Vox pop

Over the years I've heard a fair amount of praise for songs I've written. As well, I've been complimented on my guitar playing, which surprises me but I'll take it. But I don't think I can remember anyone saying that they liked my singing.

Most of the time, I don't like it either.

I've been singing for pretty much as long as I can remember. I liked to sing as a child. When I learned to play guitar at 16 and began to write my own songs, of necessity I also became a vocalist. I've sung on my own, in a duo, in bands, and in choirs. I've sung my own songs and cover songs. As a chorister, I sing on key. My harmony singing is solid. But as a lead vocalist, I am meh at best. I sing with passion and intent, but quality, not so much.

I don't hate the voice I hear recorded, but I don't love it. I think it's harsh. Not very pleasing. Just not very nice sounding.

I don't know if others feel the same way. Or rather, figuring that some must feel that way, how many of them are there? Does my voice put people off? Does it make them not listen, or not listen again, to my songs?

The only bands of mine that achieved some level of success were those with a lead vocalist who wasn't me. I know my songs are good, but maybe that only really comes across when the vocal is by someone who sings better than I do. Maybe my voice will put people off from listening more than once and really liking. Moreover, it's just guitar and vocal now, with some percussion help from Leenie. When so little is going on, all the parts had better be worth listening to.

Since I still want to play professionally and get booked, I hope that somehow my voice pleases other people more than it pleases me. Or that they find my voice interesting. Or that it's an instrument the sound of which they happen to like. Other people hear me differently than I hear myself, and maybe I sound better to them than I do to me.

If that's true, then not having a good voice won't hold me back. Despite higher vocal quality expectations for women than men, there are women whose unconventional vocals are well appreciated. Hardly anyone can sing like Beyoncé or Adele anyway. Courtney Barnett's voice is distinctive in a pleasing way. PJ Harvey's voice can be challenging. I aspire to have a pleasingly distinctive voice. I'm probably more the challenging type.

It's really since I "went solo (again)" that I have been consciously exploring my voice, probably more than I have ever done. I'm looking for its strengths and strengthening weaknesses. I'm trying new things and taking risks. I listen to distinctive women vocalists, including Leenie, and learn from them. Leenie has also influenced me to make more extensive use of my capo, not just to create a key but to find the best key, the one where the melody, especially the chorus, is in a sweet spot for my voice.

It's funny how I feel at one with my guitar but not so much with my voice. My guitar is an extension of myself, and it expresses something about who I am. I want my voice to be and do those things as well. The work I've done hasn't improved my vocal quality that much but I think it has improved my expressiveness. Just have to see if that's enough.

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