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Vocals and the quest for learning

A few years ago, I completed my Grade 5 singing exam. That’s right. Exam. Singing classical Pavarotti-esque stuff. Five different pieces in Latin, Italian. Plus an Irish folk tune.

Singing Pavarotti-style

Ya you can chuckle all you want. But I did it.

I had people at the time ask me: “What do you need to do an exam for? You’ve already got albums released, and have performed all over the place! Why do an exam?”

I had the same thoughts. What the hang am I doing? I mean, it all sounds like a good and noble thing, but nothing deters one quite like an exam.

Yes, be honest. You shudder at the mere thought of it as well. Few other things are quite as final and determining as an exam. You either pass (in other words, you “make it”, you “meet the grade”, you’re “worthy of this certificate”), or you fail. And if you fail, you are a failure.

Not really, but that’s what most of us think: if I fail is that I just don’t cut it.

I was nervous. No, that’s not quite right. I was scared. I mean, imagine having released albums and you can’t even pass a singing exam? Shudders.

So why do it? Well, it’s fairly simple. I want to keep learning. And while the majority of the industry are trying new gear and making strides in inventing new pedals, synth sounds and the like (which are all important), voices are paramount to a sound.

But besides that – for me, it’s all about learning. This is something which hasn’t been instinctual to me. My good friend Jaco Dippenaar (choral director at Hilton College) instilled it in me during the process.

This week I venture into the studio with Brent, to fine-tune some of the songs of The Great Deep – the new album. This time though, I don’t have the same sense of fear as I did back when I did my exam. The studio is becoming a playground for me, where learning takes place, and where hopefully – along with the fun and joy of the process – there’ll be life that comes from it.

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