I was a classical prodigy who soloed with symphonies and played Rachmaninoff. I can sight read like the wind. I make up arrangements off the cuff. I can play the blues. But don’t be impressed.
I’m only an okay pianist, at best, because I play way too many notes too much of the time – they just spill out of my fingers, somehow – like too many words, except they’re notes, if that makes any sense. That’s not art, people. It’s just a buncha notes. Not cool.
Singing; a different pot of petunias
I had to work to find my voice. I was told, “You don’t have a special voice,” by my family, which was bogus, I’d just never had a lesson. Duh, I had no skills. When I finally found a teacher who explained things clearly, I amazed her. “You’re the faster student I’ve ever had!”
“Well, you explained things clearly!” Thank you, Jill Riggs, world’s most amazing teacher. You’re a dynamo.
Some Common sense
It makes NO SENSE to give a person piano lessons when they can’t play yet, but not be willing to give the same person singing lessons if they don’t sing impressively yet and want to learn how to improve. Ponder that.
Don’t be Wrong
I went from piano person to a young adult who earned lots of music business attention based on my songwriting and “recognizable and marketable” voice. From my step-father – at that moment in time; “I have mud on my face. I was so wrong!”
Don’t be wrong, people. Don’t end up Mr. or Mrs. Mud-on-your-face if you’re a parent. And if you’re dabbling adult, don’t give up! Do the work. Figure out your voice and how to use it. It’s so worth it. And while we’re at it…
When choosing which voice to record on a song of mine, I always choose the singer that most enhances my song for the project. That’s it. I don’t look for polish, I look for the most natural and engaging fit. Jessie Bridges, for example, sounds so great on most my songs, we laugh out loud. It’s amazing! Viva too. People have often told me, they’d guess Jess and Viva are my daughters. We share a vibe. I take that as quite the compliment.
Are any of us ‘great’ singers? Technically? Probably not. Emotionally? Probably maybe. The one thing we have in common is that we’re absolutely ourselves. No bells and whistles, just us. We’re sincere.
No Copy Cats
Honestly, if you sound like a lot of other people? I’m already bored. How interesting is that? My favorite performances of songs are those performances that don’t sound at all like performances. If I can hand you a song and you make it sound like you wrote it? Well, that’s something! That’s the ‘x’ factor, at least in my book.
I’ve always warned those I produce, “Don’t copy anyone famous out there. In ten years, trends will change, and if you’ve been a copy cat, your singing will feel dated. Instead, just express yourself – paint with your own colors.”
You may disagree. That’s fine. A lot of the world does disagree with me. Many people focus on polish and perfection. Different strokes. I come from a songwriter who informally counsels ‘share your inner voice’ point of view. To me, it’s all good. As long as a person isn’t hurting themselves, quirks are welcome, happy accidents, celebrated.
After all, life isn’t perfect. Shouldn’t our voices reflect all that? Be you!