Preacher, Sing Like You Preach

Well, if you have been around my music endeavors for any period of time, you know that singing seems to often be a part of it.

Whether I am strumming the guitar, or playing chords on the piano, or perhaps playing harmonica riffs. The one thing that is constant is singing along to the music.

A friend told me that perhaps I should see a vocal coach, in contrast to a vocal teacher. I have had a few of those folks here and there. So I figured I would do a few lessons with Paul McKay.

What did I learn in two lessons of online virtual coaching?

Good question.

The first thing I learned was the need to be relaxed and natural while singing.

The second thing I learned was a number of exercises that explored multiple vowels on the pentatonic scale. The basic idea was to practice the pentatonic scale and get it in my ear and my head.

That really appealed to me as one who is singing the blues and gospel. Both make extensive use of the pentatonic scale.

Another thing I learned, and this was kind of big.

The coach recognized that I, use a variety of cadences, rhythms, tones, textures, and even octaves in my speaking.

This is as a result of my practice and training as a Christian Preacher in the African American Preaching Tradition. My coach suggested the following exercise that might help me to get a better sound.

He suggested that I first speak the words of the song. As I would as a preacher. Just speak it.

Then speak the words again along to the music.

Finally, translate that output (the cadence, rhythm, vowel vocalization, etc) into singing what was spoken.

Yes, there is no direct transcription, but get close and keep the feel of the spoken version. It really helped me to understand what I was doing wrong and how to fix a lot of problems in singing If I could do it, it really helped me to stay natural and also gave me a wide variety of approaches to the song.

This really appealed to me as one who had done a lot of preaching.

The last thing I noted in my studies with my vocal coach brother is that you really have to pay close attention and think about EVERY note.

At least at first, pay attention until it becomes second nature.

EVERY note matters and EVERY part of EVERY NOTE matters (beginning, middle, and end).

So how do you start the note? How do you end the note? Do you use a vibrato or not? Do you slide into the note or hit it straight on? All of these things are important when you are singing.

Yes vocal coaching paid off. I didn’t pursue them right now, and may come back eventually. But these lessons will help me in the journey.

“The blues tells a story. Every line of the blues has meaning.”

John Lee Hooker

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