Posts Tagged ‘Singing’


I fixed dinner tonight and had the GF over (a joy to be around, nicest woman in the world), with several blues CDs in the background (Robert Cray, Willie Edwards, Junior Parker, et al.) as we ate and drank.

Eventually, the talk turned to singing. After decades playing in bar bands, where I let my “fingers do the walking,” (and if you recognize that reference, you’re dating yourself), last winter I decided to try my hand at vocals after our new band’s vocalist ghosted when we had three-and-a-half sets of material down and I was ready to start booking us. (No obvious problems musically or with anybody in the band, no warning — he just disappeared. I’m still slightly pissed at the lack of courtesy, but mostly disappointed and mystified, as we sounded good and were almost ready to go.)

So, we were high and dry. To keep things from crashing, I decided to try my hand at singing, and I sucked. Bad. I’m not quite as bad now, but still not good. I do a decent job on about 10 songs (embarrassingly badly on maybe another 20), but am obviously in the “Our guitar player will sing one for you now” category when we have a better vocalist. (Any good, local (Tucson), left-of-center vocalists reading this, please leave a comment.)

Anyway, the GF has a great sense of rhythm (good dancer) and seems to have an instinctive understanding of the blues (she’s lived a hard enough life for it–which, frankly, is important if you’re gonna get it right), but when I suggested that I haul out the acoustic in a “judgment-free zone” and play a few tunes with her doing vocals, she recoiled in horror, and said she “can’t” even try it — which meant “won’t.”

I’ve run into this over and over, including with myself. I’ve been playing in bands for decades, but it’s only over the last half-year or so that I’ve even tried singing. With the blues band (great players one and all), none of them would even do shouting (no singing, no being on pitch necessary) in call-and-response tunes. I’d go, “C’mon! you don’t even need to sing! Just bounce off me!” And they wouldn’t do it. No way, no how. They were petrified. They’ve all spent thousands of hours playing their instruments, and are all great players, but vocals? No way, no how. The horror! The horror!

This caused me to look at my own previous reluctance to even try singing, and to remember what I was telling my self-sabotaging self when I chickened out:

  • “I sound like shit! I’ll be humiliated!”
  • “I can’t stand it if that’d happen!”
  • “It’d be awful! Absolutely awful!”
  • “I’m such a good player, I shouldn’t need to sing!”

I still sound like shit (mostly–pretty decent on a few tunes), and am still embarrassed by my vocals, but here’s what I tell myself to keep the anxiety under control:

  • If I sound like shit, it ain’t the end of the world;
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  • Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan both thought they sounded awful–were they? (In other words my self-criticality isn’t necessarily accurate.)
  • Again, if I make a fool of yourself vocally, what’s the worst that can happen? Will I die? Go bankrupt? Will my honey walk away from me in disgust because of bad vocals? (No)
  • Would I be better off if I sing, even badly? (Yes)
  • Most people are so self-absorbed they’ll barely register whether I’m good, bad, or indifferent. So, why not?
  • The critical jerks are mostly a bunch of insecure, incompetent assholes, too — so why not?
  • What real harm can nasty comments do to me?

And that’s the key: what you tell yourself.

With singing, get over the initial embarrassment and you might have a hell of a lot of fun. Maybe not, but why not try? You have nothing to lose except your embarrassment.