This is the 11th installment in guest blogger Frank Klepacki’s series on music production. Today Frank talks about how to break through fear and find your voice. If you missed Frank’s previous post on electronic dance music, you can read it here.
I figured in order to tap into my love of funk and soul music, I needed to start by imitating funk band singers I loved, such as Sly Stone, Al Green, Larry Graham, Prince, & D’Angleo. I spent quite a bit of time trying to imitate them and writing songs where I was trying to sound like them. I recorded an albums worth of stuff and was excited about the idea of releasing it – but something held me back. I couldn’t put my finger on it but something just didn’t feel right about releasing it. After taking some time to think on it and come back to it, I discovered that it just didn’t feel like it was my “own” voice. It felt like an impersonation. Which it was. Ultimately it took a bit of “soul” searching (pun intended) – but I realized through that experience, that impersonation was not my actual goal.
So I went back to the drawing board, and started simply playing guitar and singing soulfully, in the way my voice naturally sounds. I focused more on the “feeling” I wanted to convey rather than tone or technique. That’s what “soul” music is – emotion and expression from the soul, not imitation. What I found was finally sounding like it was coming from me, rather than someone else. And though all my influences were still present in it, at least I knew I was on to my own sound.
Having that now as a new foundation to work from was liberating. It took a number of years and different experiences to get there, but through that perseverance I conquered all of the fears associated with singing, with being a front man, with holding my own in a studio, with being able to guide other singers in the studio when something needed a retake (we didn’t have auto-tune back then, you had to actually nail it), and ultimately, finding my own voice.
We are born with our voices. We can’t control that. But we can control everything else beyond that, working with what we do have, but we have to take the steps in order to do so. Some people may not know where to start, remaining intimidated by the mere thought – and that is why I wrote this blog. To offer some insight from my own personal journey with these issues, and perhaps give some ideas as to how someone else might be able to do the same. The key is to find a way to take the pressure off of yourself, and not worry about being perfect from the start. No one ever is, and you have to just do it over and over until you feel like you’ve got something. Then start small, sing for your closest friend, or family, or throw yourself to the wolves with a band for support.
– Frank Klepacki
Frank Klepacki is an award-winning composer for video games and television for such titles as Command & Conquer, Star Wars: Empire at War, and MMA sports programs such as Ultimate Fighting Championship and Inside MMA. He resides as audio director for Petroglyph, in addition to being a recording artist, touring performer, and producer. For more info, visit www.frankklepacki.com