I Can’t Do That

I had an odd moment at band practice yesterday.  Without thinking about it, I managed to do something that I really can’t do.

I can sing a little.  I don’t really like to, but if a song has a harmony part I try to do it.  I kinda like singing harmony, partly because I know a lot of people can’t do it, and partly because I feel it makes a difference to how we sound as a group.  I’m not going to say it sets us apart from other bands, but it’s just a nice touch.

Unfortunately, singing and playing guitar at the same time can be difficult for me.  There are a ton of things I should be singing for the band that I don’t because I’m not coordinated enough to sing without changing what my hands are doing on the guitar.  The guitar part always comes first for me.  If the rhythm I’m playing with my hands is at all complicated, even a tiny bit, I find that I can’t sing along.  Likewise if the voice part is complicated in any way it throws off my ability to play guitar.  Any time I come across a situation like that I shut my mouth and just play.

Last night was our first practice in over a month.  We were throwing out songs that we might want to add to our set.  Two of the suggestions were interesting enough that we tried learning them on the spot.  One of them is an early 80’s new wavy kinda thing.  Lots of clean guitars and layered vocal harmonies over a pretty sweet bass line.  Okay, we’ll try it.  I don’t believe I had actually listened to this particular song since I was in Junior High, but the whole thing came back to me.  I figured out the guitar part pretty quickly.  The chorus was kinda interesting and I surprised myself by picking it up right away.  It’s not really in my wheel house, but I got it, or at least got close enough for a first try.

We start playing the song and everything is going well.  The bass sounds great, the drums are right on, the vocal is just right.  My parts were chugging along and I wasn’t screwing anyone else up.  Kevin and I were throwing in attempts at backing vocals where we could.  When we got to the chorus I thew in a harmony a third above the melody.  We got about halfway through it when it dawned on me that I was singing while playing the interesting guitar part and I wasn’t screwing up either one.  The instant I came to this realization I started messing up the rhythm a little.  I was either changing chords an eighth note too soon or two late, or I was skipping words while I did something with my hands thus making both guitar and voice sound stupid.

It was really interesting to me because I was able to do something that I would have sworn I couldn’t do.  That sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen, you know?  The next time the chorus came around I didn’t think about it.  It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t terrible either.  I’m going to have to work on this some more to see if I can nail it.  Unfortunately that has to wait a day or two until my fingers stop screaming in pain.  I really need to practice more just to keep those calluses from fading.  Ouch.

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