Do you really need a voice to cut your own CD? Yes, Helen Lederer discovers, but not necessarily a good one.
Well, I’ve done it in the bath, with a hairbrush and in the car - but I haven't done it in public - and call me a prude, but I haven‘t done it in front of two strangers either. I mention this in order to explain the slightly raised blood pressure I felt when stepping out on to a sweet little Kent station to be met by Paul - a singing maestro who was going to make my school girl fantasy come true. He was going to get me to sing a song, record it and send me home with a personal CD. Calm, moi?
Although Paul reassured me that all sorts come to sing their own CDs with him: “Grandparents, teens, five-year-olds." I noticed he hadn't included the tone deaf, the shy or singer-phobic, which was worrying. You see, I was avoiding something that, sooner or later, we were all going to have to confront. In spite of my closet hope (now firmly out of the bag) that I, too, could sound like Dido, Madonna and Celine rolled into one, could I actually do it?
My biggest fear was that when I opened my mouth, I'd either be mute or sound like a baby starling or parrot. After all, I'd been chucked out of the school choir and I only sing in church if I’m next to a loud person, or in a group situation if drunk. But at least I was prepared. When I first spoke to Paul on the phone, he suggested I peruse some 2,700 titles on his website or even come up with one of my own, “to practice”. He would make sure I‘d be sent the lyrics beforehand. In the event, I chose Yesterday by Paul (the other one) because I felt it would be easier to tackle than Nessun Dorma and more engaging than Needles & Pins.
We drew up outside a pretty house set in a fantastic valley with great views and various buildings dotted about. John (my second maestro/singer/teacher) was waiting for us with a twinkle in his eye, a smile and a cup of coffee. So far, so very good. Next, I was standing in a warm, wood-panelled studio with a microphone stand, a music holder thing and OMIGOD - earphones! Once those were on, I knew there would be no going back.
John suggested breathing out to empty my lungs in order to fill up nicely. I felt like a pair of fireside bellows - all very cosy and at home and not at all self-conscious. In fact, it was only when I heard those famous guitar chords spilling into my cans that the panic set in. I was to sing the words to Yesterday over Paul McCartney’s guitar backing. It felt ghostly and awe-inspiring at the same time.
I tried to get a grip and adopt a “Kylie-Minogue-being-filmed-for-comic-relief,” type of stance, but I wasn’t very convincing. Suddenly, I heard Paul’s cheery voice in my cans say “Here we go, after four bars…”
I struck out into my first yodel of Yesterday. This was fine. but then I got ﬁxated about whether I should go up or down on the words “far away,” which were still in the first line.
This took some sorting out. Then it got better, especially when the power of the famous music took over. In fact, there were bits of the song that really made the whiskers stand up on the back of my neck and beyond.
After several “takes,” I went into Paul's section to recover and watch him twiddle knobs. This was where he was going to make the song sound less like a hamster solo and more like, well, a CD.
When I first heard myself back. I did the decent thing - I screamed. "I sound like I'm 10!" John agreed that singing was like releasing the inner child. Trouble was, I wasn't sure I was ready to share mine with the rest of the world, so I said, “Can‘t you do something to alter it, Paul?” Paul replied. “I have already." Luckily, he had a sense of humour and resumed knob twiddling until my inner child sounded less Brownie pack and more womanly.
Meanwhile, John was strumming his guitar to a tune I'd become inspired to tell him about. It felt glorious. Here I was strumming, humming and jamming with real musicians! But finally, I had to tear myself away, clutching my CD, as well as one of John's band, The Varlies.
My family were amazed that it sounded so “real”. Their reactions were wide-eyed and open-mouthed in the main with only a tiny amount of laughing. In fact, I‘ve taken to keeping it in my handbag in case anyone has a portable. And, I have to say, that while I've grown fond of The Varlies - I've grown even fonder of the sound of my own voice.
If you’d like to record your own CD, call Paul Midcalf at Recording Experience Gifts on 0800 567 7197, or visit www.recording.gifts. Sessions cost between £99 and £449. W&H
Re-produced with kind permission from Anouschka Meredith, features editor.
Visit Helen Lederer's website
Photo printed audio CD
included FOR FREE with every experience
(usual price £10)