I entered George’s guesthouse yesterday morning full of confidence in my “improved voice.” I felt a little wistful that I didn’t have any new songs to record, but I was ready to work on finishing all the songs for a CD I’m planning to sell!
I decided that my song, “It Might Have Been,” was almost finished. George added a “bell-tree” effect; which is simply a shimmery, bell-like sound in a few spots. I fixed a few words that were slightly pitchy. It was actually hard work and took many tries to get it right. I wondered if it were worth it for me to be fixing and spending the time. I was amazed that it took a period of over two hours to record a few “fixes,” when I often recorded guitar, vocals, and arrangements within a single session of three hours!
After the two hours there was still more time to work on something else.
George re-opened the song I had wanted to redo – Saying Goodbye. It was one of the only songs I’ve done with such an up-tempo arrangement. “You know, Jude, I could add some electric guitar to this,” George suggested. I told George we’d concentrate on the vocals first and perhaps do that later on.
I began singing. After only two lines, George stopped me.
“Jude! You’re breathy.”
He demonstrated and wailed the words, “SO FEW WORDS AND SO MUCH TO SAY! Come on – you wrote this! Don’t mince around and be delicate! Sing with conviction and stop thinking so much!”
I explained to George – my issue was that I needed to “follow the beat.” I promised not be breathy, although I didn’t want to push and go off pitch. He brought me over some larger headphones and turned up the drums.
He kept wailing the lyrics, in order me to show me that he wanted that kind of passion!
I tried . . . over and over and over again. Eventually, the sweat started to bead up on me. I tried to sing louder. I was singing my original lyrics, so this was a breakup song. I wondered if perhaps that’s why it wasn’t working. I closed my eyes and become angry and emotional. I willed myself to remember that I read the words to this song at Jason’s funeral!
George shook his head, and stopped me again. He told me to listen to the recording so I could understand what he was telling me.
As I sat and listened, I realized he was absolutely right. My singing was simply words and notes – I was not convincing; I was not conveying any emotion. I couldn’t figure out why my tears and sweat weren’t coming through!
Then I had a thought. I told George that my vocal coach, Peaches, had sung this song and i wanted to share her version.
He listened and said, “It’s your song, Jude. Your voice is the voice for this song. I prefer it and I’m certain you can pull it off. It’s not at all about technique. It’s all about feeling the words. Do you want to try again?”
I shook my head, no. I was spent.
He could see I was discouraged. From the very, first day that I met George he said to me, “You are the singer for your songs!”
We both listened to the old version of my song. George agreed that it was far better than what I had done today. I said to George, “You know, it really sounds okay to me. I think I’ll just leave it alone.”
George smiled and said, “If that’s what you want to do, Jude.” He reminded me about the kind of time that is put into professional recordings.
Today, I appreciated his absolute conviction about making my songs be their best. How fortunate I am to have his professional involvement! He could have just collected his money and stayed silent. I also reveled in his compliment that he preferred my singing to Peaches, who is a professional.
Later in the day, I listened to the subtle improvements on “It Might Have Been.” Those “small fixes” gave me intense satisfaction because as I listened to my song, the elements that had bothered me were gone. I enjoyed my song.
I decided that I did have progress today. Perhaps it wasn’t as much as other times, but I am definitely moving forward.
I also appreciate what decent vocals I had done on Saying Goodbye a few months earlier. It was not an easy song to sing! Perhaps I will try again another time, just as I redid “More Than You Know.” I remember well how on that particular song, I was frustrated by my inability to improve upon it during a later session.
I have wondered when I should stop my “discovery phase” and begin promoting myself. Steve, my childhood friend, corresponded with me the other day. I asked him if he liked my recent song, “It Might Have Been.”
What did you think of the new song?
I just listened once the day you emailed it & didn’t like it as much as most of the others. I’ll play it some more; sometimes they grab me after 3-4 plays.
I figured that you felt that way, when I didn’t hear from you. I appreciate your honesty. I remember “Memory of Love” didn’t grab you initially, either. This one grabbed me a bit, as I’ve been listening to it more.
Me too. It hit me, “this is a MUSICAL song” and then it seemed to fit and made perfect sense.
And so I am beginning to get the idea that I will eventually write my book as “A Musical Story of A Grieving Woman Transformed.” I will edit down my blog posts, and the musical of my life will be stories with music. The book could be an E-book with music, or have a CD included with a printed version.
When I performed at Border’s last night, it was probably the smallest audience I’ve ever had. I looked out and saw that people were leaving before I would even begin playing. Most of them were in their twenties and didn’t want any music distracting them from what they were doing. I felt very much alone.
The room was large, and people were far away from me. No one sat at any of the nearby tables. I decided that I would enjoy singing for myself. I began playing and my voice was clear; I felt confident. I made very few mistakes, if any.
After half an hour, I paused and took a drink. It was interesting for me that my voice was not tired after having sung so much in a single day. It was quiet and there was certainly no applause between songs. I looked at my list. I had played ten of my songs after starting out with one cover song, “If” by Bread.
I played another cover song, and I was surprised to hear clapping. I spoke into the microphone, “Okay, I get it! You like hearing something familiar.” I played another cover song; “You’ve Got A Friend.” The clapping continued. It continued for the rest of the evening.
After I sang a few more of my own songs, I decided to stop. My last song was, “Saying Goodbye.”
As I put down my guitar I said, “You have no idea what great practice this is for me. You should have heard me two months ago!”
A man spoke loudly. He said, “You don’t need any more practice. You sound great!”
I had won over my audience!
I swung my gear bag over my shoulder, clutched my guitar case, and headed alone to my car. I was relieved that I had already called my parents several times and wouldn’t have to make more calls. I loved listening to music in my car. I had been listening to country music to help inspire me to possibly compose something in that direction.
My family was waiting for me to bring them dinner. There was so much laughter at the dinner table, and I was filled with the joy that music had brought me.
There are days when I feel like a shooting star. There are also days when I am so happy to be on earth.
Thank you so much for your comment regarding grief on Post #61 (What is Most Helpful). I’m pondering another grief post with my reply to your comment.
I am so behind with everything. I need to get my mom an extra pillow – my dad has been bugging me.
I have some more questions/thoughts about grieving, but will hold them until I am back from my trip next week, and can be more coherent than I am now. Finally finished packing…everything is in a suitcase, but I still think I get an “F”!
It’s the seemingly unimportant things that we do on a daily basis that define our life and who we are. Who else would care enough to run out and buy your mom an extra pillow?…it’s a big mitzvah! Say hi to her for me!
Now off to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz …..Sam
Well now that you mentioned more writing about grief, I will hold off on my writing piece about grief. I actually asked my grief forum for their opinion on this – I had not one response! I think that’s very telling. They are in so much pain that it is trivial for them to answer a philosophical question!
But I did ask two of my fellow grief friends and I have some material from them. I think it is always a good subject for me to write about – grief.
Glad you thought the pillow was a mitzvah – I have a “soft touch.” I got it for her “just in case.” No more stuffing anything!
Well, it’s definitely a “feather“in your cap!
Never any reason to rush writing…I would be kind of surprised if you could post something without reflecting on it a bit…not every day we get to go back 30 years! Anyone else you want me to find for you? 🙂
It was not a great session today – very disappointing for me.
That happens. Great performances aren’t something you can always just switch on like a light.
Saying Goodbye vocals were a disaster! I sang so many times – I pushed myself to the max. But from the beginning, George didn’t think I captured any feeling for the song.
I agree, you’ve made so much progress. I happened to play the other day one of the brief recordings you did at my apartment that first time you came over. Let’s just say, A LOT OF PROGRESS!!!!!! (and your guitar playing has always been terrific.)
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