I have always been underdeveloped as a singer. I have started using the term “underdeveloped” lately as it is more gracious to myself than other adjectives I have used over the years: “mediocre”, “sucky”, and other such self-deprecating terms.
Occasionally, someone would come up to me and say “I love your voice” and I would stagger backward as if I had been hit by a truck. It has been so hard to believe or accept. And it has been almost impossible to hear my voice recorded without focusing on every out of tune note, every weird tone or diction or whatever. It is generally an unpleasant experience.
Over the past several years, I have found myself grieving that my voice isn’t what it used to be. To be honest, I have wallowed in this grief, stuck in my insecurity.
I am not beating myself up without cause. Long ago (as in decades), there was a nine-year period in which I sang in choirs for seven of those years and sang in nightclubs for two years in the middle. In choir you learn how to sing “straight” with no inflections, no gimmicks. It is excellent vocal training. In the bars I emulated the singers of the songs we performed, so it was the opposite type of training.
Eventually I discovered contemporary worship music and started writing it. In worship, you write and sing at a skill level that is accessible to the lowest common denominator. After all, this is about leading everyday people into song, most of whom never sing outside the shower or the pew.
For the past 20 years, I have been singing and writing worship music. This type of singing doesn’t take a lot of skill. So guess what? I’ve gotten lazy. My vocal ability has atrophied. I have forgotten how to sing well. I have forgotten how to sing with a pure, unaffected tone with proper breath support. All the things you learn in choir.
And I have also never had vocal coaching. Until recently.
I now have a vocal coach who is deprogramming at least 20 years of bad habits, stripping my singing down to the pure fundamentals, and challenging me to sing at a level I have never sung before. My wife Merrilyn is also participating in these coaching sessions, and it is fun and rewarding to do this together.
My coach, Tim Carson, currently has me working on a Josh Groban song. (Here you have permission to snicker.) Josh Groban? I never imagined listening much to Josh Groban, let alone sing his stuff. I say this not out of mockery, but with all due respect to someone who has a beautiful voice. Tim admits that Groban is not my style, but this song is really stretching me. This is a very good thing.
So I am excited! Another part of a whole new chapter of my life. Bring it on!
You can read Tim Carson’s bio here.