Just Play: I've Come to Terms with My Inability to Sing -- And It Sucks!

In my last blog entry, I lamented my inability to sing.

In college, after years of ignoring conventional wisdom and thinking I’m as good a singer as anyone, and torturing my friends and family with my renderings, I finally took voice lessons, because deep down, I knew I was, well, ignoring conventional wisdom.

I studied with an opera singer who taught me proper technique; she even extended my range by about three or four whole steps. I gave it an honest shot for about a year, during which I’d force myself out in front of an audience, just me and a guitar or piano, and try to make myself be a singer.

I had improved, to be sure, but my voice still just plain sucked. I stubbornly ignored the reluctant “That was very nice” sentiments from my friends as well as the giggles from random audience members, and determined I was going to keep plugging away, until magically, I became a real singer.

It was during the making of my first record a few years later that I had my come-to-Jesus moment. Guys like Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren, Tom Scholz, Stevie Wonder and even Lenny Kravitz, who could do it all — writing, producing, performing — were my heroes, and I wanted to do that, too. I had written all the songs, played all the instruments, recorded and engineered everything, and now I was gonna go one further and put down the vocals. This record was my baby.

Hours later, my voice blown out and with not a single good take in the can, I came to the inevitable conclusion that singing, for me, is like playing an instrument for others. The latter always came naturally to me, while others have had to study with a teacher and spend years working at it. I had to finally admit that singing was going to be that way for me. This was quickly followed by the realization that I simply didn’t have the same passion or desire to study it that intensely, and so, with a mixture of sadness and relief, I gave it up.

Where does that leave me? I’ll be honest. Finding, auditioning, hiring and pinning down singers to schedule stuff is a large pain in the ass. Not being able to finish recording a song because I can’t sing it blows. Knowing a million songs and wanting to play covers in a bar for a quick and easy buck, yet not being able to do so unless I have someone with me who can sing them is hugely frustrating.

Knowing that every single one of my musician friends has some innate singing talent, and I do not, really sucks!

For your viewing pleasure (No, that’s not me from 20 years ago):

Guitar World music editor Matt Scharfglass has performed around the country and internationally, playing virtually all types of music with a wide range of artists, including R&B with Ashford & Simpson, old-school swing with the Blue Saracens and gospel with Richard Hartley & Soul Resurrection. Matt appears on the original-cast recording of Evil Dead: The Musical and the Broadway Cares album Home for the Holidays. He has also worked in countless theater pits and plays guitar up in the organ booth to crowds of 18,000 at New York Rangers home games at Madison Square Garden. An accomplished guitar and bass transcriber, Matt has had more than 600 of his transcriptions appear in Guitar World magazine and in books by Warner Brothers, Music Sales and Hal Leonard. He has also authored more than a dozen bass and guitar instructional books, including the "You Can Do It...Play Bass!" and "…Play Guitar!" series. He is the bassist and one of the main songwriters for his rock band, The Border Cops.

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