Wobbling Along

9 Aug

Do you remember when you learned to ride a bike?  I was five when my dad took the training wheels off mine and held the bike steady as I climbed onto my now-two-wheeler.

“You can do it, sweetie,” he told me, and, because he was my dad, I believed him.

I gripped the handlebars tightly, pumped the pedals, and, took off, with my dad holding on and running alongside me.

Sitting proudly on my bike seat, I felt that I had mastered bike riding, racing forward on this new machine, already confident in a new skill.

And then my dad let go.  The new machine felt suddenly unfamiliar and unsteady.

For a minute, I did manage to ride on my own, keeping the bike upright and pedaling furiously, feeling both terrified and exhilarated as I cycled forward on pure adrenaline.  Then I saw the honeysuckle bush directly in front of me, and crashed gratefully, inevitably into it.

Substitute either “using social media” or “singing” into the last two paragraphs and you have a good picture of my current state of being.  I’m both exhilarated and exhausted, moving forward with confidence one minute and crashing into things the next.

When I called Patty to arrange my first lesson, she had told me to bring a tape recorder, so that we could record the lesson, allowing me to review the material and practice between sessions.  In my state of blind panic that first day, I forgot.

Patty graciously agreed to a short lesson last Wednesday so that I could record both the drills that I am to practice and the three songs that I will be working on learning, with our next full lesson scheduled for Tuesday, August 16.

The three songs I’ve selected are: the Shaker hymn, “Simple Gifts”; “L’chi Lach,” by Debbie Friedman; and “Halleluyah,” by Leonard Cohen. (I want to say here that it seems perfectly ridiculous that I can just ‘select’ songs and expect to be able, at some point in the future, to sing them, but that does seem to be what I’m doing.)

As soon as I got home from Wednesday’s mini-lesson, I pulled out my recorder to listen and even practice a bit.  Whereupon I made three important discoveries.  First, the sound quality on my tape-recorder is abysmally bad, which makes it that much more difficult to match the pitch of my voice to the supposed-pitch of the notes I’m hearing.  Second, the sound of my tape-recorder is not nearly loud enough, which makes my barely audible singing voice noticeably barely audible.  Third, when I sing somewhere other than in Patty’s beautiful, sacred practice space, people (other than Patty) can potentially hear me.  This is almost enough to make me quit entirely.

I have taken inventory of my music-related pluses and minuses.  Here they are.

Singing-related things I don’t know or can’t do:

  • how to read music
  • how to identify a musical note, by sound, name or where it is on the staff
  • how to make a specific note with my voice (i.e., “sing a C”)
  • how to transfer a song I can hear in my head into a song that I sing with my voice

Singing-related things I can do:

  • match the pitch of a note on Patty’s piano with my voice
  • practice with my lousy tape-recorder

It’s not much, but it’s something.  I keep wobbling unsteadily forward.


2 Responses to “Wobbling Along”

  1. Elaine Boyd August 19, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    Delightful and challenging at the same time. Thank you. Assuming you will share some new venture each month, I am curious to know whether you plan to pursue the singing lessons the whole year. Also looking forward to finding out what the second venture will bring.

    • Cathleen Barnhart August 22, 2011 at 10:13 am #

      I plan to continue the singing lessons into September; don’t know how long I’ll keep them up. I do have a new venture in mind for September, but you’ll just have to stay tuned to find out what it is!

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