Weekly Journal #2 – March 7th, 2011
This week’s lesson was fun. I learned how I can practice without the teacher‘s help. When I’m at home, on my own, it’s harder to tell if I’m singing properly or not. Whether I am keeping my posture erect, my jaws and mouth are open and loose, or if I am projecting the correct way. It’s been one of the struggles that I have dealt with since I started singing. But once I “found my path,” it comes naturally. That’s the weird thing about singing. There are just those few times when you do something right, it just feels right. It’s comfortable not taxing your body, pleasing to hear and doesn’t strain the ears.
When I sing for Baroque style music and choral music, I must be very careful and always warm up before I practice the songs. And even then I am always on my toes trying to find my path to the note and fight against my habitual mistakes, ready to criticize every note. Every breath and action requires a purpose. No energy or time or thought is wasted. My teacher told me, “Singing requires focus. Before you sing a note you have to think of it.”
But for the worship and praise I lead at church, I really don’t think too much about the dynamics and worry about my technique, as long as I can hit the note and stay in rhythm. The songs we sing at church are not similar to choral music at all. So I really only care about how the band sounds as a whole, similar to an orchestra. Singing is less of an issue in the band.
Because of my lack of experience with Baroque and choral pieces, my teacher told me that I should use hand motions and imagine the air I project is bouncing like a skipping a stone. But after who knows how many hours of studying Calculus, I imagined sinusoidal waves and sine and cosine graphs. It wasn’t easy at first. But once I started to imagine AND use motions to predict my note and sing by following, it came easy.
All of sudden, I sang the right way. I could just feel it. It was supposed to be this way. Exactly, precisely every movement, every breath, my posture, the shape of my mouth and how I projected the air I breathed in were the way they were supposed to be. But of course, I couldn’t sustain my excellent performance. I lost focus and grew distracted by my sudden success. And as quickly as I picked up the technique, I had lost it. But what I gained was experience. Now I know how it’s supposed to feel and sound when I sing the right way.
I guess things are like that in singing and in life. Once you find something that you like, or rather is supposed to be, you strive and pursue it to recreate it. With singing, you train and work your butt off in order to achieve that perfect pitch, your own path so that can enjoy your voice. With dancing, martial arts or a sports, you dedicate hours upon in the gym or field to perfect a move, a technique, a maneuver. In life, there are many right and wrong paths to recreate a feeling. Drug, smoking, drinking etc. are not healthy ways to recreate a pleasurable feeling. They offer a short high that it always followed with a longer low feeling. But with relationships, character, moral, ethics, etc. they prove to be the hardest to master. It takes a lot of patience and endurance to prove your golden heart and unshakable character but it always lasts therefore has a long-term feeling of pleasure for the relative short pain and suffering. My dad put it this way, “You can choose which path of life to take: either the overpass or underpass (subway). On an over pass you work hard and walk uphill and then enjoy the ride downhill. Walking into a subway you play now and then work your way uphill.” No pain, no gain.
Life is always an uphill battle and it only grows steeper. But that’s what makes us human. Without the will, the struggle to live then what else is there in life? That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately as senioritis plagued my motivation for education and greatly affected my grades. I’ve telling myself lately, “You gotta keep your head up! Don’t give up, let up slow down, back away or be still.” It’s not so much about the result but the process that matters to me these days. Yes, the result is important but the effort and the process, I believe is what shapes who you are. In the process, there is character, hope, endurance, motivation, faith-these are the things that make life what it is, a struggle.
This is the reason I love the game of basketball. When I was little, one anonymous person, made a lasting impression upon me and told me this on the court: “The game of basketball is a game of redemption. In this game, the only place you can go is up. No matter how many times you fail or lose there’s always next year, the next game, the next quarter, the next shot. No matter what you have another chance to redeem yourself. It’s up to you to rise up.” This is also probably why I do the things I do, like singing, guitar, leading youth. To improve my life by improving my attitude, enhancing my character, wrestling with myself and which is ultimately learning how to master myself.