Mumbling Merry Music in the Moonlight (and writing, too)

funny dog pictures - I Has A Hotdog: I'm skipping merrily along

I had my second singing lesson yesterday.

I think it went well.  I’m still practicing “O Waly Waly,”* which is not a particularly happy song,** but I do have a new vocal exercise about many mumbling mice that should keep my loving and supportive offspring in hysterics.***

And I’ve learned a lot already.  I didn’t go in utterly ignorant— I can read music^ and haven’t completely lost my breath control—but I’m an instrumentalist who hasn’t sung solo anywhere but in the car or the shower since elementary school.^^

There aren’t any keys to press or holes to cover to get the right notes and no reeds to shave to get the right pitch.  There’s just me, my vocal cords, and a pair of ears that aren’t used to judging sounds from the inside.

Does that sound vaguely familiar to anyone else?

Because as I was driving home, wondering how many sit-ups are the equivalent to forty-five minutes of diaphragmatic breathing,^^^ and thinking about what else I can do, short of a frontal lobe enema, to get the next scene of my round robin writing project out of my imagination, where it has been stuck for three days, I glanced at the orange post-it stuck on the front of my practice music—Many mumbling mice are making merry music in the moonlight—mighty nice.°

Something clicked.

My voice teacher had reassured me that vocal exercises are always weird and often embarrassing, but all those mice and goofy syllables will help me when I sing more serious stuff—and unless I brought one with me, there were no cameras around and she wasn’t going to post anything to YouTube.

I thought, silly exercises . . . and imagined my main character—who has to rescue a hostage from a room full of bad guys, thanks so very much, Ann—losing his temper, charging in like a bull, and accidentally knocking all the bad guys over in a sort of accidental domino effect so the only two people standing are himself and the hostage.

Stupid?  Yeah.  Did it work?  No.  Am I ever going to share it with anyone else, beyond the above?  No.  But by the time I sat down to write, I had a couple ideas about what actually might work and one of those yielded about 600 workable words.

Not bad.  And if that bit of wisdom translated, maybe more will.

Here are the rest of my notes. °°  Sub write for sing, words for notes, studio for editing process, and so forth, and see what you think:°°°

Forget what you think you can’t do.

I walked into that studio thinking I had an octave and a half tenor range.  Turns out, I have quite a few more notes in there.  They aren’t all good, yet—and in fact might only be detectable to dogs and voice teachers—but I’ve got ’em and I can get better at ’em, with practice.

Just throw the notes up there and see what happens.

You won’t hit every note right the first time, but you won’t get ’em right at all if you stop throwing and you’ll never know what you can or truly can’t do.

Loosen up and get out of your own way.

Over-controlling tightens a singer up from nose to navel and a tight singer loses most of what they can do.  Most of singing is being confident enough to let singing happen.

Concentrate on your consonants, too, not just the vowels. 

Consonants aren’t as showy or dramatic or fun, but they support the vowels so people know what you’re singing.

There is no perfect singing.

Studios adjust tones, add beats, get rid of mistakes and static, and even stick a couple of different takes together to make a ‘perfect’ performance.

Breathe through your bellybutton and use your stomach muscles like a bagpipe to support the sound.

Okay, maybe not that one. . .  Though breathing is always a good thing.

 Some of this may seem basic, sure, but basics are sometimes forgotten and a new perspective can be really helpful.

Don’t know about you, but it seems to me like I’m getting a two-for-one with these lessons—plus a blog post.  Can’t beat that.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go mumble some mice . . .

___________

*The water is wiiiiide, I can-not cross o’er.

** O love is handsome and love is kind / Bright as a jewel when first it’s new / but love grows old and waxes cold / And fades away like the morning dew.    I know it’s a good starter song, but, you know, if I’m gonna sing the blues, I’d like some rhythm to it.

***Sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a child who, when Mommy reaches beyond the upper limits of her comfortable range, sticks her fingers in her ears and says, “Oww!  Mom!  Stop!  I’ll tell you anything you want to know!  Please, ow!  I give up!”  Much more of that and she’s out of the will—my vintage collection of Star Trek paperbacks (foxed, dog-eared, badgered, wolverined, and read in a series of bathtubs and a shower or two) will go to her sister, who will appreciate them, once she learns how to read.

^Not that it helps much, since I can’t sight-sing to save my life.  Knowing a dot on a line is a G doesn’t mean I hear it.  At all.

^^ Barring one painful verse of “Climb Every Mountain” that I was required to sing for Music Ed  in college before I changed my major to a completely different department.

^^^Ow, and I mean, ow.  Seriously, I feared for my caesarean scar there for a while.

°First one to tell me where that came from gets a brownie point and the admiration of all.

°°If you’re surprised that I’d take notes during a singing lesson—or during most activities, barring one or two—you must be new. Welcome!

°°°Not about my singing deficiencies, please, about the advice.

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11 thoughts on “Mumbling Merry Music in the Moonlight (and writing, too)

  1. Was it your parents who taught you to push through your fear (whichever one it was that day) or is this something you’ve learned as an adult? You continue to inspire, m’dear.

  2. Your singing lessons sound like fun. I always thought warm up exercises, though silly, were fun. Yours sound a lot like that. I love the analogies you find in every day life that appeal to writing. It’s fantastic and so is this post.

    • They are fun, though I could do without the laughter from my family. Revenge will be mine! 🙂

      This analogy is probably a sign of desperation—three days I’ve been banging my head against the wall, Lisa . . . ugh!

      • Oh, mom always gets the last laugh. They should know that by now! And I’m sorry you’ve gotten to that point, but you’ve got a brilliant head, Sarah. Enough banging and wonderful will spill out. 😉

  3. The thought of taking singing lessons makes me want to vomit in terror. I will remember that terror the next time I start my bitching about how hard writing is — at least it’s easier for me than having to expose an innocent human being to my godawful singing voice.

  4. Oh, Sarah! I’m late to the party but so proud of you for going back and trying something new. A couple of things.
    1) My daughter just got back from a week at band camp, the sole oboeist (thirty clarinets, thirty flutes down at Urbana-Champaign or maybe reverse that), and after much worry on her four parent’s parts, she had a blast. The reason I tell you this is because she was too excited to be back and take up the bassoon that the school band instructor let her borrow if she bought the reeds. Her excitement about moving on to the bassoon…priceless.
    2) I sang The Water is Wide about a million times to my son, the nine-hour-colic guy. My brain was mush and all I could come up with were my initial voice songs. It soothed him (that and Ava Maria) and I would sing until I had no voice left. I thought if anyone listened to the words, they’d send us to a shrink.
    3)Not that you asked, but my favorite bit of vocal wisdom (meaning something I didn’t get for YEARS but finally clicked, luckily before a competition) is that when you breathe picture a barrel on your lower back. Have your husband or one of your kids put there hand there and when you breathe in, get their hand to move. Imagine you are filling up this very large barrel. Women have a hard time after years of sucking in, that we breathe totally wrong.
    Oh, and yeah, consonants totally your friend.

    Yay you!

    • It’s not a party ’til you walk in, Lyra!

      Your daughter is a bassoonist? That. Is. Awesome. Watch your windows, though—they’re gonna rattle some.

      The only song that worked for colicky Janie was Louie, Louie, a song with ten discernible words. . .

      So that’s how the barrel metaphor works. Our pianist suggested it, but we figured it was a guy thing.

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