Sunday, April 16, 2006

Fobsvithe 4: Sing Your Heart Out

I have a tendency to approach life tentatively. This comes mainly from a fear of doing things wrong or otherwise making a fool of myself. If I'm going to screw up, I'd rather do so quietly than call attention to myself. So if there's any doubt about my ability to do something right--and if I'm good at anything, it's doubting--then I generally tiptoe and mumble my way through it. Sometimes, however, this approach doesn't work.

One of my passions in life is music. Having no musical talent, though, I have no choice but to practice this passion passively, enjoying the music that other people make (on a somewhat related note, we went to see Sethillama's band perform at Borders last night and I was impressed; go to his blog and ask if you can buy a cd--they were selling them last night for five bucks a piece). I remember believing that I had a good singing voice when I was in Primary, but whether that was true or not, puberty hit and dropped my voice down to ridiculously low depths. This might not be such a bad thing if I knew how to make a low voice work for me--Barry White does just fine with his--but the problem is I don't know how. In the first place, the majority of singers I sing along with, like Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, are singing in octaves I can't dream of approaching. When I was dating Foxy J her sister was amused to hear me attempting to sing along with Mariah Carey. I end up either singing twelve octaves too low and my voice comes out flat, or I try to hit the high notes and come out horribly off-key. Add to this the fact that unless people told me I wouldn't even know I was singing flat or off-key, and you can see I simply was not made to sing. Most of the time when I sing in the company of others I either sing very quietly or I exagerrate the offness of my key, lest anyone think I'm actually trying to sing well.

This would all not be a problem if I did not secretly desire to be a beautiful singer, capable of ending world conflict with nothing but the sound of my voice, and if I were not too stubborn to accept the fact that I'm just not good at some things. So a couple months ago I joined the choir at church. For those of you unfamiliar with Mormon ward choirs, generally they are so happy to have another warm body, particularly a male warm body, that they don't care whether you can sing. I took my place among the basses--making three of us--and did my best to pretend I knew what I was doing. You'd think I would be fine singing bass, but first of all I have to hear the bass part, which is hard to do when all my life I've never heard anything but the melody, and in the second place most of the songs we sing have notes, even in the bass part, that are too high for me to sing. If the darn songs would stay in my four-note range at the bottom of the bass clef I'd be fine, but those stinking composers expect my voice to jump all over the place!

What I usually do in practices is sing loudly whenever we're on those four bottom notes, then as we progress higher my voice gets softer. Often, I run out of breath when trying to sing high notes, so I'll just mouth them while others sing. This has saved me from embarrassment several times as I tried to hit those notes that dare to float above the clef and my voice cracked. Can you imagine if I'd been singing loud enough for people to hear me when my voice wobbled and squeaked? How embarrassing. They'd probably laugh me off the stage and right out of the building. I'd look like a fool.

This morning, though, we sang "I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked" in sacrament meeting. It's a beautiful Easter song and I really wanted to give it my all. Jesus, I figured, deserves no less. I sang from the bottom of my gut--which is what the conductor always tells us to do--and put as much power into each note--even those high, floating-above-the-clef ones--as I could. And you know what? My voice didn't squeak, wobble, or crack. I can't guarantee you this because of my above-mentioned inability to recognize my own bad singing, but I'm pretty sure I was hitting the right notes. I was so happy to hit that C (it might even have been a D; I don't remember), I actually held it a bit too long. Nevertheless, the song was powerful, it was moving, it was beautiful, and I was part of it.

As with many things in life, singing requires you to give it all you've got, even when you're not sure you can do it right. The few times in my life I've gotten past that tentativity and made a leap of faith, I've been rewarded. I should do it more often.

9 comments:

Earth Sign Mama said...

Singing is such a pleasure! I love singing. I have about a nine note range...Only those nine notes. And I only hear melodies...But I get so much joy from those nine notes. Good for you for daring to do more than just doubt yourself!! The ward choir will always welcome your enthusiasm and it is a great place to get your singing fix.

Anonymous said...

And I'm a tenor who can only do the TOP four notes of the bass cleft. People's biases being what they are, I think it's better to be low-voiced man and a mediocre singer than a high-voiced man and a mediocre singer.

Rachel said...

My roommate is always saying that she's determined to get me to belt it out when I sing. However, it's not so much that I'm a tentative singer, but rather I'm quiet. If I sing too loudly, I'll go off key. And I NOTICE, which makes it all the worse. You're blessed for not noticing these things.

Rachel said...

And PS, I feel most cool to be an Honorary Fob. Thanks. :)

Iguana Sam said...

"I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked" is one of my favorite classical style hymns. Another one up there is "The Holy City," especially its swelling chorus.

bawb said...

I've always been in the same boat, only with a relatively high voice. It took me years to realize that, when singing with no accompaniment, I switch up a key on basically every breath. Yesterday, though, in priesthood opening exercises, I was surrounded by old men with rich voices whom I could just follow through the bass part. It was wonderful.

Glad your Easter singing was enjoyable too. I really like the new blog header, btw.

TK said...

Congratulations! I was jealous just hearing about church, much less getting to sing (I didn't get to go). I would like to have heard you.

I got the idea that what you're really talking about is called 'PRACTICE'. Who knows, with a little more, you just might be a really great singer. Maybe this is a talent you just haven't heretofore developed! Maybe with your singing and Svoid's piano playing . . .

weed said...

I heard you singing just the other morning and thought to myself "Fob has a nice voice." I'm glad to hear that you're using it. Good job. :-)

Th. said...

.

Next time you can, like in that awfulawfulawful Sister Act II, break out in rap and win the competition.

Go!