Singing Tips from a Non-singer. Open Letter to a Young Filipino Singer

Congratulations on your winning the audition! By this time, I hope you have found your voice coach, and let me know how your training goes. I want to share with you my thoughts on singing, for you probably wanted to know, otherwise you would not have written me a detailed letter.

I’ve always wondered why only a few are lavished in the voice department. I don’t have it, but you have it: count yourself among the fortunate few. For me, your voice has the innocence of Jun Polistico in his younger years, or the subdued ring of Leo Valdez. If you train enough or are lucky enough to be “discovered” that voice will take you places. Whatever that is, it is your gift, and as gifts go, need to be shared. Be grateful, remain humble,  and be aware your gift might have a higher purpose. That is for you to find out.

As talents usually come as diamonds in the rough (and rarely naturally polished like Mozart’s) they need refinement and control: thus, you have the responsibility to develop your gift as far as you allow yourself. You will be surprised to find persons along the way willing to do that, and they do not charge you for it.

Remember: songs are foremost, a means of communication (from Latin: communicare, “to share”, and commonis, “to make common, unite, join”). I regard songs as “letters.” Emily Dickinson said of her poetry: “this is my letter to the world that never wrote to me.” My advice: print the lyrics of your chosen song/s, for that is your message. Ask yourself: what is the main message I’m trying to convey. Many singers do not even bother to ask these, hence, do the motions but have no clue what they are singing about: for instance, I have always wondered why there’s “honestly” in the song “I Honestly Love You.” Then, I realised it’s about (or potentially about) an “illicit” relationship, hence would be inappropriate for weddings. Thus, know your message, and give your message through your singing. For this purpose, it is very important to look at your audience in the eye. Pan your audience left to right, right to left, then look at individual people straight in the eye as this is a gauge of sincerity. This way you get to connect with the recipients of your message, be one with them in celebrating the joy and creative power of your music.

Your song is your gift. You never know who are touched by it, for most never talk back, but they are there. This brings me to an important point. Many young singers simply ape (copy) the form and style of famous artists. While this is a good start, eventually you need to find your style, and voice, for that is who you are. They say there are two types of singers: those who only sing, and those who sing and perform. My advice: be the latter. Singing engages the ear and heart, while performing is the total communication of what you are conveying. Your coach can tell you how to go about this. Also, ask him or her the best attire to wear. I think you have to wear your best, and for performers (much like public speakers) the rule is, it is better to be somewhat overdressed than underdressed. To dress up for the occasion is a sub-message in itself communicating your respect for your audience. This is all for now. Good luck!

~~~~~

Our columnist who writes articles for “Kababayan Ko, Ipinagmamalaki Ko” (KKIK) – Gil Tabucanon – was very happy and proud of his Law student who won an audition for a national singing contest that he was inspired to write the article above. Gil is an overseas student undertaking studies on Pacific Environmental Migration on scholarship at Macquarie University.  Due to his study workload, we are sad to share that Gil will be taking leave from writing in the KKIK section of Ang Kalatas. He promises to contribute some opinion pieces from time to time as long as his study workload permits. We thank Gil for all his contributions and wish him all the best in his studies.


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