Being involved in music at church, and sometimes writing my own songs, and being aware of the shortcomings (to say the least) with my singing, I decided to take singing lessons. Even before I started them last summer, I was extremely nervous about the whole thing – there is something different about singing than about learning an instrument that is not yourself. I’m happy with the progress I’ve been making – indeed, happier than I ever expected to be. As someone professionally and not merely personally involved in teaching as well as learning, I’ve been reflecting on the experience, and have even mentioned it in class.
We often assume that, if we try to do something and are not immediately successful, we must simply not be good at it. And so this excerpt from an interview with Steve Perry is worth reflecting on:
Glamour: OK, so let’s say you’re in the car and one of your songs comes on. Do you sing along to it?
Steve: No. Because to sing that stuff, I gotta warm up! It’s kinda high. And I’m older too. It takes a lot of work.
I suspect that most people who are not themselves singers never think about someone like Steve Perry having to warm up. Or having taken any kind of lessons. And so we see people with amazing ability, and if we open our mouths for the first time and what comes out doesn’t sound like they do (or we realize that, even if it sounded pretty good inside our heads, it didn’t sound that way to everyone else), we assume that we are simply lacking innate talent that others have.The difference between most of us and the talented people we admire sometimes is innate talent, at least in part. But it is also, and sometimes only, practice that distinguishes us. No one else will be Steve Perry (or insert any other singer/performer/whatever). Different people have different voices. But there are a very large number of people who aren’t Steve Perry, but who are wonderful singers singing with their own unique instruments. But even if you do not have the time to become truly exceptional, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth making the time and effort to be better.
Whether it is singing, learning a language, or anything else, you have to be prepared to be inept, and then mediocre, before eventually becoming quite good and perhaps maybe even better than that. You’ll never know how far you can go until you make a serious effort, and unless you can learn to be happy that you are making progress towards the goal, rather than expecting to reach it immediately.
And so let me share a song I wrote recently. Just me at my piano (the piano needs to be tuned – sorry). It was actually my New Year’s resolution to sing publicly. I’ve shared recordings of songs I wrote in the past, on which I’ve done multiple takes, added effects, and done other things to try to make up for the shortcomings with my singing. Expect me to share more raw “live” recordings like this one in the future.