Sängerschmiede Part 1 – A new journey

Most of you know, that I’ve been taking vocal coaching for a bit over two years now. It helped me lots to work on my voice and develop a better stage presence. During that time I also noticed, that singing (my own songs) is actually what I want to do and the ukulele is my support in that. I guess I always just used the ukulele to accompany my singing, but for some reason I felt that this was not enough for a very long time. That I needed to learn to play more intricate fingerstyle and add more of, I don’t even know what exactly, to my playing. Somehow it just never felt enough. But I’ve realized now, that it’s really not about that for me. It’s about letting the ukulele support my voice and what I have to say with songs.

Good enough

With that insight it makes sense to focus on songwriting and my voice. Sometime late summer last year my regular vocal coach suggested that I take part in the nine months intensive singing class that the school offers. I knew that it existed and I had thought about joining before but always felt that I’m probably not good enough to do it. This of course is just my mind playing tricks on me again. Because not joining a singing class, because you can’t sing well enough is just like not joining a fitness club because you’re not fit enough or not going to the hairdresser because your hair is not pretty enough. You go there to improve something, work on yourself or sometimes just have a good time. So, long story short, I overcame my fear of not being good enough and handed in my application.

Get to know Meet-Up

Due to Covid-19 measures the start had to be postponed several times, but in December 2020 we finally started with a remote get-together over Zoom to meet the main coaches and the other participants. We are an all Ladies group with a very diverse background, but facing very similar challenges. I was very nervous to meet everyone and learn more about them. It was a very casual hour that we spent together, but afterwards my mind started racing. Everyone seems to have a lot of experience – totally forgetting that I too have experience being on stage. It caused a small anxiety attack and lots of doubts if I made the right choice in joining the program. But I signed up and commited myself. And something I’ve learned in the last years is: If it scares me, it’s probably what I should be doing.

First homework

So here’s how the layout of the program. There’s a group coaching session once a month to bring the whole class together and tackle specific topics. The time between the group sessions is used for weekly individual vocal coaching. Every month you get a special “homework song” and a task attached to it. So everyone has about four weeks to tackle the song together with different vocal coaches and to work on the specific techniques, styles or whatever the monthly task is.

You can also check it out here, German only though: https://www.stimmfabrik.at/gesangsausbildung

My first homework was “Video Games” by Lana Del Rey. Since it was the first assignment it was more about getting to know everyones voices but there was also a focus on developing a better sense for using chest voice.

I was actually pretty happy with the song at first. I tried it out with the ukulele and it seemed easy enough and singing it was alright. But then I started to work on it with my vocal coach and trying to develop my chest voice. Something I just haven’t really done yet, because my own songs usually use a different register. It started to really frustrate me that I have such a hard time doing it and that it sounded so crappy that it got to a point where I didn’t want to work on the song at all anymore. Another thing that made it difficult for me was to sing with playback. I am used to accompany myself on the ukulele and somehow I just could not find my way using the playback. Then I had a little breakdown with lots of crying during vocal coaching with my regular coach Manu. It all just felt like a big mess.

About a week before the first real group coaching I got an email that everyone was supposed to prepare a video of their song, since the teaching would be remote again and they didn’t want to leave it up to chance that everyones internet would be working properly on day X – but we were supposed to only do one take. This actually calmed me down a bit, because videos I can do. So I taped two videos, one with the ukulele and one with the playback. I ended up sending in the ukulele video, because it represents who I am as an artist (at least at the moment) but for reference, I added both videos here, so you can check it out.

There was some serious action going on while recording. I taped horizontal with my notebook and portrait for Instagram with my phone. Microphone and Ukulele were recorded with my new Zoom H5 (will probably tell you about that soon).

First Group Coaching

Then on January 9th it was finally time for the first official group coaching session. Again, remote via Zoom, but we’re used to that by now, are we not? This session was all about feedback. How to give feedback but also how to receive feedback. That how we view ourselves is not necessarily how others see us. Things that in theory I am very aware of, but are often difficult to put in practice. After that it was time to look at all the videos and give feedback and receive feedback from our head coaches but also from our peers.

So here’s the video that I submitted:

It was actually nice that we did an online session, because that way I could see everyone’s faces and reactions to my video. Everyone was so engaged and listening very closely. When playing live, there was sometimes that one person who would engage like that. But this time there were so many of them. I was not prepared for everything that was running through my head and the feedback part hadn’t even started yet. So many emotions. It was a completely different “putting myself out there” than I usually do. It’s weird, because posting my videos on Instagram attracts a much bigger crowd, but the reaction of this group seems to matter to me on a whole different level.

The feedback afterwards was so much more rewarding and uplifting than anything I’ve ever heard before. So far people have always commented on me being off key, and having a serious look on my face, like I don’t even enjoy what I’m doing or just generally having a crappy voice. Then of course my all time favorite (NOT!) comments about how brave I am for posting something like that (a.k.a this is crap and shouldn’t be public) or you’re getting so much better (a.k.a everything you’ve done so far was crap).

But not this time. This time I got so much lovely and very specific feedback on how my voice sounds, or how the song made them feel. They noticed so many little things about me and my voice. It was overwhelming and something I not just appreciate, but treasure so much, that for the first time I don’t even want to share it with you lovelies. At least not what they said specifically. It feels too fragile right now to share it. I feel like someone will come around the corner and take it away from me again. So maybe at a later time.

During the feedback session I had a hard time holding back the tears. When we moved on to the next person I could finally let it out a bit and blow my nose. That gave me a serious nosebleed. I was a mess. Here’s a before and after picture. I look completely destroyed. It was almost too much emotion to handle in such a short amount of time.

It was a very intense first session. Not sure how the next ones will go. But I’ll hopefully be prepared a bit better for what’s coming. At the end of the session we each got assigned a new song. There’s some hints coming up on my Instagram (like that one) if you want to find out what song it is ;).

The video that didn’t make it (this time)

As promised, here’s the second video I recorded with playback. This is actually how it’s gonna be moving forward from now. I’ll have to put aside my ukulele and sing with playback. It still feels weird to me and it’s really far outside my comfort zone. But it’ll ultimately help me with my own songs as well. So we’ll see how it goes next month.

xoxo Nikky

P.S: Thanks for waiting patiently for a new blog entry for so long. Life happened.

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