This is the tenth 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.
Early in my career, I realized even though I can compose and produce music, I didn’t sing, and was afraid to try. Being in bands and recording in the studio, if something was ever vocally off, my ear would catch it, but I wouldn’t be able to sing it to offer another suggestion or correction. I needed to find to way to break this fear.
A close friend of mine would play comedic songs at parties time to time that would make everyone laugh. It got me thinking that if I teamed up with him, perhaps I could break my fear of singing if I was singing “with” him – to harmonize, blend in, and “eventually” work into singing some leads, with the idea that if I’m singing songs that make people laugh, the comedy element outweighs how accurate my performance is – and we get to have fun at the same time. Such was my rational anyway. This was a good breaking-in period for me and helped me start to find my range.
Once I got more comfortable in my own skin with that, I took it a step further. I thought that I would write and record some straight forward acoustic and rock songs, and then have some friends of mine in a local band help sing on it – again with the idea that I’d be trading verses and singing “with” them to make up for my lack of belief that I could do it myself. This turned out to be great for me for a different reason though. These guys gave me input and helped strengthen the foundation of what I wrote by giving me ideas of harmonies and how I approach my phrasing. It was nice to have a fresh ear on what I was trying to accomplish, and it got me thinking differently in context of singing melody, allowing the voice not to be one-dimensional.
Now comes the stage fright part. I’ve never been afraid of being on stage as a drummer. But as a singer, in my mind I’m thinking it’s totally different because you feel vulnerable and naked with your voice as the focal point. How does one pull it off and not embarrass themselves if they suck? Then it hit me. I thought about all the punk rock bands I’d seen, and how they were never really pitch accurate the whole time. In my general observations, it was more about the attitude and conviction of the performance. Hell, half of them were local teenagers who just wanted to get out and play regardless of how good they were. And why not? Playing out and practicing on a regular basis only makes you better, so if they’re willing to throw themselves to the wolves then why shouldn’t I be?
So I got some friends together, and made a punk band to go play shows with as a way to break my fear of being a front man, and work on my pitch and execution. This helped me further find my vocal range, learn to breathe better, pace myself, and most importantly, it conquered my fear of being shy or embarrassed to put myself out there and begin to craft a persona. The way I saw it, if I wasn’t any better than any other average singer, it didn’t make a difference, and if I had an off-night, then my silliness and humor would make up for it. As long as I was “entertaining” to the audience, that’s what I focused on, and the more we played and practiced, the better I got at actually singing, and at pitch control.
After putting myself through that for a time, it got me thinking about what kind of voice I have, and what type of music better suits it. I always had a passion for funk music, and I never thought I would be able to pull it off convincingly. But I’ve always “had” soul, I just needed to work out how to express it.
– 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