(Remember to dive into the lyrics)
Iím working in Los Angeles, I often drive aimlessly up the coast
in search of inspiration.
no reason, one day I pulled into the parking lot of a state
beach in Malibu. Walking along the shore, I noticed a handful
of surfers in shiny black wet-suits bobbing up and down in the
water like seals. Some people had gathered on a nearby dune
to watch the surfers do their thing. Hmm, letís see; thereís
a stage, some performers, a seating area and an audience. Sound
familiar? I settled back and took in the show. The surfers were
good, I guess, but what struck me was how similar the skill
of catching a wave on a foam-core board is to performing a song.
is a balancing act. A dance between the forces of nature and
artistic desires. There are universal laws which govern every
aspect of singing, and the same is true for surfing. The difference
is that singers have to make their own waves, and what we ride
is emotion. Feelings rise and fall inside us creating surges
of energy which can be harnessed. Like surfers heading for the
ocean, we performers drive to gigs or the studio hoping the
swells will be plentiful. Sometimes, the waves are too big,
causing beginners to lose control and wipe out. Calling up tears
in a performance is one thing, crying is another. Tapping into
anger certainly creates waves. But what good are huge swells
if your board gets trashed on the very first run? Too often,
though, itís a singerís lack of intimacy that reduces the power
of the surf, making the songs safe and uneventful. It takes
skill and courage to ride a big one and stay on your feet, and
an equal amount of skill and courage to stir up placid waters.
are good at making waves. What the rest of us have to remember
is that a wave is a wave. You do not have to specifically feel
anger, happiness, loneliness or love to express them in song.
Any emotion will do, just feel something. Pain is often substituted
as pleasure in films. Directors have been known to dig their
fingernails into the feet of actresses to evoke passionate facial
expressions during love scenes when, in reality, the woman canít
stomach her co-star. In the same way, it is unreasonable to
expect a singer to relive the emotions which inspired a song
after performing it a thousand times. Once a wave has been created
the dance begins. This is the point where singer and surfer
alike utilize physical skills. Subtle, reflex muscles constantly
adjust to changing conditions. It is impossible to think fast
enough, the technique must be unconscious. Whatís important
to note is that you are not controlling the wave, merely playing
off its energy. Harness the momentum of an emotion and passion
will swell during the verse of a song. Then, shoot the curl
throughout the chorus. If the wave gets out of hand, pull back.
If it loses steam, lean forward. With an adventurous spirit
and good technique, you can take a song anywhere.
tell a lot about a person by the way they sing or surf. Without
knowing any of the surfers in Malibu personally, it was easy
to separate the conservative from the risk takers, the reckless
from the nut cases. Beginners spent tremendous energy thrashing
about the water as the experienced glided by with precision.
Some played to the audience on the dunes while others surfed
for internal fulfillment. Regardless of their ability, we onlookers
admired them all. It looked like fun. Watching made me anxious
to get back to my studio and dive into a song.
Baxter is a vocal therapist
who offers private and video lessons. To contact him, call:
(800)659-6002. Visit his website at: www.voicelesson.com
with the kind permission of Mark