I learned how to sing in the car.

Sure, when I was a child, before I could legally get behind the wheel of an automobile, I used to sing at church and at school and in the bathtub or shower. I used to pretend a plastic Wiffle ball bat was a guitar and would stand on my parents’ bed while their stereo blared behind me, putting on a concert for the ages. Yes, I definitely sang in all kinds of different places.

It wasn’t until I found myself alone in the car, though, that I really began to take the craft of singing seriously. Perhaps it was the solitude the situation afforded, or maybe it was the enclosed acoustics, but there was just something about singing along with whatever was playing on the car stereo that just felt right. I took it seriously, too. I tested my range, worked on my vibrato, even tried screaming and staying on pitch at the same time. If I was behind the wheel and the radio was on, I was working.

listeningLately, however, for a variety of reasons, I haven’t been singing as much. Thanks to increased speed limits, my drive time to work has gotten shorter. I had a sinus infection last week. I’m having difficulty finding new music that really engages me. For the most part, though, my mood has been low enough as of late that I just haven’t felt like raising my voice in song very much. As a result, I’ve been actually listening to more music than I have in quite some time, and, much to my surprise, I’m enjoying doing that quite a bit.

If you listen close enough to a song, there are so many minute details to be taken in. For instance, is the rhythm guitar panned hard left or hard right, or is it straight down the middle? What kind of accents is the hi-hat dropping in? Is the bass following the chord progression or actually playing against everything else that’s going on? Can you catch where the vocalist is taking a breath or notice the tiny cracks in their voices here and there? Every piece of music is made up of so many moving parts coming together, even if it is just a voice and a guitar or piano. In my attempt to sing over everything, that was something I had forgotten.

I find myself using my headphones more these days. I don’t try to guess the words of a new song the first time I’m hearing it. Sometimes I even just drive places and never sing a single note. I may have learned to sing in the car, but I’m finding I can learn to listen there as well.

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