Sky Blue Sky
My favorite band right now is Wilco. I love pretty much everything they touch. I love how their songs are beautiful but not perfect. Last night I decided to take a whack at covering one of my favorite songs “Sky Blue Sky,” including singing. As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m not a good singer. I’m taking lessons, though. I’m coming to understand my voice the more I do it. For example, I feel comfortable singing over C and D chords but G chords give me fits. I suck in the key of A. I think part of the problem is I don’t know how to hit high notes the right way. What I need to learn in singing lessons is better control.
Here is the original version of the song, which is amazing.
Sunday in the Country
I bought a new microphone for recording on my computer yesterday. It’s nothing fancy but it’s a big step up from what I was using to record song sketches before (my iPhone, which is actually better than you think).
Today I pulled out my harmonica for this tune I made up as an experiment. It’s a basic chord progression in G, based off “Blue Ridge Cabin Home,” a famous bluegrass song. There are three tracks going on — rhythm guitar, harmonica and some percussive electric guitar.
I’m not all that experienced with a harmonica but I enjoyed playing it and think it adds an interesting wrinkle to things. Now that I can multi-track decently, I think I’ll use it more.
The most soulful pickin’ and singin’ you’ll ever see
Learning to Sing
I went to my first singing lesson on Monday, and, strangely, my voice does not yet sound angelic. I’ll need to ask my teacher about it next week.
Monday was my first experience learning how to sing. The last time I had to sing in public was middle school, when we were forced into choir. In high school, when singers my age joined the school show choir, I made noise on my guitar and tried to see how long I could go in between haircuts. It was around this time I decided I was a guitar player—not a singer.
On Monday, I met my teacher at a studio not far from my apartment. She was a joyful, short woman from Taiwan named Amy. I did not hear her sing for long stretches but on occasion she would belt out a note to me in illustration, the power of her voice rivaling a 100-watt Marshall amplifier. I knew I was in good hands.
To start, she walked me through a few drills to judge my range, always offering positive reinforcement. Like a tee-ball coach congratulating a kid who bunts, she’d shout out “Good… Good!” when my voice got anywhere close to where it was supposed to. Or “Not bad!” when I was completely off.
It didn’t take long for Amy to diagnose my situation.
“You have a good instrument. A good voice. You just don’t have any idea how to use it.
“And what is this nyaa-nyaa?” She said, mimicking my nasally singing voice when reaching for higher notes. She sounded like an annoying children’s cartoon. It was part of my Cleveland accent, I tried to explain. That nasally accent is part of me. I was raised to say words like “drive the c-yar.” ”Well, I don’t want to hear it. If I hear it again, I’ll scream.” Then she laughed. “I don’t know I’m so mean to you!”
Forty-five minutes after I walked in the door, I was done. I learned how to breathe using my stomach and to stand at attention, relaxed but not too relaxed. Amy gave me a cookie in congratulations and to say goodbye. It was her last day and I’d be transitioned to a new teacher next time.
That first lesson is something I’ve been thinking about. I’m not sure I have it in me to be good at singing. Which is part of why I’m excited to keep trying. Who needs challenges that are easy?