sound good after we’ve learned to play it, then, well, we can blame the instrument. Everyone knows some instruments sound more beautiful than others, and if someone does not appreciate the sound of an instrument, instrumentalists generally don’t take this terribly personally.
The voice, however, is a different matter. Yes, singers can learn technique, improve tone, whatever whatever, but at the end of the day, what comes out is not something we can change that much. It is utterly personal. If someone doesn’t like your voice, you can’t blame it on the instrument in the way you can if you could simply pick up a better cello, for example. Much like dance, I’m guessing, you are the instrument. Rejection, therefore, is that much harder to weather.
I thought I had a decent voice when several years ago I received some deeply discouraging feedback and a rejection that still lingers a bit in the back of my head. Happily, and with the help of a few friends, this propelled me not into the silence I was contemplating but instead into intensive work, and last month I began to believe that it is paying off.
At my gig with the good folks at Back Yard Coffee in Redwood City, a woman sitting with a group across the room and near the door – so she could easily have walked out without doing this – approached as I was singing, tossed some money into my tip jar, and told me, “you’ve got a great voice.”
People have said this to me before, and I never really believed them, probably because they are people who know me and love me, so of course they are going to be nice. But other people I don’t know have said it, too, and I didn’t really believe them either. That night, however, I was in fact really happy with my vocals, so the compliments resonated. I came away from Redwood City with a sense that I no longer need to worry if my voice is good enough, especially if I keep working. I also don’t need to worry if my vocals go a little south every once in a while. No one is perfect. In other words, I think I got over the fact that it is me doing it just a little bit more.
Another woman named Auntie Lou, having just turned 100, bought my CD that night and insisted that I autograph it. She had come from across the room to listen, and from what I know of centenarians, they don’t waste that kind of effort unless it’s worth it. I’ll take it.
I’m playing … and singing … next at Davenport Roadhouse this Tuesday 4/4 at 6:00 – 9:00 pm. I hope to see you there!
Thanks for reading.