With the advent of ‘Auto-tune’, and other similar tuning and timing devices, it is now possible for almost anyone to call themselves ‘a singer’. Most people will sing out of tune a bit, and after all, the human voice should not be expected to behave like a machine. But for today’s artist however, this inadequacy is a fundamental and career threatening ‘Archilles’ heel’.
Some people will sing consistently flat and some consistently sharp, (I have had a long career wincing at the latter) but this is easy to correct. Recently though I came across a ‘singer’ who has developed his own particular sub-species of sharp and flat with a bit of in-tune thrown in, that proves particularly difficult to deal with. And so, with a hard-drive full of this young man’s mediocre warble, I make my way down to my garden pod/studio to begin several hours of pain and torture.
“Work your magic” I recall him saying as we parted company, just days before in London Fields, but even David Blaine would think twice about taking this on.
As my computer comes to life and I stare at the sunny field outside my window I wonder if my memory hasn’t served me well and maybe my afternoon’s work will actually turn out to be quite easy. Maybe he wasn’t that bad? Being classically trained, I know I’m particularly anal about tuning.
My fears are confirmed. Three words in to the chorus, and I’m in trouble.
For example, the word ‘alone’ (which for some reason features a lot in my songs) has, as you know, two syllables. The first syllable is sung flat as a pancake, but this would be easy to deal with if it weren’t for the second syllable being sung out of time and with a charming mixture of sharp and in-tune. The waveform that is shamed into representing this atonally performed word will need to be painstakingly and graphically corrected. Life saving microsurgery, for the partially tone-deaf.
One word, half an hour gone, my life is shit.
The ‘artist’ in question is a very handsome boy. Indeed he has already had some success as an actor and also, fortuitously thrown into the bargain, has a famous ‘rock n roll’ parent. Despite the tuning issues, he also has an impressively distinctive voice, reason enough I think to plough on down the road to intonation hell and see if I can pull something out of the bag, even if he is clearly unaware of the man hours it takes to work my magic.
Coincidences can be cruel. It is a particularly cruel coincidence that, at 5 pm this afternoon, I’m booked in for a root canal treatment at my local dentist. It’s my first procedure of this kind and I make a poor job of hiding my fear as the chair lowers me robotically into position. We all know that when a dentist fumbles with something behind you, just out of sight, it is, odds on, more than likely to be a ruddy great syringe with a nasty looking needle on the end of it. With clammy hands and a shaky voice I urge the lady to ‘load me up’. If I’d been offered a general I’d have taken it on the spot.
This tooth has been hypersensitive for some time and after several fillings and a lot of pain it is deemed necessary to take out the nerve, thus ending all discomfort for me. Simple. Not that simple actually. In an adult molar there are three nerve cavities. Each one must be drilled out and then each nerve, once found, also yanked out. Next, a foul tasting substance will be applied to the bottom of the cavities, which should kill off anything that might remain. The tooth is then temporary filled and after a week or so I will be expected to return to have it all dug out again so the empty root cavities can be filled with cement thus avoiding the tooth to unexpectedly fall out. A needle through the eye sounds just great right now.
Surprisingly though, when the drilling begins I feel nothing painful at all. I wistfully muse that root canal is, can you believe it, actually preferable to tuning the said boy's vocal. Until that is, out of the blue, the drill wraps its good self round the deepest part of my nerve and I levitate my contorted body several inches out of the chair, all accompanied by high pitched whimpering. Mr Blaine would be impressed.
And so I leave cap in hand, with my low pain threshold and temporary filling, blissfully unaware of the dribble I’m leaving behind.
My dentist has advised me to buy Paracetamol and Ibuprofen in large quantities for when the ‘local’ wears off. I take double the recommended dose and head back to the studio.
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