Songweaving solo and not solo

I’ve been experimenting with my voice recently. My singing voice, that is. It all started when I got talked into participating in a “Singing Solo” workshop as a spin-off to SoulSong — the community choir I joined last year.

I don’t have aspirations to sing solo. For one thing, no matter what anyone says, I don’t think my voice is interesting enough to be worth listening to on its own. It’s not that I can’t sing… I just don’t think my voice is anything special. (Others may howl right about now, because I’ve received some quite lovely compliments recently, but this is how I feel.)

But that’s not my main point. Aside from the fact my solo singing voice is merely what I’d call competent, I don’t get nearly as much pleasure from singing on my own as I do from singing in harmony with others.

Our Singing Solo workshop was held on Sunday last. I enjoyed it — even though I worried myself stupid over what song I was going to sing to the other five participants. Requested to sing an “extroverted show tune” (so not my thing), I ultimately decided upon “Don’t cry for me, Argentina” from Evita. This is a song I know fairly well, and I figured it had enough challenges in it for me to push myself a bit.

So I sang it. Don’t think I embarrassed myself. And then had it workshopped for about 20 minutes in front of the others. It was nerve-wracking, although not as traumatic as I thought it might have been. The main thing we worked on was pushing my top note without lapsing into my head voice. Commitment and faith. Yeah, hmm.

Anyway, I survived it. The others said nice things, and then it was their turn. (I went first.)

But the biggest highlight of my day, I believe, was towards mid-afternoon when in a break I trotted out the other song I’d been considering for the workshop — Jewel’s Foolish Games. It’s a gorgeous ballad, with lots of variation and places where you can let your voice soar.

Turns out one of my singing buddies, who is a whiz with harmonies, also knows the song really well and we sang it together.

A duet.

I sang the melody, she the harmony, and even I could tell it sounded good. No matter what we sing together, our voices seem to blend really well and the whole is significantly greater than the sum of the parts.

This is WHY I sing — to risk repeating all the points I made in my post from last October (I’ll take a harmony with my wine). Whether using voice or musical instruments, there’s an amazing connectivity (connectedness?) that develops between people making music together.

As I mentioned in that earlier post, there are a few of us who still gather to sing small group harmonies. It’s my favourite singing thing — a small group of three or four voices singing a two or three (or four) part harmony. I love being the only one singing my part, hearing my voice blend and weave with the voices of others. I love the challenge of holding a part on my own too.

The solo thing? Not so much. I’m glad I did the solo workshop, and I’m not ruling out another one sometime, but I’ll get a far greater thrill from hanging out with the SoulSongsters and singing with them, rather than at them.

Can anyone else relate to this?

7 comments

  1. Hi Ellen, I can relate totally! In my band we have two singers (three but she’s busy learning/playing the bass) – when I sing with the other singer I can hear we sound good. When it’s just me on my own, I know I’m singing on pitch but my voice is just thin/uninteresting. I know I sound better when I’m singing something I know really well (Mustang Sally springs to mind) but in writing/singing new songs I just wonder whether it would be better if I stuck to backing vocals/duets/harmonies. So I hear you! Thanks for putting this out there. It’s good to be able to discuss it without people thinking you’re fishing for compliments! I just wish I was better at natural harmonies than I am. I am wildly envious of your harmonies group! Enjoy 🙂

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    1. Hi Lily, it’s so nice to know it’s not just me! Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂
      I wish I was better at natural harmonies too. Sometimes I hear them well enough to sing, but not as often as I’d like.

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  2. I am in awe of people who can sing well. I am not one of them, however, I sing all day long, whether I realize I’m doing it or not. I love what you say about the connectedness you feel when singing with somebody else; that even holds true when singing in a large group where few people know each other (at American baseball games when we sing the national anthem, for example).

    Reading this brought back a memory. One of the first times my older daughter spoke words other than Mama and Dada, she said something I couldn’t understand at first. Finally, after making her repeat it over and over, I realized she said “Argentina.” When she was very tiny and cried all of the time, I must have sung that one line from Evita a thousand times to her.

    Anyway, love reading about your singing. Maybe one day you’ll post an audio of you and your singing buddy singing a duet?

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    1. I think it doesn’t matter so much how well you sing, when you’re singing with people – and that’s what is so great about singing in a choir, particularly a casual one like mine. We include people who struggle, but they still love it.

      So glad to bring back such a lovely memory for you!

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  3. Ellen- I completely relate. I love signing but harmonizing is my drug of choice. Growing up my family used to sign after meals. I always held the melody and listened in awe as my mother, aunts and cousins wove in and out around the melody. The resulting sound was glorious. These days I wish to find a group of signers/musicians to play with. And I’ve been trying to get the courage to record my voice and participating in a cool collaborative project http://mesayah.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/artists-in-365-daily-challenge-podcast-who-are-they/

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