Saturday, October 11, 2014

Acoustic Guitar Journal #5: I Can't Sing

Writing my own songs has been a wonderful way to learn guitar and is very satisfying on a creative level. The next step from writing and playing is performing, and I would be ecstatic to perform my own songs. The problem is I cannot sing. At all. Not being humble. Can't. Sing.

I've always wanted to be able to sing but, for whatever reason, what I hear in my head sounds good while the reality is...really bad. I'd say I'm off key, except that suggests an ability to sing a wrong note. When I sing, it's always the same flat note all the way through. Painful to hear.

The obvious solution is to take lessons, and I have. Twice. With two different teachers. There was no improvement at all. I've also tried doing different things on my own with breathing and projection and taped the results looking for improvement, hoping against hope that I'd finally hit on the right approach. On every playback, I'd only to hear the same terrible sound. It didn't seem to matter what I did. It became so discouraging that I gave up years ago, accepting that singing is something I have no talent for and simply cannot do.

In the last month, a funny thing has happened. While working on songs (both my own and those by others), I'd sometimes hum melody lines while playing to get a feel for the rhythm I needed to play. While doing this, I noticed I could feel notes resonating in the body of the guitar as a vibration against my chest. Then I found I could attune my hum to that vibration exactly the way I would tune a guitar string to match a note on a pitch pipe.

It was a bit exciting when I was able to pluck a note and - by paying attention to the vibration - attune my voice to the note in the same way. Since controlling my voice in any way is something I'd never, ever been able to do, I wondered if this might be a way to train my voice to be in tune. I cammed myself performing a song or two and played it back. While I still sounded flat, there was a notable improvement. It's still no good, but it's definitely more musical sounding than I've ever heard myself sound before.

Given my history with singing, there's no way I can get my hopes up. However, whenever I'm alone in the house I perform my songs - voice and guitar - to see where this goes. In the end, it may be just another episode of wishful thinking. But it's worth a try!

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