I once heard that Jimi Hendrix hated his own voice. And I’m sure a lot of singers feel the same way about their vocal gear. When I think of the money that guitar players spend trying to find a new instrument that satisfies them, it’s kind of amazing that anyone could be happy with the one and only physical voice machine they happen to be born with. I know some of you nice people appreciate my voice. I do, too, for the most part. But the thing is limited in what it can do and it was built in 1963. Sometimes I wish it could soar in other ways.
I find that in order to become a musician, to learn to play and sing, you have to engage in some odd mind games with yourself. And this is especially true when you’re trying to manipulate areas inside your body that you can’t even see, like your throat. When I was just beginning to sing, someone told me to imagine a very hot potato inside my mouth as a way to cause my throat to expand. You use the trick to make something good happen inside your body. Then eventually you learn to make the good thing happen without using the trick. There are tons of mind-fucking gambits like this that have helped me figure out how to sing just a little bit better. And I feel like I need every single one.
So here’s a fantasy scenario has unlocked some vocal happiness for me lately, because it helps me to accept and enjoy my voice. This is going to sound insane, but I’ll share. I’ve been pretending that my voice is a very old and fragile tenor saxophone that I found in my attic. How exciting! And I’m picking it up for the first time, learning to make cool sounds with it. Don’t know why, but right now this particular mind-fucking fantasy is helping me approach singing with a little more joy. More gentleness. It’s helping me embrace the limited but totally acceptable sounds of my vocal machine.