Early Year Music Thoughts

Monday was the first day this year when I didn’t play the piano! It felt really surreal, and it’s nice to feel like that, like I belong there at the piano with the keys right under my fingers. Even though it’s only been a couple of weeks (with the holidays as well), I’ve been making much more progress than before and working quite hard. Tuesday I had to have a good session to make up for it!

Even on Monday it’s not that I missed music completely, but chose to prioritise singing and guitar work, partly because I think that’s more important and I have more to do on that side, and partly because guitar practice is something I can (quietly) do in the presence of my husband, which means we can kind of hang out. I confess to doing piano practice in front of the telly because it’s only technical work, mastering chords and sequences and it just needs a lot of time put into it right now.

In the first week of 2013 I got 18 hours of practice done altogether – in about a 7:11 ratio of piano to songs. It was only after about the 15-hour point that I really felt I was making significant progress, so that just goes to show why that particular goal needs to be observed! I tried four or five new songs of which about three have stuck and seem to have genuine potential, I did some recording and a bit of online development work and the rest was just practice – not much in the way of new song-writing but I have a load of half-finished ideas from last year, just waiting for inspiration to strike!

I have had another Truths of Music epiphany (to add to my first ToMe: not everyone will like your music but that doesn’t mean no-one will!) which was, as an individual, our own music tastes change over time. I think I was reminiscing about the days when we all went crazy for Jason Donavan and Rick Astley and thought their songs were the pinnacle of lyrical genius 😉 – I need to remember that the songs I like now are different from the songs I liked five years ago, the songs I’m learning now will not all be songs I play in five years’ time, and that’s true of my own songs as well – I may well not like all the songs I’ve written or recorded in the past or the way I’ve played them. Tastes change, trends change, we change as people, and our sounds change. So one thing I want to focus on is freeing myself from the perfectionism of thinking I MUST LOVE EVERYTHING I’VE EVER DONE as otherwise I’ll probably never record anything. It’s enough to be enthusiastic about it at the time, and then let it go. Everyone has embarrassing songs in their past, think of it as a rite-of-passage rather than a walk of shame.

The things I’m working on at the moment are problems that all stem from tension in the throat and body more generally – lack of vibrato, squeakiness, nasality, increasing range and sustaining breath through long passages (I figure losing weight will help with this after having seen a TV programme this week where they showed autopsy pictures of obese patients, and how fat around the stomach pushes all the organs, including the lungs, upwards into the chest!) – all of these things are related to tension in the throat, tongue and vocal chords and so I’m trying to relax more, free my voice and open it up and do the exercises that will help with this. I’m learning that fulfilling your vocation takes a lot of hard work and training – nothing happens by accident! I guess there are some people who can just sing perfectly without any training but they’re probably quite few and far between. I remember seeing a documentary on the wonderful David Suchet, where he spoke about how he trained to become Poirot. Anyone who’s seen the Poirot movies would have to agree that he looks like he was born for the role – and yet he had to go through several months of research and practice, to find and perfect the accent and mannerisms that make his Poirot so convincing. Seeing that convinced me that there’s no shame in training to be good at something you feel is natural within you.

The other thing I’ve been facing up to is the hard work and length of time it’s going to take for me to reach the standard I want to attain. I’ve told myself I’ll record this year BUT I have to bear in mind that I might not be ready – I don’t want to waste time and money in the studio if I’m not going to come up with something I’m really proud of. It might not be technically possible to free my voice up that much, to write enough songs, to be able to play them and sing them and perform them simultaneously and with a high level of quality and emotion, within the next six to nine months, if I only have 15 hours a week to spend on it (minus piano!) It could be another five years before I get there! But doubtless things are certainly improving and unless I try, I’ll never know the outcome! At least I have a plan…

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