Nera

On Singing – my journey

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Today I feel like not doing anything…

No wait, that was on Saturday. I woke up with a sore throat and just wanted to stay in bed for the rest of the day. So I cancelled the rehearsal and thought about ways of getting rid of the germ that is lurking inside me…

It’s already fall, October to be more specific. That means the climate is getting cooler and it affects us whether we like it or not. I certainly notice that I feel different now than in the summer months. Funny thing is I usually get sick during summer, actually in August, although this year I got sick two months earlier and I’m still recovering from that. ūüėÄ

Why not try and prevent ourselves from getting sick?

Once the temperature on the outside gets even colder, you and I, along with everybody else will put on the heating. That means the air will dry. That means your vocal folds will feel dry and you will find singing more difficult. I suggest to either buy a humidifier or do just the old fashioned steam inhalation thing. Boil some water, maybe add a few drops of Carmolis into it and inhale.  Steeeeeeeam, steam, steam, steam.

Another good idea is to rinse your sinuses. It sounds terrible, but it’s feels actually quite nice. You can use this for allergies too. You will need this silly looking jug and seasalt (pure fine sea salt). I use this thing called rhinoceros in Finnish:

sarvikuono

You can buy one from here: http://www.yliopistonverkkoapteekki.fi/NENAeHUUHTELUKANNU-SARVIKUONO

Then to keep your mouth moist, you can try this:

Echina

Sold here: http://www.yliopistonapteekki.fi/fi/apteekkipalvelut/tuotteet/pages/product.aspx?catalog=yasalescatalog&productid=2113470(yabasecatalog)&category=kipujaflunssa(yasalescatalog)/luonnostaflunssaan(yasalescatalog)

Or if you happen to be in the States, this:

Entertainers_Sectre_product_shot-500x500

 

I haven’t tried it, forgot to buy any last time. You can find more info about the product here:¬†http://entertainerssecret.com

And well eat your blueberries, lingonberries, cranberries and yes your vegetables! Wear wool socks, dress according to the weather. Allow your body to acclimatise when moving from one place to another. Drink enough water. Wash your hands. Be in shape, get off your chair and dance for a few minutes if you really don’t feel like heading to the gym. Lastly, if you don’t have any blueberries or lingonberries, you hate vegetables, then buy some vitamin C in a jar. ¬†There is some contradicting information whether it actually helps or not. Maybe it helps if you think it helps. ūüėÄ

The point is to try and do everything in your power to avoid getting sick. Yes, you can sing when you are sick, but that’s another topic. And anyway, who likes being sick? So eat you vegetables and have fun singing!

 

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There is freedom within

I have this tendency to try everything, at least once…I’ve wanted to sing in an a capella group for ages, but I never found the right people to start with. So I decided that hey, I join maybe an existing one. And so last Monday I went to audition. I don’t really know what to say about it. I found myself in a place that is just not for me. The question is why do I keep doing the same mistake all over again?

I mean it’s fine that the conductor had a classical training, it’s also fine that all the other singers had a classical training too. It’s also fine that they will sing the whole autumn classical. Although apparently they have “lighter” repertoire too. The question is again, what was I doing there?

I tried to be open minded and go like, well, will see, you don’t know until you tried and so on.

About the audition. Well, the lady asked me to sing any song. So I sang any song:¬†I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…(yes, well, the topic of this post I guess). Few things that she said was as follows, that the song didn’t show much range. True, but she asked me to sing any song, not to show off my range…second, that I was belting and my breathing was like in belting. At that point I stopped listening. Don’t know about you, but I tune out when I¬†disagree with someone, but am¬†not willing to argue, because I see there is no point. Just to be clear, I was far from belting. Didn’t think that I even used a heavy mix, anyway.

Then came the actual testing part, the lovely A vowel up to the skies. I stopped at a C# two octaves above middle C. I know that there is more, but not with the A…Plus I really did not see the point. I mean just out of interest of course you can test how high and low can you go, but you’d need to consider a few things, like the fact that it’s a new situation. Just met the person.There is also the part where you need to think about with what exercise do you test, the A might not be the best option if you want to test the highs and lows. It is a great tool to see if you can connect the registers.

What I felt was that I was not good enough, that I was judged. Yes, I know, it was an audition, but you can do that on so many different levels, judging that is. I was not according to the classical standards. Hey, after all I’m a pop singer. It’s alright you can call me negative or whatever. Or that my ego can’t take criticism. That might be true too.

It’s not that I did not make the group. I did. Yet¬†later on in the practise session, I was thinking all the time what am I doing here. Not because I couldn’t sing the high soprano part. It just felt completely wrong. Not because the piece we practised was classical. The week before I actually had my first “real” lesson in classical singing. I like classical music. I just couldn’t help comparing the two, the lesson and this situation that I was in. On the lesson I felt at ease, my voice was flowing effortless, I didn’t have to do anything extra. My larynx was free. Here at the practise, I was lost, I sang with a too hight larynx in an airy¬†head voice. Not good. Of course I do realise a private lesson is different to a group practise, but still…

I do have a point to all this. It’s not about the drama of oh why is everything against me, why can’t I find people with whom to sing with. The point is I’d need to stop looking for answers from the outside. All I need is, is inside of me. And no, it doesn’t mean that I can never ever work with others, that I should become a hermit. I mean, that the answer to whatever I am searching for lies within.

Frankly I do not know if I’ll go back to the group. I feel that the timing is wrong, I should focus on finding my own style, instead of trying to adapt myself into a group that has already a style. Plus my classical training is really at the beginning, so it might not be a good idea.

So what is¬†belting, well it’s a different technique than mix singing. I can’t really belt that well. You need to anchor your body and your neck. According to some scientist it can only be done on certain vowels. And on certain heights. It is not taking your chest voice to the skies. And it is not yelling, although you might mistake it for that. Here a bit more info:¬†http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belting_(music)

And if I’m not mistaken you can have a mix-belt version too, which is really a heavy mix, that sounds similar, but how you produce it, is different. I guess I’ll need to find out more about belting. ūüėÄ And no, belt doesn’t mean chest voice.

Idina Menzel seems to be belting at the end of this ( although she seems to have a bit of a trouble with it, it’s not easy)

 

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Start singing today

Singing is good for your health. I will not refer to any studies, there are many at least about the benefits of choir singing. Okay, here is one article :

http://ideas.time.com/2013/08/16/singing-changes-your-brain/

But any singing is good for you. ¬†You know the days when you feel like nothing is working and you just want to hide in your bed and eat chocolate? Can’t say that that’s not a good option…As we go into autumn, I assume there will be more of those days coming up. But instead of buying kilos of chocolate, I suggest you try singing. I know, now your mind might go, “WHAT?! No chocolate?!” Then in a second: “I can’t sing, I have the voice of a crow. ” Do it anyway, no matter what your inner critique is saying. There must be 10 or 15 minutes a day when you have no one around and you can sing. No, the neighbours don’t matter, it’s again your inner critique speaking, coming up with excuses. You don’t have to be loud anyway. Sing!

What I notice when I start to sing is that I forget all my worries. I focus on the song, the lyrics, some silly melody. I might not really sing anything in particular, just sort of hum, or try to come up with a new melody, basically anything.

Again, your inner critique might say, yeah, it’s easy for you to say sing, you have a voice or whatnot….I repeat myself, I didn’t always have a “voice”. I worked years to dig it out and I still continue with the work. So just give it a rest, stop comparing you to me or any other persons. Do this for yourself!

While I sing, my thoughts don’t trouble me, there is nothing else, except the singing. It is sort of like meditation. I do not know if it’s because I focus or breath “better”, but I find myself invigorated after I sang. I feel awake and alive. According to the studies, singing helps with stress, depression and even loneliness. I agree at least with the depression part, you can’t really be depressed when you sing. Even if you are singing a depressing song, there is some shift in you that I can’t really describe. You feel better if¬†you sing.

Maybe change your meditation practice into singing? Do both? I don’t know. You can sing in the shower or while washing the dishes, planting tulips for next spring. Just sing anywhere and anything. Even on the streets. ¬†Try it, just for a week. Trust me, you can’t really hurt yourself unless you are trying to scream your head off… Join a choir. Learn a song that you always wanted to learn. Find a teacher if you want to learn more. Just sing. Don’t overthink it.

Still too self conscious about your voice,¬†just look or actually listen to Bob Dylan. I really think he is a terrible singer if you think about technique and timbre ¬†and so on, (sorry all you Bob Dylan fans) but he sings none the less! ¬†Forget about the idea of sounding “good”, just sing!

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Fear less

You know those test on the internet, you answer a few questions and it gives you an answer of who you are or should be. You might say they are just silly entertainment, a waste of time. Yet you still do them, right? You usually get the answer you want to get, cause let’s be honest here, you know what to answer so that the outcome is to your liking.

All excited you might even share the results on Facebook and you say, yay, I knew it, I ought to be a writer/carpenter/astronaut or whatever. It’s a true confirmation of the state of things, meaning that what you dream of is true. I mean of course it it, it was just confirmed by a test on the internet. You should be a writer. Damn it, I should be a writer! And then you bask in the afterglow of that test and wait for the day when you will be writer or an astronaut. Meanwhile, your life goes on without you.

I’m not saying this to judge you. I’ve been there, trust me. I had all the excuses in the world lined up for why I am not doing this or that. I mean I knew for years that I want to be a singer. So what did I do to achieve that? I daydreamed while washing the dishes of a life of a singer. I did everything that I could to avoid it and yes, kept on dreaming. Until one day. I realised that I’m running out of time and that my life really depended on it. I mean of trying at least.

So why was I sabotaging myself? I was afraid. Maybe I wrote about this before, can’t remember. But it’s true. I still am. I am afraid that if I follow my dreams my life will change forever. Just stay with the old, familiar stuff. At least I know misery, right? And I can keep blaming the circumstances and lack of¬†luck forever. I also thought that the reason of why I am not doing anything about my dream is because of fear of failure. Well, that was not true.

A few years ago my scriptwriting teacher asked me if it’s really true, meaning that am I really scared of failure, because if you fail that means things most likely stay the same. But if you succeed, your life changes forever. So I realised that he is right, I do not want to disturb the status quo.

I also realise now that the way I saw things were somewhat limited. Yeah, I still have limitations, we all do. But I know now that I put myself in a box or allowed others to put me there. Meaning that I thought that my borders are fixed, you either have it or you don’t. Mostly I thought that I have it, whatever “it” is, but I listened to other peoples opinion. They kept telling me that having a career in singing is impossible, it’s so hard. “Why don’t you just get a decent job in an office and forget about it, or you can sing as a hobby.” So I did that, until I felt I am suffocating. It took¬†a serious brake down for me in order to “set myself free”.

Yes, I still agree with the doubters that a career in singing is hard. But I ask you this, please tell me of any profession that is not hard in any way. I can’t think of any. You gotta put effort into what you are doing and I hope you realise that it’s not about failure or success actually. It’s only about the work you put in.

Another thing that I realised is that when people say this and that is so hard, they talk about their own fears for themselves or occasionally for you. Plus they compare you to the ones that are already on the top of their game, without seeing the struggle they had to go through. I mean it’s a tad bit unfair to be compared to Beyonce, at least in my opinion. We all walk our own path. I have to admit that I’d love to sing at some point at the Colosseum in a sold out gig, but maybe that’s not the goal I need to set right now.

I’ve know for a long time that I am my worst enemy. ¬†I can come up with zillions of different variations for reasons that I am not doing this or that.¬†I can hold on to them like to dear life and not move forward. It’s easier to stay stuck than actually take responsibility for your actions. So I learned to¬†set small goals. Really small. I¬†dare you to try it and upset the status quo.

Here is a short video about setting goals the “right” way:

 

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Connection lost

A few weeks ago I attended another singing course, I keep going back every year, although I also study with the same teacher during the year. It is different to do an intensive course, then to have private lessons once in a while. It is also very rewarding to listen to other people’s singing lessons. I think I learn more from those than from my owns. Why?

I don’t know, I guess it’s just the thing that different people have different approach to learning and dissecting things and somehow a different approach makes me realise things. I guess when you are doing it yourself, occasionally you are just too close and you can’t see the woods from the tree.

I like this course also because at the same time there is a classical singing course in the same building and we can go and listen to those lessons as well. It is really interesting. Here is a picture of Ritva teaching Margareta in the classical course (yes, I asked permission to publish their picture) Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the pianist.

Ritva&Margareta

 

I have no clue about classical singing, so I’m fascinated with what’s going on there. I did not have time to listen to too many lessons, only a few, but… Well, the message is simple, again and again, you should not sing the melody but the lyrics. Or actually don’t sing the lyrics, speak. The lyrics drive your singing. Sounds oh so simple, but it’s harder than you think.

I had a gig since then, at my friends 50th birthday party. We didn’t have time to change any of the repertoire that we played. We had a week to practice, basically twice about 3 hours at a time. There wasn’t much to do about Sunny or Hotel California and all the rest of the old classics that are just boring me to death. So what could I do about them?

I talked about this before, tell the story. Right, but how? How can I find meaning in Sunny? To whom should I sing and about what? It’s a song about being thankful, okay. I get that, but how do I implement that into my emotions? And nope, it doesn’t mean vocal acrobatics. It means conveying what you feel, if you feel anything. So I had to dig deep, with a shovel, and no I didn’t succeed with Sunny. At the gig, I just sang the melody and hoped that it would be over soon. And yeah, I hope I’ll never have to sing it again. But…The thing is that I don’t think I should give up on it so “easily”. ¬†I should go back to Sunny and dig even deeper. How can I make it my own? I don’t know yet.

Some songs that I sing in my cover band are not chosen by me and frankly I would never choose them because they don’t speak to me. There is no connection between the songs and my emotions. So the next step would be to find that connection, no matter what is thrown at me or you. That’s real professionalism.

I loved the fact that there were three actors in the singing course. They have this ability, I’m sure they put a lot of effort to achieve it, to embrace whatever song is given to them. They can’t say, oh no, I’m not singing this, I don’t feel it. They’d be out of a job pretty soon.

I don’t know, maybe I should take up acting or whatever. I do think that I need to dig deeper and try to find connection to any song.

And well sometimes, there is too much connection, too many feelings, like with the song below. Have to find balance. But, if you feel nothing, the audience will feel nothing too. So maybe it’s better to feel too much than nothing.

 

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Imagine

I’m about to reach the end of my journey. On Sunday I’m going back to where I started, to Budapest. Have I learned anything? Did I got enlightened? Understood the meaning of life? Unfortunately no. But that’s okay. Before I left, one of my friends said “It’s alright, your journey doesn’t have to make sense to anyone. Hopefully if you go far enough you might just find yourself. ”

So have I found myself? I didn’t think I was lost in the first place. The answer is yes and no. I found courage, I found joy, but most of all I was reminded by what’s really important and how it feels when you can’t do it.

I learned that it would’ve been better to stay longer in one place, to get to know the city and maybe organise a few gigs in cafes. It would’ve been better to have an amplifier, to get rid of the guitar and do a one women acapella show ¬†instead. Well, that’s the plan for the future.¬†I found that smaller cities are better. I did like Berlin for example, but it seemed that there is a street performer on every street corner. And it’s the same here in Prague.

I tried to do something productive on rainy days. Practise my guitar playing skills or write songs or tried my best not to do any of the above and procrastinate… Planned for world domination…And yes, I did visit some of the tourist attractions.

Eventually I got better in forgetting myself while performing. I got better at doing things alone. I got into the habit of talking to strangers, from seismologist to soon to be nurses. I walked a lot, regardless of the pain. I got better in believing for real that anything is possible.

So what can I say, was it worth it? Yes. But I do wish I wouldn’t have gotten sick. I still can’t hear much with my left ear and my joints are hurting like hell. But hey, that’s life, eventually I will get better or live with it.

What I feel is that the walls of my mind started to come down, or at least shifting into something new. By walls I mean the ideas of myself. I have no idea what will happen, how will I keep changing, but it’s alright. I have faith.

Talking about walls, there is a John Lennon wall on the other side of Vltava. I haven’t seen it yet but planning to. I like this version of Imagine:

I guess the most important lesson of this experiment is that if I can imagine it, I can do it. There is nothing to be afraid of. And like usually, it’s not the goal, but the journey and the actual doing it, that matters.

Here are some tips for anyone who wants to busk:

1. Just do it! Sounds simple, I know, but I think we are really great it procrastinating and coming up with excuses, so, just do it!

2. If the weather is fine, play. Even for half an hour.

3. Ask the locals for places that they think might be good. By this I mean they know where people gather. (not just the most touristic areas in town) It is better to play when people are not just passing by, but where they stop for a döner or whatever.

4. It’s okay if you know only a few song, you can repeat them. People wont stay in one place forever and the newspaper salesman doesn’t mind.

5. Know at least one song that has been a hit. Preferably a while ago, maybe not the latest his from Lady Gaga. People ask to sing with you. If you don’t know the song they want, offer another classic.

6. Don’t fake it, give it all you got. The point isn’t in how good you are, if your heart is in it, people will notice and will give you money.

7. If you can, stay in one place and get yourself a license.

8. Look decent. By this I mean don’t wear rags and do take a shower.

9. Have something, like stickers or calling cards with you that people can take with them.

10. Don’t do this for money. Meaning, have a backup reserve for days that you can’t play for whatever reason.

11. Talk to other buskers and if you like them, do give them money. But don’t believe in everything they say.

12. Thank the people by some gesture who give you money or are talking to you.

13. Remember to smile!

14. Find out about regulations in different cities. It might be the same country, but regulations might not be the same.

(Bonus: Follow your own advise! :D)

The other day I went to this bookshop that sells only English language books. I found this in one of them:

IMG_1686

 

 

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Let me entertain you

I’ve been playing on the streets of Europe for the past few weeks. It has been interesting. My scriptwriting teacher used to say, you can’t say nice or interesting cause that doesn’t mean anything. Let me elaborate what I mean by interesting.

First of all, people talk to me! They tell me if they like what they see and hear. Even if I just sit somewhere and practise, they come to talk to me. Some just want to try a few chords on the guitar, some want to hear me sing. They tell me what they want from life or just pass by and thank me for letting them play.

I’ve been offered a gig too. Maybe next time if I stay longer in Vienna I’ll consider. Some people come and ask for their favourite song. That’s a bit tricky, frankly because I might not know the chords. If that’s the case, I try to come up with something that we both know. They sing along and we have fun. Yeah, some people stare, but that’s okay.¬†So far the most fun was to watch a small girl with her mother while I was singing 4 Non Blondes’ What’s up. She was so alive, just there in the moment, dancing in circles and stopping occasionally to get some coins from her mother and to put it into my hat. It was so much fun to watch her.

The other thing is that I found the most interesting and here comes the lesson in sales, the people I think will give me money, they don’t. And all the ones that I think that no, that person will not give me any money, will give me money usually. To put it short, don’t sell to the people you think will buy your product, sell it to the people who you think are least likely to buy it. Or something like that.

I can’t say that I’ve had any epiphanies or anything. More or less my experiences so far reinforced my belief that music is not about me, it’s about them, the audience. A good performer makes the audience feel special. And well, since you never know what you gonna get on a street, I think it’s a great place to learn to try to really entertain and forget about yourself.

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Smooth Criminal

It took me almost a week to pick up the courage to play on the street. I did a pretty good job convincing myself that I wont do it cause it’s illegal in Hungary, but that was not the real reason. I really was afraid, afraid that my life would never be the same, that I’d dunno… that I’d pass the point of no return in screenwriting terms.

In the end it wasn’t that difficult. Well the first step was. It’s like in snowboarding when you drop into the untouched slope in front of you. At first you are afraid that the mountain will come down on you and you wont survive it. After a while you realise that your fear is receding, you are alive,¬†nothing happened,the fear is gone and you focus on the ride.

It was Friday, around 3 pm and I deliberately chose the Nyugati subway station in Budapest, because I knew there would be plenty people around. When I arrived there were already musicians in the spot that I though would be ideal. Relieved and disappointed at the same time, I went to the nearby shopping mall to wipe my nose. I was contemplating about giving in and just leaving. Leave all this to another day. I knew that there would not be another day, if I walked away now, I would not come back. I would by a plane ticket home and that it. I finally realised that I owe it to myself that I try.

I walked back to see the musician leaving. I asked them if there had been any trouble or anything when they played ¬†on the streets since it’s illegal, with 2 policeman patrolling the area. They said the only thing happened to them was that last year someone, police or whomever took their names and addresses, but nothing happened. I thanked them They wished me good luck and I wished them the same.

I got out my guitar.¬†I tried to tune it. I didn’t realise I will not hear anything, only the noise of people passing by. So much for tuning. Never mind, I thought, it’s anyhow barely audible. I put my hat on the floor in front of me with some change and my water bottle in it.

With shaking hands I stroke the first chord. D major. I don’t remember what I was thinking, there was just this weird sensation, butterflies in my stomach, you name it… Yes, I was nervous. I sang a few lines and 3 ladies approached me. They asked me to sing their names and in return they’d bring me good luck. I tried my best, which at the time wasn’t much. I was still too focused on myself and too terrified. Anyhow, they seemed happy with it and they left, dropping a few coins in my hat.

Then I tried again. “I have climbed the highest mountains…”and so on, on and on. I realised I have to focus on the people passing by, I understood that no matter what I sing, frogs are unlike to come out of my throat. And as far as my guitar playing, well, it was just crap, but that also improved as time passed.

I was happy that the guitar was in my hand. I felt it was a shield that I could relax into. I noticed my shoulders relaxing, I noticed how my whole body started to sing and I also noticed how my mind started to calm. Like a mantra I was telling myself just watch the people and so I did. I messed up in the words, in the chords, in everything probably, but none of that mattered.

I loved to see the reactions of the people, a young girl that passed by took the phone from her ear and held it out in front of me, a guy who was working on the other side came to talk to me, asked if I can play Highway to hell. He told me how nice it was to hear me sing and how much better he felt doing his job, which was handing out flyers. A 6 year old kid stopped in front of me and stared for a few minutes. I asked him if he wanted to try, he shook his head, he was so scared. Some people passed by and gave me some coins. A lady that was definitely a tourist gave me my first paper money. 500 HUFs, about 1.80 in euros. I kept singing the same 4 songs all over again, I was still nervous and I seemed to forgot all the other songs. But I figured none of that mattered. The people weren’t there long enough to know, at least not most of them. The police patrol was standing on the other side, they didn’t seem to be interested in what I was doing. Then a middle aged gentleman came and put some money in between my guitar strings. I discovered they were 10 Swiss francs. All in all I stayed for less then an hour. I made less then 10 euros, but it was never about he money.

I was so happy with the fact that I did stand there and I did it. I wasn’t passing any judgements or at least not too much on how I was actually doing. The most terrifying part was over, the first step. Although I keep hearing in my head the sentence that someone told me after my first and only jump from an airplane. “The first jump is easier, you don’t know exactly what you are up against, the second one is the hardest, you know exactly what to expect”. I sort of agree with him, that’s exactly the reason I never jumped again. But that’s another story.

I did asked in the beginning of the week from a guard in De√°k Ferenc t√©r how is it really with busking. He said, you’d need a permit. I asked from where can I get a permit, he told me the particular place, a different on for each district, then he added they don’t give out permits for playing music. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? For a short while I was considering selling socks while playing. I guess there is no need for that, just start to play and move on if they tell you to.

Now I’m in Vienna, it’s a public holiday, the streets are quiet. Yesterday I did something that I haven’t done before either, I went and practised in the nearby park. Nobody seemed to be bothered on the contrary, a guy walked up to me and asked if he could try.

What I learned from this? Many things, most of all it was again a clear example of how nothing really is as our head is trying to tell us. I should definitely take that second jump.

And since in Vienna, I do think this is a great song a good singer and no, it’s not because he is a bearded lady or whatnot…

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Leaving on a jet plane

I’m off to Budapest today. I had this great idea that I’ll spend my summer busking on the streets of Europe. I just thought that I have to do it, just go out there and play and sing for strangers. Frankly I am terrified. Not by the thought that I get robbed or where do I stay or how do I get from one place to another or I’ll be chased by the police or whatever…I am terrified by the fact that I have to go out to the street and play for people that I don’t know. How silly does that sound?

Why am I so afraid? Yeah, I am a crappy guitar player still, but who cares? There are buskers that are great and some, well, not so great. Could it be that busking involves a lot more of unexpected things than a “regular” performance. Anything and nothing can happen on the streets.¬†I really have no answer for why I feel like this. I only know that since it seems to terrify my, I have to do it. I need to get out of my comfort zone. Plus this is a great chance to practice guitar.

Thankfully my friend reminded me that most people don’t stop and listen to buskers. No matter who they are. Joshua Bell’s experiment in the Washington subway proved it. The world famous violinist played and only little kids stopped to listen until they were dragged away by their parents. Here is a more detailed writing about the experiment:

http://www.theguardian.com/music/tomserviceblog/2007/apr/18/joshuabellnoordinarybusker

I doubt that I’ll make a living out of this. I consider myself lucky if I can pay for the hostels and for the food. I haven’t planned where I’m going, except from where I start, Budapest. My 80 euro guitar is still there. I’ll take that for the Tour de Europe, so that I wont feel so bad if it get’s broken or something. The rest will come.

I did check a few things. In certain places you’d need a permit to play on the streets. And most interestingly, you need to audition to get to play. For example if you want to play in the subways of London, you have to audition and pass it of course. Wonder if it was the same in New York…All the buskers I heard there were really, really good. So if you don’t have a permit, well, then you have to leave once the police comes and tells you so.

Now it’s time to pack. As usual I’ll travel light, with just a backpack and a guitar. That should be enough.¬†So wish me luck! I will keep you posted on Facebook and Twitter and whatnot. Oh and if you see me somewhere around Europe busking, take a picture and post it on my FB page and do come and chat! ūüėČ

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Let it go

I think every week at some point I get frustrated by what I see or hear on the internet or elsewhere. So many misconceptions about singing, so much confusion.¬†No, I don’t know it all, not even half of it probably. The thing is no matter how many books I read, how many singing lessons I take or seminars I attend and how much I sing, I will never know it all.

What I know is this is a long journey and that I am losing at an invisible fight. Maybe I am imagining it all, just like Don Quixote fighting the windmills.

I wish I could go pointing at people and saying what you do is wrong and give the scientific explanation of why it is wrong. (By wrong I mean, you are damaging the voice and the person probably too.) But what good would that do? Most likely they’d stare at me that I’m crazy and I would not change their opinion or their teaching.

In the larger scale of things maybe doing all the licks you can think of so that you can barely recognise the song IS great singing. Or teaching people to think about hot potatoes in their mouth while singing is also good for something. I reserve the right to disagree. Is it all a matter of preference or taste?

By now I learned that I am a person that will always want to learn more and find out about things. What I don’t seem to understand is that others are not alike. How can you not be curious about the world?! I’m not talking only about singing here. I get that that’s not everybody’s cup of tea. The thing is, most people are actually happy with what they know and couldn’t care less for finding out more. Better not rock their boat. Yet, almost every week I wish I could change them or not necessarily change, help them. Unfortunately I have a Mother Theresa tendency, I always had. I want to help people, even when they don’t want my help. I must be mad or just plain stupid or both. ūüėĬ†So I asked the question why am I doing this to myself. I mean why do I try to help others when what I get in reward is nothing or even worse then nothing.

Do I want to help them for selfish reasons? So that I’d be admired if I’m “right”? Is it an ego trip? Might be, I can’t say that I’m a saint. But the real reason I want to help them is because in many cases I’ve experienced the same crap in singing they are drowning in. For example I had a hoarse voice and a soar throat for 3 years because of bad technique that someone tried to force on me. ¬†The end result was that I was in queue for tonsils operation. I stopped going to the lessons, I stopped doing anything I was told to do singing wise and lo and behold, no soar throat, no hoarseness. And when the hospital called me to schedule the date I said thanks I don’t need it anymore. And went on to find another voice coach and no, I had no problems whatsoever since then.

There is a saying that stupid people learn from their own mistakes, wise people learn from other people’s mistake. I am not here to judge who is stupid or wise. What I am saying is that maybe we could consider learning from other people, just consider at least. Well at least that would be ideal, but we don’t work that way, do we?

So I finally decided to stop doing this to myself, trying to make people see differently. Just let it go. I realised that the only way to change the world is by changing myself. I’m saying the obvious here of course, but unfortunately the only way to make a difference is by setting an example of doing things differently. Others might or might not follow, it doesn’t even matter in the long run.

I’ve had this vision for a while that singing in the end is simple. I don’t know from where it came from, I guess I’ve been doing this long enough to know that singing at it’s best feels simple. How can I describe it? Once you get out of the way of yourself and you have a solid reliable technique, you can just enjoy the music. It’s that simple.¬†And I’d love to share that simplicity with others, to show them that there are other ways of doing things. And no, MIX technique is not the ultimate truth even though I found it really helpful. I wish I’ll explore more, find different teachings, techniques and I’ll get what I need from them. I wish the same for you, but from now on, that’s not really my concern if you don’t.

I’ve been reading John Henny’s blog. (http://johnhenny.com/blog/) He is a vocal coach from LA, that I never met. Anyhow, he says in one of his posts that “True simplicity actually requires great knowledge and study ‚Äď some of it rather complicated.”¬†What I mean by simple is that you have to know your craft profoundly to actually be able to simplify it, so that it’s easy to understand.

But what is good singing anyway? Can it be scientifically proved? And even if it’s all correct according to the science we know now, will it move you? It might not.

In my humble opinion this is good singing, a man with his guitar giving everything he can:

 

 

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