Jun 15, 2017

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Testing Skills in Jazz Singing

After my recent foray into the world of jazz singing, I’m now making an attempt at putting some of my new skills into practice. In the space of five days I learnt a lot about singing, music, telling stories and most of all, about myself and the way I see things. I have the blessing (or perhaps curse) of perfect pitch. A pitch fascist if you will. I cringe when I hear microtones out of tune. And my voice is nearly always very very slightly flat. Now that doesn’t mean it sounds bad, but I am highly aware of it and hypercritical of it, probably because I can hear it so acutely. I was brought up learning classical music, where one is tied to tempo, prescribed dynamics, pitch, note length, phrasing. Everything is played straight, as it is written on the page. Some digital transcription would help too.

As I would always enjoyed non classical singing, and have always sung along to pop songs, I ended up in pop/rock/dance bands, but with my pseudo classical attitude glued onto that. Do not waver from the melody. Never change the phrasing or tempo. When I’d write music, I would be locked into something I had created and there was never any room for adapting, improvising. I’d never learnt how. It was an alien concept. When I was younger, I’d go to gigs and be quite uptight about the fact that someone might forget words or change a melody line. In my heart of hearts I would think they were getting it wrong.

So when learning about and listening to jazz, I realised that my understanding of music was rather inflexible. I stuck to the phrasing I knew. I chose a melody and stuck to that. I never improvised. It wasn’t that I couldn’t, but that I thought it was safe to stick to what I knew. In the first couple of days of tuition it was pointed out to me that that rigidity concerning my musicality led me to be in a scary place. If I were to fall off the melody, not do what I intended, I saw it as a mistake. Doing something wrong, as it were. So

I tried it out. Sliding about notes can sound great, just listen to Betty Carter. Relaxing the phrasing of a song, even my own, makes it sound more natural, and makes my voice sound more relaxed.

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