To Sing

I have been deeply involved in music of all varieties over the decades. I play and teach. But I do not sing. “Why is that?” I hear you ask. Well. I’m certainly glad you asked.

No. I am certainly not tone deaf. Although I have not been blessed with perfect pitch, I have been blessed with an acute sense of relative pitch. The difference? Those who have perfect pitch can tell the pitch of a note or a chord from just one scant listen. Those with relative pitch cannot. However, those with relative pitch, after having been given a reference note or chord can identify a subsequent note or chord assuming they were given the right information in the first place.

Giving a person with relative pitch an incorrect reference note is a not very nice trick.

Having relative pitch enables me to ‘play by ear’. That is, the possessor of relative pitch can, with a tune in his or her head, select the notes and chords to a musical piece without a lot of fuss. Of course it can turn one into a musical snob when one hears an off note. My family never misses an opportunity to remind me of my musical snobbishness.

However, those with perfect or relative pitch are not necessarily blessed with the musical gift of sonorous pipes. Some can sing. Some cannot. I cannot.

Having said this, and in my defense, again, I am not tone deaf, I can hit the required notes. But, and to quote Mr. Leo Kotke from the liner notes of his brilliant instrumental album of the 60s ‘Six and Twelve String Guitar’, my voice sounds like “… so many geese farts from the east.”

My friend John strenuously disagrees and argues vehemently against this and loudly extols the virtues of my singing.

My wife, on the other hand, aligns lock step to my own assessment of my vocal prowess, to wit: I can hit the notes exactly, but they sound like death.

For instance. I will attempt to engage my wife in conversation regarding the particulars of a certain song. It then becomes incumbent upon me to sing the song to her in order to remind her of title and content. The only recognition my wife acknowledges after having been the unwilling recipient of my vocal onslaught is the same look of puzzlement one generates when called upon to recall unused mathematical theorem of days past. And so I have to resort to an internet search in order to provide her with the necessary nudge of memory.

I must face it. Pavorotti or Frankie Valli I ain’t.

However, the good Lord above has provided me with a unique set of compensation for this loss. HE has provided me with an alternative gift whereby I can render harmonization that is spot on right from the starting gate that sounds more than just good. My middle daughter, Katie has commented on this unique gift of her father’s. She sums up my lack of ability to sing the lead line while having the ability to support that line with the exact harmony thusly, “Dad hears music differently.”

I suppose that’s true. Again, where melody is concerned I hit the right notes. They just sound clunky and oafish.

And so I found myself yet again in the warm embrace of music creation.

John has written many songs over the years. Perhaps hundreds. However he has selected the cream from his crop and together we have embarked on a production and recording project designed to home record these songs in a presentable fashion.

What is the end game of these recordings? This is hard to say. We want a professional product. We want to post them on the internet.

Maybe people will want to buy them? Maybe people will want to license, buy and record them. Who knows?
But the immediate end game is to present as professional a rendering as is possible.

So, and as time permits, we convene at John’s place where he has a modest home studio with the capability of collecting and editing several tracks of music.

Thus far, and for good reason, my singing has been placed on the back burner for painfully obvious reasons. John’s voice, while neither that of operatic tenor nor plaintive balladeer, has a rough hewn and rustic characteristic that comes from the heart and communicates directly. My assignments have been relegated to that of providing various guitar based support. If I do say so myself, these have been reasonably successful.
For the first time ever during any recording session (although, again, John begs to differ) my voice was recorded. It occupied several tracks backing the song at issue. John’s perception of his harmonizing capabilities are inflated to a dangerous extent and I took the harmonizing reigns away from him leaving no hint of doubt of my perceptions. We have that kind of relationship. And so, track by track, I put down several harmonies under the melody line to the point where it sounded as though there was a room of people singing in harmony.

During the process of recording and playback, John and I participated in a mini competition of exchanged surprised and pleased looks. Tony the Tiger wouldn’t say it sounded good. It sounded g-r-e-a-a-a-t!
We spent the remainder of our time tweaking the volume levels of the different tracks. At one point we contemplated yet another track to allow for a bass guitar. But after reviewing the playback several times, we agreed the bass guitar was not only unnecessary, it would serve to detract from the bottom harmonies.

Our wives listened to the end result. And despite their equally discerning ears, they both independently agreed that this was good stuff.

We can only hope that one day a larger audience than the four of us will be able to appreciate the efforts we’ve extended.

I am glad the Almighty has deemed fit to grant me music, harmony and, most of all, my friends, my family and my wife.