Silence is not golden

After spending all day in the studio last week, listening to the guys laying down their bits and pieces of the song, I felt an incredible pressure to deliver vocally.
Went back to the studio Sunday around noon, and it didn¨t quite go according to plan….

St6

Put on the headphones, the song began, I started singing that ONE song that I’ve been listening to on REPEAT over and over day in and day out for the past three weeks (I know it in my SLEEP!) and it just doesn’t sound the way it should. So I start over. And then again. And again. The more I do it over and over, the more frustrated I get, and it pissed me off that my voice just wouldn’t cooperate. It’s as if it had a life of its own! Goddammit!

As much as you get an incredible adrenaline-kick when you’ve nailed a song 100%, you lose your spirits pretty quickly when you don’t.

Emotionally I went through the whole spectrum. From the confidence when I walked in – “I KNOW this song, I’ve sung it, recorded it, hummed it back and forth for weeks, I’m going to give it ALL!” to the sadness when I felt like I was a complete failure who sucked (“I’ll never sing anywhere again in my entire life, I’m awful!”) to the last anger where I rolled upp my sleeves, clenched my fists and went back to the mic going “I’ll sing this thing perfectly if it’s the last thing I fucking DO! Bring it on!”

But eventually I had to give up and resign – a voice is a voice, it’s a part of your body and it doesn’t always do what you want it to do. A guitarist can just change the strings if his guitar doesn’t work. A singer’s “quick fixes” are very limited. You just have to accept that some days you sound great – nd some days you sound like you’ve never sung a clear note in your entire life.

It just bugs me that the budget is limited and we already exceeded our time there. Dejan, the sound guy is cool, he’s not going to overcharge me, and I know he’s incredibly good at what he does. But I need to be the best that I can be. No sloppiness, no half-assed performances…

It’s pretty obvious really – I’ve made a living out of criticizing other people’s bands and records my whole adult life. Some can’t wait to find something to throw back in your face “If you don’t like our album, let’s see if YOU can do it better!”

No room for fuck-ups.

I know now that singing is tough and you can never predict anything. The first time it ever happened to me was back in 1989. We had a gig (with my first band Spirit) and we’d been playing several shows one after another that week, We had also recorded a demo and basically, my voice was shot.

I remember telling the guys that we had to cut “Street Life” out of the set – a song that begins with this long “yeeeeah” thing that I knew I couldn’t do with the Bonnie Tyler-voice I was struggling with at the time.

That night, when we walked out on stage, the guys were in such a great mood and they totally forgot that my voice was gone – so suddenly I hear the first notes of…Street Life. I had no choice but to try singing the freaking song anyway. That’s when it just died. Disappeared. I could not squeeze out another note, I couldn’t even speak!  I had to leave the stage and the band finished up with two instrumentals, probably hoping that I would come back out. I didn’t. I couldn’t. 

[Our first “real” demo that we recorded with a 16 channel mixer I believe it was, we were impressed because we’d only been working with like 4 channels before that, lol! And it is SO 80’s!] 

I walked around for over a week writing NOTES to people because I couldn’t speak, nothing at all was coming out, not even the slightest whisper (which I knew was a very bad idea – whispering strains your vocal chords even more).

I went to see a speech therapist, because they established at the hospital that I had the right technique for singing, but I had the wrong speech-technique and that was straining my voice in the long run.

No wonder. I had had vocal training by a classical teacher whose background was teaching in conservatories in Vienna – she was one of those operetta / musical kind of people whose main goal was to get me to reach the vocal stratosphere.

So all I remember from her classes was constant practicing of scales (Do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-doooo – especially the “doooooo”), she wanted to see how high I could go. I was one of the best students at the time, because I had the kind of voice that could do that. I was bored to death though.

Then I went to a jazz-singer and got a different kind of vocal training there for about a year.

So I had that down, the singing. But my “speaking” voice was bad – so after being taught how to speak in a way that wouldn’t ruin my voice, which took me two or three years of constant training, I could spare my vocal chords and sing more difficult songs.

But it was a LONG way back! Most of all – it was a very frustrating way, because I was afraid to lose my voice that way again.

And NOW – it happened again. It’s not that I “lost” my voice, it just wouldn’t do what I wanted. I know that it can happen at any time – when you least expect it and when it’s MOST inconvenient.

I’ve got one more shot at it, next week when everything has been mixed. All I can do is pray for a better day! :)

 

3 comments

  1. West Side Dave

    Ah, I know the feeling, D! When I recorded the basic tracks for “The Illusionist”, I had the guitar parts about %80 the way I wanted. There was a part I thought would be cool which I came up w/ the day before; played through the track 3 times w/ the drummer, just to get the drum track down, which we did. The drummer left and we started to record the “real” guitar tracks; naturally I flubbed `em and I was also on the clock. When I went back a month and a half later, I was totally prepared and all went well. But we just have to accept that not everything`s gonna go exactly the way we want it to. Trying to force the situation to go the way we wish it to go w/ clenched teeth & grim determination tends to have the opposite effect; tension works AGAINST you, not FOR you. “It is what it is” would be the best attitude to take, or at least one that works for me. You`ll get there!:))

  2. Daniela

    There you go, I always thought that the only reason a guitarist, bassist, drummer or keyboardist would suck, was cause they were unprepared or hungover. ;) But yeah, music is an extension of your body and mind in a way, things can’t always be rushed. But what can you do when you’re on the clock and not on a home studio with unlimited time. It sucks, cause I don’t want to release something that doesn’t live up to my own standards and expectations and everyone else did a great job. We’ll see how this goes, but thank you for your support and encouragement. :D

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