Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why I don't know what my voice sounds like ...

"Three deep breaths in, and out on a hiss" is how each singing lesson begins. Three deep breaths through pursed lips and exhale on a "hissssss". I think this is to act as a slight resistance so you're more aware of your breathing - or something like that. 

On a whim, well a whim I considered for many a week, I booked myself "Introducing Singing for Adults" in Waltons New School of Music. I think it was the "for adults" part of the title that scared me. 10 week course, group lessons, introducing you to breathing techniques, getting to know your range and what genres you like singing - with the world's most terrifying solo at the last class. The class itself was uneventful - I was happy to be exercising my vocal chords after years of neglect. 

From primary school I had sang in choirs, had the odd solo, short solos during mass. In secondary school I was in choir, again, and eventually built up the confidence to sing as part of music practicals. I was, still can be, cripplingly shy - singing draws too much attention to you, it was a practice I generally avoided. When I did it was along with a CD turned way up then when it came to the solo or having the house to myself - the sound coming out was almost uncontrollable, I didn't know what was going to come out now that the CD was gone, there was no choir around me to blend in with. Sometimes it was a pleasant surprise, sometimes it sounded nothing like it was supposed to and just came out as a generic sing-y voice.

Come fourth year and mandatory auditions for the musical most of my initial apprehension had melted away. I had sang for my music class, I'd done drama classes, I sang for my music exam in the Leaving Cert - a deep breath and hiding my flushed cheeks behind my hair I faced the back of the hall and bravely chose to sing my own song instead of a scale of Doh A Dear. To this day, I consider that a HUGE mistake. Strange as it may seem; but it went well - too well. But I was 15, I had worn a purple velvet gothic dress to a colours day and I was too cool for this musical. I never wanted to be in it, had it been any other musical maybe, or a different part - maybe I'd feel different; but to this day I hate that I never turned around and said I didn't want to do it. Before I knew what was happening I was in the thick of it and I couldn't cause the upheaval of walking out. For this reason I will forever hate anything and everything to do with the show Grease and I stopped singing.

This ban was only lifted for music exams and for car journeys when the radio bored me and once at a party when while playing Band Hero a guyfriend couldn't hit the notes during Paramore's Misery Business - but everyone was too drunk to remember. To even half-sing, hum a bit of a song someone is thinking of, sing along to a CD in the car (which Boyfriend takes very personally) is too much for me. I can't breath, my throat closes up, I blush - instantly, I look for an escape - I panic.

So now, group lessons over. I've paid for one-on-one lessons with my lovely teacher who wears comfy slouchy jumpers, can improv jazz riffs and has a way of teaching that doesn't make it seem like you're on the spot. Two lessons in, we're working on "clearing up the tone" - I have notes that say "Don't be afraid to push the notes" and "Be confident about the sound that's coming out" or "It's a frame of mind" - it's easier said than done, seeing as I'm still trying to grasp the concept that this sound is mine and it surprises me every time.

I'm so used to being quiet all the time ...

"Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice" - William Shakespeare