Singing Lessons Pt. 1

Okay so this is something I was mulling over for a bit, but completely decided to write after a week at Disney World. I know a vague segue on purpose (I don’t think I have ever written to words that end in gue in a row, boom.)

I grew up in a singing family. If you didn’t know already, my parents were in a full time, traveling gospel quartet back in the 70s, and them getting married and my dad being called into ministry were pretty much why that group came to and end. Anyways, some of my earliest memories are singing in front of people, mostly with my brother and then the four of us (mom, dad and brother). With my brother we would sing songs like ‘wiggle worm’ a Patch the Pirate classic (just google it), with my parents it was mostly quartet based kinda stuff, I do remember ‘Basics of Life’ being a pretty big staple in the song catalog. I almost always sang melody because I was the youngest and didn’t have the best grasp on harmony yet.

I never had formal vocal training or even voice lessons, hence the reason I refuse to really give actual voice lessons. But, I did have training by some great choral peeps early on (especially with breathing) and had very basic music theory thrown at me in elementary school (every good boy does fine), not to mention the training at home, by having to pick up harmonies and lead lines. All this to say, that most vocal training and development came from music itself. There is a long list of ‘inspirations’ & ‘influences’ I could draw from and talk about, but I do believe that is an entirely different list. There is a very short list of people that literally helped teach me to sing, without ever giving me an assignment or do scales in front of them. If you have ever asked me to give you pointers or for vocal lessons I have probably responded by talking about number one in my book…Boys 2 Men.

You may have just chuckled when you read that last part, but it is very true. The albums ‘Cooleyhighharmony’ and ‘II’ completely changed the way I tried to sing and how I related to music. That may sound overblown, but I am not exaggerating. I didn’t get into either of these albums until about 1996, 5 years after Cooleyhighharmony and 2 after II were released. {I wasn’t really allowed to listen to secular music, so I guess I started to rebel in 6th grade lol}. These albums had such an impact on me because of two things, the harmonies, which I understood and appreciated greatly; and two, the runs, which I had no concept of and wanted to know how they were doing it! I remember vividly recording ‘Yesterday’ by putting scotch tape over the top of an old cassette tape and waiting for it to play on the radio. I remember borrowing someones ‘II’ album and recording it over some children’s cassette tape I had. Then I made a specific mix tape with just songs that I loved to try to sing, of course Boys 2 Men dominated that, but also Brian McKnight and even some Craig David. I am not sure why I loved this type of R&B as I grew up with cows across the street and cornfields in the back, but I do know that I admired the control they had of their voices. I was listening to songs about heartbreak and being in love long before I even understood it, but I didn’t care about the words or themes, I cared about what they were doing with their voices. What do I mean well heres a good example..

I listend to songs like Yesterday back to back to back trying to get every run down (I never did). I remember getting good at rewinding my cassette back to certain parts of songs just based on timing and I eventually wore out my illegally recorded mix tape 🙂 One of those parts is in the song ‘Down on Bended Knee.’ The way he goes back and forth from falsetto to normal voice was astounding to me and I still laugh and get giddy when I hit it perfectly when I drive in my car. Seriously. This is why I tell people to listen to Boys 2 Men when they ask for vocal tips to sing better. If you work on doing things that these guys do it will strengthen your voice and help with your overall control. Now, heed my words, do not try to get up in front of people and sing like Boys 2 Men. You are not Boys 2 Men, you are you. Sing like you. I just think singing along with these songs and getting breathing down is a lot more fun then running scales constantly. So get your old school R&B out and strengthen your voice 🙂

Which brings me back to Disney World. LaRae (my hot wife) and I got to go to Epcot (sans children) and that would have been exciting enough, but we went on a day that Boys 2 Men happened to playing. Needless to say I was unbelievably excited, but tried to keep it to myself just in case we couldn’t stay. But we did, and it was awesome, and yes they can still SANG…

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