The other night I was at a business class and the inevitable question came up for all participants, “What do you do?”. We all take turns answering around the room. We share what our expectations are for taking the class. We are of different ages, backgrounds, and trades, but we are all there for the same reason. We want to better ourselves in our business. This is a computer lab and we are each seated at a computer and I decide to open up my website. The young woman sitting next to me is starting a dog grooming business. She sees my website and is instantly impressed (thank you JJ!) and starts questioning about guitar lessons for herself. After the class we are walking out to the parking lot and the conversation leads to singing. She asks, “How do you sing and play at the same time?”. Normally people balk about talking too much shop outside of getting paid but I offer some tips; start with a really slow song with one chord. At this point I break out in a hideously silly song about “Grandma had a chicken and it wouldn’t lay an egg”; thank you to my ex for teaching me that song. So I tell her the song is fun, silly, easy, and highly entertaining; a great start. Then she asks me what do you do if your voice sucks. So I ask, who told you that? On a side note, I’ve just met this person and never heard her sing. She shrugs and says, “Oh, just people. I hate the way my voice sounds”.
At this point my brain hurts and I instantly feel a pang of sympathy for this person. I tell her the story of when I was younger in middle school, someone very close to me nudged me while I was sining in church and told me to pipe down because I was singing between the cracks. As you can see, this stuck with me for a very long time. If you know me well you can attest to the fact I have a VERY bad memory. There are hilarious stories that my friends and family can tell me about my past that I cannot remember happening at all, and I can tell you I was not drunk at the time. But that one negative comment about my voice became ingrained in my memory. I fast forward to high school where despite my shattered self esteem about singing, I continue to sing, I was heard by the choir director and given a solo. So what does that tell you? Did I get voice lessons between middle school and high school and miraculously get better? No. Did my voice just naturally mature and get better by itself? Maybe, but doubtful. Is the quality of someone’s voice subjective and “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder”? I would say so. Think about some of the worst sounding singers who make a living doing what they do. But we love them anyway despite or maybe because of their quirky voice.
Your voice is what makes you YOU! Celebrate it! Love it! Nurture it! Yes, you can get voice lessons and increase your vocal power and range. You can do ear training and sing less in the cracks. But you can only change so much about your voice. The rest you have to accept. So I close our conversation with this last piece of advise. The best way to better your voice is listen. You have to find your voice and stop trying to imitate someone else. Take what anyone else has to say with a grain of salt because there will always be haters. And there will always be someone who will love your voice. Hopefully it’s you. Remember even Florence Foster Jenkins filled a concert hall full of paying listeners. Now if I could just practice with I preach.
From DTS Recording Studio,
this is Julie Schmidt Braeckman signing off for now.