Tag Archives: singing

Sing the Song: georgics

First off, it always starts with breath.
That sounds so simple, but in fact
so many who would stretch their speech
against set pitches set in time
forget to breathe – at least, to breathe
as if the air were precious fuel.

Second, you must know the text.
To even blunder through, one must
engage the phrase, not word by word,
but in whole thoughts. Communication
is goal here, after all.
You’re not just throwing random sounds
out in the void; it’s what you say
as much, if not more, that saying it.

Third, it comes up from the ground:
the song comes from the toes, and then
it rises through the body.
Let it rumble all along your spine;
it gathers power as it goes.
Don’t start too high – it will get caught
and tangled up there in your throat.

Again, just breathe and let it out;
and watch it as it leaves your mouth.
You can’t look down or you will lose
the thread that ties the sound to you
and to the listener.

22 MAR 2017

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Song within: a cyrch a chwta

The human voice was made to sing;
and to the dull roar of life, bring
a force that grounds us in all things.
From the soprano, giving wing
to angel’s tones gone traveling,
to basso, low and rumbling:
the song connects us, soul and skin,
to what within us keeps living.

05 MAY 2011

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Sing, Then: a cyhydedd hir

To fill life with song,
sing out all day long
both right notes, and wrong;
do not be shy.

Don’t worry the notes.
Just listen, and quote;
and do keep your throat
from getting dry.

The subject, the text?
The world, more or less;
what small things impress
you, just sing about.

Don’t keep it inside;
set it free to glide
out into the wide
world. Go on, shout!

04 MAY 2011

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Sing Another Song

Sing another song:
don’t make it too long,
make sure it’s nice and strong
so we all can sing along.
Sing another one
when the first one is done;
we’ve only just begun
having fun.

Sing something
that makes us feel all right;
something simple,
nothing too demanding.
Sing it like
you’ve always done before;
when you’re finished,
sing it just once more.

Sing another tune:
play the paid buffoon,
make us laugh and swoon,
we’ll give you the moon.
Sing another verse,
the same as the first;
no need to rehearse,
it can’t get much worse.

Sing us one
to get us through the night;
something sweet
that makes us feel like dancing.
Sing it like
you mean each single word;
sing the ones we like,
the ones we’ve heard.

Sing another song:
sing it loud and strong.
If it’s not too long,
we might sing along.
Sing it once again.
Make it never end,
like your life depends
on making us your friends.

08 DEC 2010

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The Wedding Singer

OK, so I play a lot of weddings.  And invariably, the wedding organizers will request that the band play a number of songs at key points in the evening – the bride and groom’s first dance, the bride and her father’s dance, the groom and his mother’s dance, and so on.

Now, I’m all for dancing at these pivotal moments to songs that are special to the dancers (e.g., a song that the bride and her father love, the bride and groom’s “song” or a particular song that perfectly captures the way the bride/father, bride/groom, or groom/mother feel at this special time).  But …

1.  There are a LOT of really maudlin, overblown, sentimental and let’s face it, poorly written and tritely phrased “wedding” songs out there.  Most of them, particularly the country music ones, try to illustrate some special bond (between father and daughter, especially) that really only exists in fairy tales, greeting cards, Disney movies and 1950s TV shows.  Do you REALLY want this moment (which will be captured on film for eternity, and hopefully will be in your hearts and memories even longer) accompanied by a cheesy, forgettable Hallmark song that usually, if you listen to the lyrics carefully, is more about control and stereotypical gender roles than about true love and the commitment it takes to make a relationship (let alone a marriage) work?  How about something timeless?  At least something well written?  Not something you picked off a popular “Wedding Compilation”?  If you’re going to pick something (and you have to, because these dances have to occur), if there’s not a particular song that is “your” song for this moment, at least pick a great standard – like “What a Wonderful World” or “Can’t Help Falling in Love” or “You Are So Beautiful”.  These songs may be old and moldy, but at least they’re well written, succinctly emotional and not overly sentimental, and most wedding bands can execute them passably.  Don’t pick a song like “When a Man Loves a Woman”, because it’s not really a happy song, it’s about a guy’s who’s miserable.  THINK about the lyrics, because they are speaking FOR YOU at this wonderful time.

2.  Speaking of lyrics, most of these songs are written in first person.  That is, they are from the point of view of the father letting go of his precious darling, the husband holding on the for the first time, the bride saying goodbye to her dear daddy or hello to her true love, etc.  Do you really want these words (and by choosing these songs to represent you at this time, you’re saying these words are what you would really like to say) spoken by someone else?  In particular, so many of the father-daughter songs seem really inappropriate when sung by someone in the band who is at best an impartial, uninvolved and probably a little uninspired observer of this momentous occasion.  If you really mean these words, you ought to be singing them yourself.

3.  However, if you can’t sing (and since you’re dancing, it may be difficult anyway), IF you really love the song, and it really means something to you (both you and your dance partner), why would you want a cover band (who probably first listened to the song on the way to the gig) to blunder through and butcher it for your entertainment?  I know you’re paying the band for live music, but isn’t the importance and poignant nature of this moment worth the price of the band NOT playing one or two songs, and letting the version that touched your hearts in the first place do the talking?  I for one as a wedding band member would not be offended in the least if asked to pop in the CD or start the MP3 player.

4.  The CD or MP3 player is EXTREMELY important if your song is deep in a particular genre, especially one like country music that probably uses instrumentation, arrangements and studio overdubbing that the live band you’ve hired cannot possibly duplicate.  If they do better than stumble through it, it will be their own arrangement of the song, not the version that you and your dance partner (and/or wedding party) have come to know and love.  While it may be sweet that they attempted your request (like Americans visiting Paris who attempt to butcher French at a sidewalk bistro), ultimately you need to put your trust in the interpretation that speaks best to you.  It’s your call, of course, either way.  But if you’re going to trust the band for your soundtrack, do the right thing and give them ample opportunity (at LEAST a week, and a copy of the CD would be extraordinarily helpful) to attempt to learn the song.

Just a few thoughts from a wedding band singer whose repertoire (and vocal range) includes Elvis, Louis Armstrong, Joe Cocker, Tim McGraw, the Righteous Brothers and quite a few others but does not, and will never, include Rascal Flatts.

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Up in Smoke

OK, so as of January 4, I’ve quit smoking. Roughly a 25-year, 2 pack a day habit and now it’s done. No patch. No gum. No Wellbutrin XL (which my better half who also quit needed to help her over the first week). I did have a doozy of a cold, though, which qualifies somewhat as cheating — since I tend to not smoke whenever I have a fever-cough-chest congestion condition and I get them for a week once or twice a year. This one happened to coincide with the smoking cessation date. So sue me.

I’m hoping that the non-smoking, in combination with voice strengthening exercises from Jaime Vendera, will help me recover what has for the last 8 or 9 years been a slowly increasing loss of range (about an octave and a half lost in that time).

I wonder, however, whether it in fact is the smoking that has been the primary factor, or the lack of use. I also wonder about polyps. My cousin had them and had to have them removed, and I’ve known several other singers who have suffered the same situation.

1 month 5 hours 32 minutes smoke-free
1,254 cigarettes not smoked
$238.26 saved
4 days 8 hours 30 minutes life saved

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This Morning’s Song

The song I sing this morning is not new.
In fact, its birth predates even my own;
yet in between the phrases, now and then,
it’s me, and not the tune, that you’ll hear groan.

Why is this melody upon my lips
instead of some fresh fragment from the charts,
designed from sentimental, worn cliches
to motivate me and my shopping cart?

Because it has survived, the same as I,
despite the efforts of a younger set
who think of history as just passe,
and find their greatest talent, to forget.

The song I sing this morning, I once sang
as a young boy who’d just begun to dream
that this old world was more than it appeared,
and started peeking in between the seams.

What song will you be singing when we meet?
I hope it’s one where I can sing along;
I’ll share mine with you, if you’d care to try:
in harmony, it’s twice as loud and strong.

11 APR 2006

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