Saturday, May 31, 2008

hard to sing: peaceful easy feeling

Readers of ack/nak may not know that I am a musician. I play piano and sing, and dabble at tinwhistle, shakuhachi, bodhran and digeridoo.

There are songs that are easy to sing - Oh Shenandoah, or Getting to Know You, or You Are My Sunshine. The entire James Taylor oeuvre is easy. Coldplay is easy. Randy Newman is not only easy, but you'll end up sounding better than him, which is great for the ego. No offense, Mr. Newman.

There are songs that are hard to sing - any standard associated with Sinatra is hard. Traditional Irish music is hard. Plainsong is hard (try to iron all the vibrato out of your voice sometime).

Then there are songs that are very hard to sing.

By "hard to sing" I mean "hard to perform in a way that isn't a note-for-note version of the original artist's interpretation". Songs that are technically hard can be beaten, with effort, but the "hard to sing" songs just don't turn out right.

And by "hard to sing" I don't include songs that are "impossible to sing", given your particular voice. I'm never going to try and sing Nessun Dorma. Or Black Dog. Or one of the many lovely arias written for castrata. Ahem.

Curiously, some of the songs that on the surface sound quite straightforward turn out to be very, very challenging to sing.

Not that the melodies are hard - but giving an honest interpretation of the lyric is enormously difficult. Add that to your natural inclination to monkey around with the chords and you've got a monster of a challenge.

Here's a song you've heard a million times - but yet it's one of the more challenging songs I know of. I spent almost a full hour tonight throwing myself on the rocks of this song.

Have a look. Run through it a few times in your head. Then let's talk about just how damn hard it is to do this song justice.

If you're a singer too, let me know what your "easy vs hard vs very hard" list is. I'm curious.


Ron said...

I don't see it as that hard as long as you stay in that halting country vocal style...

Christopher Painter said...

Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead....

Easy or hard to sing?

bob said...

Easy. Joyfully, enthusiastically easy.