Boyle McCauley News

Since 1979 • January 2021 • Circulation 5000

I Tried . . . Singing

I am 100% talent-free, so I have great admiration for those who can sing, draw, play an instrument, or throw a ball accurately. These are all things that elude me. During a discussion regarding an upcoming family event that would include karaoke (needless to say, this was pre-COVID), a family member insisted that, in theory, with some training anyone can learn to sing. Being willing to try anything, my father and I decided to sign up for vocal lessons and, most likely, prove the theory wrong (my father is even less vocally gifted than I am, if such a thing is possible).

We were upfront with our instructor about what had made us sign up. He was willing to help us get to our modest goal: the ability to sing a song or two without everyone running for the exits. We weren’t expecting to become Aretha (or even Britney) in 12 weeks. We got to work. The first few sessions consisted of making bizarre, ooo/ahh, high/low, and loud/quiet sounds while working on our breathing.

The key to being a good singer is confidence. Wobbly, stumbling vocals come from hesitation and fear of embarrassment. If you have ever noticed you are a much better singer after a couple of drinks, there is a good reason: you are not as self-conscious as you normally would be. Of course, knowing you are a bad singer means you have no confidence to sing, so you get no practice and will remain talent-free forever. Starting out making embarrassing noises and faces got the awkwardness out of our systems, and made singing actual words a relief in comparison.

The songs we were singing had to be both Lindsay and Dad-friendly, so we chose an Eagles song, an Aerosmith song, and an Elton John song. We learned that Albertans tend to speak in a lower register using the back of our throat. You can hear this in the low ummm sound we make when thinking of what to say next. By contrast, eastern Canadians make ooo sounds from the front of their tongue, and speak in a slightly higher register. As good Albertans, our instinct was to sing every song as deeply as possible without letting our natural singing voices emerge. For me especially, our instructor kept reminding me to sing a couple of keys higher so I wasn’t straining my voice. It felt very unnatural, but made some sense – though it didn’t get us anywhere near the high notes Steven Tyler hits (tip: do not attempt an Aerosmith song when first learning to sing).

Staying calm, confident, and breathing properly keeps your voice clear and stable. This is more easily achieved when singing slow songs, so the Eagles and Elton John were more our speed. After 12 weeks, we could both just about sing “Desperado” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” well enough to not be noticed in a crowd. When karaoke day came, the talent vs. training theory was still unsettled, but we had improved from our original talent-free status.

I am still not a good singer, but at least now I know why!

Lindsay Brommeland is a McCauley resident of 14 years who will try anything once.

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