Sunday, September 22, 2013

So here is my singing voice as it sounds right now at this point in my life...PLUS a recent vocal breakthrough!

Hi Guys and Gals,

It's been about a week since I have written. Busy with work and stuff, and this past weekend was my first week back as Assistant Director and teacher (as well as student) at the Chinese/Asian languages program where I volunteer 3 times a week in Manhattan's Chinatown. For more on that, please see my other language learning blog, www.speakmanylanguages.com.

Since the focus of this particular blog, SoBigItHurts, is my personal transformation back to singing and stuff, it is very important that you all know what I am talking about, what my voice sounds like right now, what it used to sound like, and examples of other famous singers in various genres singing in the style that I am currently learning and in which I eventually hope to make a name for myself.

Over the course of my next few entries, I will first (in this entry) present excerpts of what my voice sounds like right now (in other words, recorded in the past 1-2 weeks during various vocal practice sessions). Then I will share with you all bits and pieces (1-2 minute excerpts) of various songs that I wrote and recorded from 1992 through 2008 or so, when I stopped singing due to my little mental and emotional block that I have previously mentioned in this blog. These recordings will cover the time from when I first decided I wanted to be a singer until I stopped singing 5 years ago, so you will hear how my voice sounded when I first started, and how it developed over the course of about 10,000 hours of singing practice and performance/studio time.

Finally, in a longer series of blog entries drawn from some emails that I initially composed for my dear friend and sometimes collaborator, composer Jonthan Bell, I will explain using audio examples from various famous Broadway, pop and heavy metal singers, the theory behind a crucial vocal cord adduction technique that is allowing me at age 40 to finally sing way up into soprano register in full voice -- something I certainly could not even come close to doing in my 20s or 30s during the height of my "I want to be a rock star" phase!

This is the same technique described and taught by rock/pop voice teachers such as Thomas Appell and Jaime Vendera -- through whose book I subsequently discovered the voice of Tony Harnell of TNT, with whom I am about to begin voice lessons in New York City. It is a very solid physiologically sound technique maximizing the physiological potential of the male voice, whether bass, baritone or tenor, to sing as high as most women in full voice -- without screaming and without risking any kind of injury to the vocal cords when done correctly and when supporting muscles are properly developed. This last part is where I currently struggle, as you will hear in many of my recordings over the coming weeks as I work on this part of my register.

Before I get into explaining the theory behind what I am trying to accomplish with my voice, let's spend the next 2 entries exploring first what my singing voice currently sounds like, and then in the next entry what it used to sound like before I understood how to apply this vocal cord adduction technique to sing through my first break, through the entire traditional tenor vocal range and up into soprano register in full voice (not falsetto). Once I get to the series of blogs explaining how this technique actually works, this will make sense to my more skeptical readers and listeners.

Without any further ado, here are some vocal examples of "the current me," with explanations:

1. Here is an example of me singing the first verse of the Dream Theater song, "Anna Lee." Those of you who know the song will realize that melodically, I shot my wad way too soon by singing the verse 2 melody and ornaments on verse 1 by mistake. I think this was the 4th time I ever attempted this song, at karaoke in Manhattan about 2, maybe 3 weeks ago. I present this as an example of me singing in what is currently the meat, the sweet spot of my range -- the part that is at once effortless and at the same time probably sums up who I am as a person more than the higher or lower notes -- not sure why that is, but I feel it to be true.
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

2. Here is another example of me singing in the same register, but a tad bit higher, channeling my inner George Michael. Everyone should channel their inner George Michael as often as possible, I think.
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

3. Now we begin to get into some vocal fun. To be honest, THIS is how I spend most of my time vocalizing and practicing these days. My first music mentor Ann is very against noodling as a form of undisciplined practice, but I gotta tell you all that Ann couldn't be more wrong about the value of noodling for someone like me who is actively working to find ways to allow myself to sing way up into an upper register that I never imagined I would actually be able to reach one day in full voice.

It has actually been noodling that has allowed me to figure out how this all works. It is noodling that I spend most of my time doing every time that I sing now -- but controlled noodling -- that is to say, once I discover some goofy way of producing sound, such as a specific whoa or hey arpeggio that I stole from a song or decided to try on my own, I take that and I sing it throughout my entire range over and over again, actively working to get it better and more solid, more consistent in timbre and breath control each time.

Here are some whoas, inspired by my favorite singer James Labrie of Dream Theater:
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

4. More vocalizing. Here is a single "whoa yeah" that starts off in falsetto and VERY awkwardly blends to full voice before continuing to the end in full voice. I am showing this one to you guys because this is all a learning process for me, warts and all. You guys are going to hear some pretty awful sounding shit over the coming weeks and months as I work towards smoothing out my breaks between upper registers and making the timbre of those notes "workable" for the kind of music I want to sing. In the awkward moment of blend from falsetto to full voice at the beginning of this example, you can hear the difference between the two placements, and you will also hear the beginnings of the sound I am striving to achieve as I practice every day and sing along with my favorite high metal and prog rock singers.
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

5. I like to practice singing in the subway station near my home for several reasons, not the least of which is that it allows me to have a place, at the end of the platform on the downtown side, where I can sing at the top of my lungs for free at 11 pm or midnight if the mood strikes my fancy, and no one can complain or will even notice. I simply wait for people to get off trains and leave the station, and then I practice vocalizing and singing along with my mp3 player until the next train arrives. Here is an extended "whoa" through much of my usable range, performed as one long vocal trill:
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

6. Here is a "hey" arpeggio exercise through my entire usable range in mostly full voice with some distinct moments of falsetto and blend to reinforced falsetto at the very top notes. This is sung from low to high back to low. I did not have a pitch pipe with me in the subway station, so I adjusted up/down a semitone each time to the best of my ability, given the ambient noise in my ears at the time. This is a long file but will give you an idea of the raw materials that I currently have to work with over the coming months in my voice lessons, etc.:
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

 7. Here is a bit more noodling as I warm up my voice during one of my practice sessions. This clip consists of a falsetto to full voice blend plus a siren exercise which I got from Jaime Vendera's book Raise Your Voice (can't recommend this book enough, by the way -- more on it and other learning resources at a later date), plus m singing the end of "Somewhere That's Green" in falsetto from Little Shop of Horrors, which my singing friends know I like to do as a warm up each time we all do karaoke.
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

8. Here is an example of more vocal warmup exercises such as those that I do for the first 20 minutes or so prior to every time I sing karaoke, for example, where this was recorded last week in Manhattan:
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

9. And finally, for this entry, here is my vocal breakthrough of the week, when I realized in the shower 2 days ago that I could finally sing the bridge to Dream Theater's "Anna Lee" in 99% full voice with a few split seconds of reinforced falsetto due to lack of optimal breath control. I recorded this in my kitchen as soon as I got out of the shower!
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

So that wraps it up for today -- to give you all an idea of what my singing voice currently sounds like, and where I am attempting to go with it as I work on expanding my full voice range up into traditional soprano register. Please come back tomorrow for my next entry containing excerpts covering the entire history of my singing voice from the very first weeks that I decided I wanted to sing professionally as a sophomore in college in 1992 to 2008, when I stopped singing until June of this year.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

And I am back with some excellent insights from my friend Cassandra, as well as a tidy vocal breakthrough yesterday evening

First and foremost, though, I want to thank my roommate Tom for paying his rent for the month. He has been struggling with an asshole boss who apparently pays him whenever he feels like it for good work that he has already done, and he found out today that even though she complains about never having any money, she has been making extra money off Tom for the past two years by manipulating her books to one of her clients while hiding that fact from Tom.

Anyway, I have had some serious ongoing friction with my roommate for well over a year now because of this cunt of a boss that he has -- Jewish woman who nickels and dimes him in a way that gives all Jewish people a bad name and perpetuates every stereotype that makes me cringe when I think about how a lot of people view those of my personal heritage. I am glad that she did the right thing and paid him so he could finally pay his rent this month, albeit almost 2 weeks late.

This aside, let's get to the meat of today's entry: self image and self-image-change.

While having dinner 2 nights ago with my dear friend and talented singer/songwriter Cassandra Kubinski,I realized something crucial that needs to change about myself as I work towards the other ongoing transformations I am currently putting in place:
  • Eliminating all crap from my life, whether it be extra material possessions, physical things cluttering up my living space, or old dreams and goals that no longer resonate with my current existence
  • Attempting to scale down the amount of time I spend thinking about the sex that I am not having and transmutating that unfulfilled physical energy into something creative and "productive" or life-propelling -- when I am able to not think about sex, which to be honest, is not as often as I would like to have occur at this point...
  • More focus on becoming basically conversational in the languages I have chosen to focus on in my current studies. For more on this goal (or series of goals), please check out my other language learning blog, www.speakmanylanguages.com
  • AND FINALLY a transition back to singing, in which I will develop the entire range of my voice from very bottom to very top, transforming myself into a "compleat" singer and thus preparing my instrument to allow me to realize some form of my original goal to put myself out there as a singer and performer in a way that will fulfill me as a human being and make a difference to other people in this world.
So, anyway, in addition to these very real goals that are currently going on, there is one variation of goal number 2 above, which is to meet my next girlfriend OR to create a situation for myself whereby I am dating one or more girls that I am interested in both physically and mentally/emotionally -- someone or someoneS to complete certain aspects of myself that can ONLY be completed by a woman or women...AND ONE VERY REAL WAY that I can begin to work towards accomplishing this goal is to begin to focus on my appearance -- the ME that I put out into the world each day, the mean who leaves this apartment and steps forth into the Big City with hopes of accomplishing everything else mentioned above.

 For a while now -- and I am not sure if it is because I am jaded or perhaps too horny from my time spent looking at internet porn or if it is simply because I have not had sex in a while and my pheromones are all "off" -- I have felt a bit of weirdness on trains or in cafes, etc. when I see a pretty girl and I want to smile at her or say hi. I have almost at times felt like I was unconsciously or perhaps subconsciously doing something to turn off women and make them literally look or walk the other way. After a brief, honest discussion with my friend Cassandra, she had a different take on the situation.

Perhaps my cheap, fake and slightly too big for my feet Crocs, or my "I don't give a fuck what I look like" tshirts, or my "I'll shave when I feel like it, mother fucker" attitude has instead put forth an image into the world that I might not want to put forth, which might not be the most attractive Brendan I am capable of being -- IF I really do want to meet women and find someone new to date, etc.

I hadn't thought of this. It literally hadn't even dawned on me that women seeming to not be interested in me lately might have NOTHING to do with my high libido or any weirdness it might make ME feel and might have everything to do with me looking like a schlub.

Hmm...

So, therefore, then, here and now, let it be resolved: I, Brendan Davies, being of sound mind and enormous genitals, do hereby declare that I will start giving a very big fuck about what I look like from now on -- especially with the cooler weather coming and more opportunities to wear comfortable button down shirts, slacks, nice dark jeans, nice shoes, etc. The more I think about this, the more jazzed I am feeling about putting a new, or renewed, me out there.

In addition, I think I need to do something to change my appearance that makes me feel like a creative type, makes me feel like a musician, like a singer. It used to be having long hair and lots of earrings and tattoo and all. Well, I still have all of the tattoos, but maybe it is time to get a new one to mark a new phase in my life? Maybe it is time to put back in some earrings, to grow my hair a little shaggy again, to look ay myself in the mirror and not see the same old thing that I see now, which I have seen for the past who knows how long.

Maybe I need to first look at myself a little differently before other people, including cute girls I might be interested in, might want to look at me differently or be interested from a distance in speaking to me? Maybe my changing my appearance and getting different reactions from people who see me and relate to me in person once I leave the safety of my home and of my home office, maybe this will allow me to view and think of myself differently as well -- like the new changes going on inside of me from all of the goals that I am working towards, mentioned above, need to somehow be expressed in a changed exterior -- WHICH WILL THEN feedback and allow me to move deeper into my internal changes I am working towards, which will then foster even more of a change in my appearance, either physically with clothes or with getting in shape through yoga and the gym...WHICH WILL THEN create a change in my vibe, or energy that I give off when I am in public, causing people to continue to view and relate to me differently and more as the creative type that I once was, who I want to be again.

After several years of being lost, I feel like I have found myself, and I really like the ME that I am now. I want the rest of the world to recognize and like this new me as well -- at least I think I do when I am in a moment of caring what the rest of the world thinks of me. I have spent a lot of time until recently not caring what anyone thinks of me. For better and for worse in some ways, that is all about to change as I work more on changing myself in the ways you are witnessing in this blog.

OH --ALMOST FORGOT to mention the vocal breakthrough...

I sometimes like to go sing in the subway station near my home, walking to the very end of the platform and waiting till the station has cleared out from whatever train might have just come, and then I take advantage of the wonderful acoustics to work on my super high register -- the same notes I am looking forward to working on with Tony Harnell in my lessons very soon.

Yesterday, rather than simply singing along with excerpts from various Dream Theater songs, which is what I usually do in the subway station, instead I decided to play with my voice and see what it can do, after several months of me working on getting my vocal cords to learn to adduct at shorter lengths above my first break. Normally I tend to vocalize on "whoa" -- partly because I seem to gravitate towards that bit of hard rock cheese for some reason, and partly because it seems to be a good vowel to open up the top of my register without any anxiety that might cause my throat to close, etc.

Well, last night I decided to try a short trill on "hey" instead -- from the very bottom, almost bass part of my register, where the notes are there but not particularly powerful without a microphone or good acoustics, all the way up to somewhere around the G or A below soprano high C. I was able to glide effortlessly through 4 and some octaves up and down, up and down, over and over again and what an absolutely glorious feeling it was -- in full voice from bottom to top back to bottom back to top, over and over, with very few vocal cracks or ugly notes.

Granted, there are still some yucky spots right where my first break is. Some days, I can sing right through the break and my throat muscles and vocal cords know exactly what to do, shortening their length at the exact proper moment without much thought or effort on my part. Other times, I need to literally will my cords to adduct ad a shorter length so I can skip to the next register and not pull my cords too tightly or "push chest," as I saw one voice teacher call in in an article I read online.

All in all, though, whatever the case may have been , I was really ON vocally last night in the subway station at 11 pm in between trains and the people getting on and off and the strange homeless man lying prostrate on the platform with his pants down a few car-lengths away from where I was standing, who had started to masturbate before realizing I was in the station right near him singing.

All of this aside, I really sang well last night. I will try to record myself singing this vocal exercise tomorrow and will post it on this blog as soon as I have a chance to do so.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

HERE is the triple secret missing blog entry that was originally written July 20 something'th...

AND, as promised, HERE is the missing blog entry that was originally written July 20 something'th and which I then promptly forgot about and did not post. Let me edit and post for you all now...

Hi Everyone,

[Remember that this was intended to be published over a month ago...]  

Well, a few days have passed since I last wrote and here is a summary of everything that has happened in the meantime:
  • A few days ago, I switched from the mono-diet to simply a very healthy slow carb, mostly vegetables but with some lean meats added back in diet. I did this primarily because I am reading Tim Ferris's encyclopedic tome, The Four-Hour Body. I am about 1/3 through the book and my eating strategies are now in flux, because everything he says makes so much sense and I am willing to try his strategies.
  • After much encouragement from my boss, Roberta Flack, I joined Bikram Yoga NYC for their 30 days special for new students: 30 days of unlimited yoga for $30. So far I have been 4 times in the past 5 days, in this near 100 degree heat, for 90- minutes at a time in a 110+ degree room doing hot yoga. It is totally rocking my world and I am loving it, really loving it. Not always while I am in the midst of doing it, but for every other waking and sleeping moment, I am loving it.
  • Until yesterday, I had about a week worth of hocking up extreme amounts of alternately clear and thick white phlegm, presumably years of crap that have been in my lungs that I am now purging. Better out than in, I suppose, but at times the spitting had become a bit much --- really.
  • I have been re-evaluating my current life and lifestyle and have realized that though I "talk a good game" most of the time, I really am not being nearly as productive with my time as I could be -- as far as language studies and singing efforts go, if not also everything else in my life. As such, I am about to create for myself a daily checklist of things that I want to accomplish in my life from now on (at least for the next month or more until I feel the need to revise and add or eliminate activities or foci based on effectiveness and my actual interest in doing these things (versus what I tell myself I should be doing with my time right now). I was initially going to type this us as a Word document for myself to print and use at home, but I think I will challenge myself by posting my intended July/August daily to do list on this blog, which will hopefully force me to commit to accomplishing these daily tasks and also open up possibilities for me to write in SBIH on my effectiveness in working towards these daily goals.
First, though, here is a list of some of the physical and mental/emotional changes that are going on for me right now as a result of my dietary and exercise cleanse that I am undergoing:
  • All of my pants are now loose and my size 36 shorts that I have been wearing most days this week are ready to fall off or be pulled down without me unbuttoning them. This was particularly nerve-wracking for me today since I forgot a change of boxer briefs after my Bikram class, and have been freeballing it ever since. Hopefully my pants won't fall down and expose my gonords to the world. That would be bad -- unless I wanted it to happen, of course. Alas, I don't think I am ready to make that leap just yet...
  • My body is starting to be more acceptable to me, because each day that I return to Bikram Yoga, I am noticing significant differences in my posture, muscle tone, body fat, and general well-being. I have also been laying out in the sun on most sunny days for 7-10 minutes per side (did not get to do today, unfortunately) -- which seems to be all I need to trigger my melanin response, given my current paleness. It is definitely time to Nair my back again, though. Ah, the joys of being a Semitic man....
  • My appetite has significantly decreased. Today, I ate a can of wild salmon for breakfast at 9 am and then did not eat anything at all again until 7:30 pm, when I had a smoked tempe salad with vegan chipotle mayo dressing plus a bowl of home-made granola topped with fresh fruit and almond milk at my favorite Park Slope, Brooklyn hangout, S'Nice. I know I should not be eating granola or fruit according to Tim Ferris, but I figure it is ok since I apparently skipped lunch entirely today without even realizing, due to my 90 minute Bikram class at 1:30 pm in Midtown.
  • As mentioned above, I have been expectorating outrageous amounts of alternately clear and thick white phlegm, often at inopportune moments and without much control. I go through phases where my sinuses are dripping so much crap into my throat that I am almost gagging on the mucous. I can only think that this is a detox symptom and that it will eventually pass as soon as my body rids itself of whatever toxins have been trapped in my sinuses and lungs for however long they have been there. There is no other plausible explanation, because I have not had environmental allergies for years, and I have pretty much eliminated all known food allergens from my system other than trace amounts accidentally found in salads or meat dishes I have eaten over the past week. This week marks the third week of mostly vegetarian-focused dietary modifications and also my third week of 5 or more days a week of cardio or super sweaty exercise.
  • Also as mentioned above, unfortunately because of said phlegm, I was unable to vocalize through my entire range for almost a week until 2 days ago, due to some sort of inflammation or mucous coating or both on the portion of my cords right at my break/passagio/zipper point for those of you who know about cord adduction as a method for non-tenors to sing up into soprano register in full voice. Just yesterday, I was finally able to vocalize through my first passagio area in the shower without my voice having a silent/cracky/dead spot where either this inflammation or phlegm was located. Weird stuff. A lot of weird symptoms as I am detoxing and cleansing my body and system. I am learning to go with the flow and not stress about any of it. I have my experiences in studying and learning to speak languages to thank for this ability to feel comfortable about feeling extremely uncomfortable. I digress, though, so more on the need to develop the ability to feel comfortable feeling uncomfortable in future blog entries, and certainly in my other language blog, www.speakmanylanguages.com.
 All of this said, let's now move to the meat of this entry - my intended Daily Task List for July/August 2013, subject to change as soon as something obviously does not work for me or my work schedule:

DAILY TASK LIST for Brendan Davies
with the intention of developing my various languages as well as strengthening my singing voice to get ready for a year of vocal and musical woodshedding:

[This list never really manifested and I had actually left blank space here with the intention of filling in the bullet points in the next few days, which turned into like 45 days -- oops. Please see other entries to come in this blog, as well as some new ones I will be posting today for my language learning blog, www.speakmanylanguages.com .]


 Also related are some positive general changes that I would like to make in my life, in no particular order, which I think would make me a better person overall, and certainly would make me more appealing to the fairer sex:
  • Always brush my teeth at least twice a day, instead of once as often happens on days that I work from home all day [still a good goal]
  • Floss at least once a day from now on (I actually don't mind, and my gums have stopped bleeding so much now that I have changed my diet and eliminated a lot of my systemic inflammation) [still seems to be a good goal]
  • Plan to really take the GRE for grad school applications instead of just talking about it [delayed now due to a reevaluation of my current priorities and my focus on studying Spanish for my upcoming immersion trip to Mexico...]
  • Choose what grad school Masters / PhD programs I want to apply to in Applied Linguistics [delayed for the same reason, in addition to the fact that I need to rethink what beginning to sing again means to me and what it means for the path of my life going forward...]
  • Get a girlfriend and have a lot of sex [needs to happen as soon as possible, as readers will remember from previous blog entries. Any assistance from cute female readers would be most appreciated and would definitely not fall on a deaf ear (or a soft cock)]
  • Stop looking at internet porn so often (usually once or twice a day). It would be so much better to have someone else touch my junk. I mean, really. [REALLY.]
  • Get a new wardrobe, mainly at the really cool vintage store in my neighborhood [great place; excited about the prospect of shopping there, which says a lot, because I generally hate shopping...]
  • Simplify my life and eliminate EVERYTHING that does not enrich me on a daily, weekly or monthly basic, so that I can focus on singing and learning languages. This is a BIG one. I am always talking about doing this, but I need to make this a WAY OF LIFE...[definitely making progress with this goal -- see my previous entry about listing 75% pf me personal material belongings for sale online!]
  • Get tan, or at least become less pale. I have done this in the past, but it demands that I spend 20-30 minutes in the sun every day, all summer to make this happen. Otherwise, I will remain among the ranks of the pigmentally challenged...[didn't really do as well with this particular goal this summer...]
  • Finish uploading all photos and videos, plus several more audio files of me speaking Cantonese with people, to my Hong Kong blog chronicling my 1-month trip this past February with the sole purpose of speaking as much Cantonese as possible to people I didn't know. Proofread same blog once all supporting materials are uploaded. Once this is done, begin adding to the blog on a daily basis via writing about my experiences studying my current 6 languages, as well as English vocabulary for the GRE. [no real progress on this front until today, with all of my "catch-up" blog entries on this and my language learning blog. I need to work on this one...]
  • Start my 2 other blogs that I have already set up on Blogger: Treasure in the Trash and Kung Fu Classics. The first will be about the many wonderful and valuable things I have found on the streets in NYC since moving here 15 years ago, and how selling these things has helped to support my lifestyle during this period of my life. The latter will focus on my passion for vintage kung fu movies of the 60s through the 80s or even 90s, including reviews, photos, etc. I am looking forward to this blog, because it will allow me to revisit and watch all of my favorite films again on my current bigscreen tv. Yay, in advance! [no progress yet on this one]
  • Set up a new semi-pro level home recording studio to capture my new higher singing voice, work on mic technique, and get back to songwriting and collaborations with other musicians. Will especially be useful when I am ready to join or start my own musical performance and studio projects this next time around. [This needs to happen soon so I can have a place where I can sing and record my voice on a very regular basis to chart my progress once I begin voice lessons with Tony Harnell.]
  • See more foreign films in the theater in the languages that I am currently studying. I think this one will definitely make me a better person, and give me an excuse to meet some interesting women if I am lucky...
  • Pay off my cat Squeaky's recent vet bill for his kitty kitty kidney dialysis and add another $5000 to my main savings account so I can get back to my ideal financial situation rather than feeling like I am a bit behind for the savings schedule I created for myself a few years ago. Also start contributing to my ROTH IRA again every 2 weeks, which I stopped doing 2 years ago when the economy tanked and I wanted to beef up my savings accounts in case I might lose my job or have some other kind of unforeseen financial disaster. It is always good to be responsible, when you can... [See other entry on Squeaky. This bill, I am happy to say, will be paid off this month, in the next 1-2 weeks.]
  • Redo my Facebook page and bring it up to date with my current life and interests, as well as add current photos and job info, etc. The last time I updated or really paid attention to my Facebook page was over 2 years ago. Now would be a good time, since I am starting to sing again and am studying all of these languages and want to go back to grad school, right? [need to do]
  • Start weekly or bi-weekly French, Hebrew, and Spanish language trades or join conversation Meetup.com groups. My 2 regular Spanish conversation partners both became too busy earlier this year, so what little conversational ability I had developed is basically non-existent now. Because my Hebrew class only happens once ever month or less, I have also lost a lot of impetus in that language compared to the level of survival conversational ability I had attained for my friends Alan and Hemed's wedding in Israel in April 2012. Pretty soon it will be time for me to get a weekly Mandarin partner as well -- or at least, let's hope so. My Mandarin gets better every couple of weeks, but still at a snail's pace compared to what I would like to see happen... [On hold for next month and a half while I focus on effective conversational Spanish. I do start teaching Cantonese I and II again to adults in Manhattan's Chinatown in 2 weeks -- see my language blog for more on that...]
  • Learn synthesis with my vintage ARP synthesizer that I restored last year but have not played yet since restoring it! I even tracked down a 1972 book written by Alan R. Pearlman, ARP himself, which uses my exact synthesizer to teach the principles of old school, no presets, from scratch, sliders and knobs synthesis. I know that I will love this once I start messing with it and following the recipes in the book, but something is always stopping me from starting. WHY? Hopefully my writing in this blog will help me to figure out creative blocks such as this and get past them as quickly as possible! [Debating whether to jump into this, or to let this one go and sell the synthesizer, putting the money in my savings account. Time will tell.]
  • Start playing the $1000 Roland V-Drum digital MIDI drum kit that I purchased 3 months ago from someone on Craigs List for $350. I used to have an acoustic drum kit here at my Brooklyn apartment for the first 2 years that I lived here, with some very nice cymbals, all of which I found on the street, and which I subsequently sold for much more than I got for the kit itself when I sold everything a few years ago. I have missed playing the drums, the feeling of body coordination inside the rhythm, and had decided to get another drum kit, one that would make sense when I was considering moving in with my friend Asim somewhere in Queens, before Squeaky's recent vet bills squashed that project...[Still in the bin I brought home from the guy I purchased the kit from 3 months ago. Munchkin now sleeps on that bin whenever it is nap time, it has been in the same spot in my bedroom for so long now...]
Here ends the mysterious unposted blog entry left-over from the end of July. 

I can't think of anything else to add at the moment, so I am going to post this and move onto some language blog entries at www.speakmanylanguages.com

Thanks for reading!
Brendan





SIDENOTE: Meet my very special little furry friend, Squeaky the Miracle Cat

(As opposed to my other very special not so little furry friend, whom I like to refer to as my penis.)

Someone recently purchased a book from my Amazon store and when they read my calling card that I include with all online orders placed to my various growing side businesses, this particular buyer was touched enough to send me an unsolicited package in return -- a letter and a cat toy gift for my very special little guy Squeaky.

You see, I have a blurb on my calling card that a portion of proceeds from my online store sales go to ongoing medical expenses for my cat Squeaky. This involves 3-4 vet visits a year to monitor his condition, plus a special prescription diet tailored to his particular health issue.

I will let my email reply to this very kind gentleman from Amazon explain to you the details of this particular cat's very special life and why I am so closely bonded to him -- perhaps more closely than I have ever been bonded to another living thing:
Dear Mr. XXXXX [name protected for privacy],
I can't tell you how surprised I was, and how touched, that you thought to send me a cat toy for my special little buddy Squeaky. He is one of 3 cats that I have, and one of 2 brothers whom I found when they were 2 1/2 - 3 weeks old, abandoned as a litter of 3 behind my former apartment in Hoboken, NJ. There was a third cat whom we named Katie, and she died of parasites a few weeks after I found the litter.
I nursed Squeaky and his brother Munchkin back to health with eye droppers, various medicines, and a lot of love and attention. Munchkin, though the runt of the litter and unable to use his hind legs for the first week after I found him due to malnutrition (but at the time we thought they were paralyzed), has since grown into a strong, muscular, thin cat capable of running and jumping faster and higher than any other cat I have ever had.

When Squeaky was maybe a month or a month and a half old, I found him in his box in a coma one day, and while rushing him to the vet, he died in my hands. The vet did a Pulp Fiction and gave him a shot of adrenalin to his heart, which brought him back to life but left him still in a coma for the next day and a half. I stayed up with him the entire time and prayed.
I prayed and cried and prayed some more -- that I should have found this beautiful baby cat in a muddy puddle in the middle of a violent thunder and lightning rain storm; that the only reason I had found him in the first place was because he was screaming so loudly that the sound bouncedoff the parking garage behind my building at the time and I had no choice but to go outside in the storm and find him; and that I had put in so much effort around the clock to nurse, pee and poop him and his brother since finding them, taking the place of their mommy cat who had abandoned them.
Well, Squeaky finally came out of the coma after a day and a half of me holding him and whispering to him that he was going to live -- but with obvious brain damage.
For the first couple years of his life, he would fall over while walking, hit his head and bounce off things while jumping, and stand in the corner for long periods of time meowing to himself and staring into space as if he were seeing and hearing things. He also took a long time to learn to properly clean himself, and when a few months old suffered from a body-wide ringworm fungus that made his hair fall out over his entire body. I had to teach him to clean himself using baby wipes and a lot of time holding him and wiping him down, explaining to him that this is what cats do to keep clean. He finally caught on. However, he still has one fungal toe nail that he always forgets to clean, that I need to clean for him once a month or so ever since this episode.

Skip forward a few years and when he was 3 or 4. His brain finally started kicking in and he began behaving more and more "normally." When he was 4 he had a kidney/urinary tract infection and blockage, and at that time, it was determined that one of his kidneys had grown to twice normal size-- most likely (it was thought at the time) because his body had shut down and then turned on again when he had died and come back to life as a baby.
Squeaky recovered from the UTI, and other than a bizarre eye infection caused by play fighting with his brother, he was a fit and healthy cat for the next 2 years. Then, one day I noticed that he had started to lose weight -- a lot of weight. Eventually over one half of his body weight before a bombardment of tests were able to conclusively determine that he had cancer. The only thing that made any sense out of many conflicting test results was that his one kidney was enormous, and that this must be the source of the cancer.

To make a long story short, about 2 and 1/2 years ago, I decided to pay a lot of money to help give Squeaky a second chance at life. He had gone from 13 1/2 pounds down to 6 pounds and looked like a kitty kitty concentration camp victim. The surgeon said that it was a miracle he had never seen before -- that Squeaky's body had encapsulated the cancerous kidney in a thick sack of fibrous tissue much like a ziplock bag, and sealed it off from the rest of his body, from the rest of his insides -- like his body wanted Squeaky to live.
Once the bad kidney was removed, he recovered so quickly it was almost supernatural. 2 days after his surgery, he came home and tried to jump from the floor to the kitchen table. He failed and fell over, but the next day found him running up and down the stairs and all over the house at full speed over and over again, happy to be alive and happy to be cancer-free.
Since this time, Squeaky has been my special little miracle cat companion. I work from home for Roberta, and Squeaky follows me everywhere around the house, sitting near me wherever I go. He constantly talks to me, meowing at me to get my attention, and he frequently walks up to me and bops me on the foot to get my attention if he wants a treat or wants to be picked up. We have special tickle games we play together, especially in the bathtub, his favorite place in the apartment.
2 months ago, Squeaky developed another kidney/urinary tract infection that was actually potentially life threatening and which, if we hadn't caught at the early stages, could have seriously damaged his one remaining kidney. He had to go on kitty dialysis/fluids at the vet for 2 days, and now I give him subcutaneous fluids at home every 10 days. He totally knows when it is "fluids time" and comes right up to me on the couch, where I have his bag and needle set up for the task. He sits patiently and licks me while I stick him with the needle each time I give him the fluids -- he totally knows it is with his best interest in mind.

I used to be worried that Squeaky would never be "normal" and that this would be a problem, but I was very wrong. He has taught me so much about life and love, and that is why your gift and letter mean SO much to me --  more than you might have known.
Squeaky is sitting in the sun right next to me now as I type this. As I mentioned, I work from home, so I get to spend a lot of time with my cats, and of course, with the Squeaker.

Thank you again for your very kind and unexpected gesture!
Very Best Wishes,
Brendan Davies
Brooklyn, NY
 AND THAT is the story of Squeaky the Cat -- so far...

Thanks for reading!
Brendan

Now to summarize what I have been up to for the past month and some since I stopped writing daily blog entries...

So what the hell have I been up to for the past month and a half that I have not been writing -- and that I have not finished uploading photos and videos for the last 12 or 14 days of my Hong Kong trip as promised in my other blog?

Well, I have been working hard, or hardly working, depending on the day...

I have been doing Bikram Yoga 2-3 times a week, which has been a really fun and clarifying addition to my life. After a 1-month unlimited sessions trial, I decided that I enjoyed the one and a half hours of sweating and near-passing out physical exertion enough that I renewed for the 4 month unlimited special offer at considerable discount.

Unfortunately, the past 2 weeks I have only been once or twice a week. I was consistently going 3 times a week before that, and filling in the remaining days with 35-45 minutes of orbital machine at my local gym, which burns between 500 and 600 calories according to the machine's calculations. According to various websites, one Bikram Yoga class burns between 900 and over 1000 calories. I am certain that is the case, since I am exerting myself much more than twice as hard for more than twice as long compared to my time at my local gym.

When I had not heard from Tony Harnell after my first 2 attempts to contact him 2 months ago, I decided to temporarily focus on diet and exercise, substituting two or sometimes all meals a day with ow carb green and other steamed and stir-fried veggies and trying my best to cut out sweets and anything that was obviously not healthy. Unfortunately, after about a month and a half of strict dieting, I got bored and moved half-way back to the healthy but not low-carb diet I was eating before. This is a shame, because I was really beginning to lose weight and my skin was completely clearing up. I looked and felt younger and better. I need to get back to that diet and volume of exercise. I need to start on that this week.

Besides the diet and exercise issues, the focus on Spanish conversation and listening comprehension skills, and the excitement of my approaching reentry into the world of singing, the only other thing of note to report is that I think I must be the horniest guy who ever lived.

I really cannot stop thinking about sex, and about breasts and asses and wonderful fuzzy or shaved things between women's legs. It is almost devastating the sheer amount of time my thoughts stray towards very naughty things that I would like to do with every hot woman I see, as soon and as often as possible. I had heard that the male sexual peak was in the 20s or some shit like that. Not for me. If my 20s was the peak of my libido, then my 40s must be OFF THE FUCKING CHARTS, the explosion of everything I ever thought sexual desire and longing might be.

I really need to get off my ass and find someone to date or my next girlfriend, and she really, REALLY needs to want sex as much as me, or I think I am going to blow a gasket or something. My sexual energy is literally bursting from my seams and I think I need to do something about that very soon.

I have had some OkCupid (OkStupid) dates recently, but alas no chemistry. I am not a "going out to bars and trying to pick up chicks" kind of guy and never have been, but I think I am going to have to start just asking out everyone I am even remotely attracted to in person with whom I have had any kind of interaction or basic conversation, until I find someone who "gets" me and who wants to "get on" me.

Well, at least that is something very positive to think about, to daydream about on this beautiful late summer/almost fall Sunday. I actually cancelled both of my language lessons today (Cantonese and Urdu) to work on my blogs and to type listings for items I want to sell on Amazon, eBay and Craigs List.

OH -- which brings me to (DUH) the single greatest monopolizer of my time this past 2 months -- listing approximately 75 % of my personal belongings for sale online so that I can clear out physical and metaphorical clutter from my life to make room for more music and singing, more language studies and adventures, more income and wealth building, AND HOPEFULLY more (or at least ONE) women!

So in the past almost 2 months, I have listed over 600 new items in my Amazon and eBay stores. If you would like to support my creative efforts, please visit my stores and purchase something from me -- all proceeds go towards my studies and for the fairly regular vet bills of my very special cat Squeaky, about whom I recently wrote a very long email to a very nice person I met via Amazon, and I think I will share that as my new entry for this blog.

Through the process of clearing out my basement of junk, listing 600+ books, CDs, DVDs and VHS tapes that no longer enrich my life, or which were found on the street or purposefully purchased to make a profit, I was able to eliminate much more, and to clear my mind, resetting my personal direction for the coming months. I held 2 stoop sales, making only about $300 total, but more importantly leaving everything that did not sell at the second sale ON THE STREET for neighbors and other folks to take or for trash.

This was quite liberating. If you have never done this, you need to hold a stoop/garage/yard sale right away and make a pact with yourself to throw away or donate/give away everything that does not sell by a certain deadline. While this was going on, I purged my eBay and Amazon stores, first repricing my inventories and then physically eliminating all items below a threshold that I set as far as what my time is worth to ship items. For Half.com (one of my two eBay stores), that was the 75 price point, at which every item was deleted from my inventory and put on the street for people to take. For Amazon, it was the same price point. I was able to eliminate over 100 items from both stores through this purging process.

I also made a huge decision to hire a friend, Steve Brown, to list over 700 comic books for me in my eBay store (5th Avenue Comics Exchange, named after the location of Roberta's last office, where I used to meet another friend of mine, Chris, after work sometimes to discuss buying and selling comics in a partnership that subsequently fell through). So far Steve has only listed about 150 or 175 books, and so far I have made over $600 minus payments to Steve for listings and shipping supplies. Not bad for 2 weeks' worth of side income.

In fact, I am enjoying the process so much that I will be looking to purchase another Silver or Bronze Age comic book collection from someone for a few thousand dollars sometime soon to add even more income producing opportunities to my eBay side business.

So, in summary, the past month and a half of my life have been spent:
  • Obsessively cramming conversational Spanish knowledge into my brain;
  • Singing again and finding a new voice teacher to help me blend up to my new high register and thus become a complete singer;
  • Dieting and exercise, including cardio at my neighborhood gym AND 90 minute Bikram Yoga classes at 3 of the 4 Manhattan locations per my schedule on the days that I have time to go;
  • Listing 3/4 of my personal belongings, of my "material possessions," for sale on eBay, Amazon, and Craigs List -- and afterwards storing them in my basement, thus beginning to make room in my life actually and metaphorically for wonderful new things (and people) to manifest;
  • AND so horny ALL THE TIME that I am about to explode at every moment of every day (but which I am able to keep somewhat under control thanks to the miracle of internet porn).
Thanks for reading. Hopefully this will get me back to daily blog entries from now on. I believe that you are all now officially caught up with the life of this emerging star.

Brendan

Saturday, September 7, 2013

But wait -- there's more...A trip to Mexico in October, and...

And we are back...

Follow me as I let you in on more exciting shit happening in the world of soon-to-be sensation Brendan Davies. Bren Davies. Or, as I like to affectionately refer to myself, The Sex-U-lator.

Hmm...Whatever...

But, seriously, I am also planning a 6-day trip to Mexico's Yucitan Peninsula to immerse myself in spoken Spanish and to visit some Mayan sites in the jungle and read a few Mayan hieroglyphs.

That's right -- I said read a few Mayan hieroglyphs.

Ever since I was a kid entertaining dreams of archaeological adventure and high seas hijinx, I have always wanted to learn to read various ancient scripts -- Egyptian hieroglyphics (a future endeavor, I am certain, once the world calms down and it makes sense to visit Egypt again); Chinese characters (which I am planning to focus on once my command of spoken Mandarin gets to a basic level of "effectiveness"); cuneiform (which I recently found out was actually used to write down quite a few different languages, so there is no one "cuneiform" to learn but rather multiple levels of that particular struggle to look forward to; and Mayan hieroglyphs, which I can tell you from a week's worth of attempted study so far, are anything but straight-forward or "intuitive."

Nevertheless, this has been a goal for me for a while now, strengthened over the past few years by my growing love of the language learning process, which you can read more about in my other blog www.speakmanylanguages.com.

Getting back to the topic at hand, I have felt in recent years that it is a shame that Cantonese Chinese, a language with approximately 70 million speakers worldwide, has come relatively quickly to me at a basic functional level and yet Spanish, perhaps one of the easiest languages for an American non-speaker to learn, was not even on my list of upcoming priorities -- especially in light of the "Latinization" of many neighborhoods in New York and elsewhere in the US, including my own neighborhood in South Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Therefore, I decided a month ago to use 4 of my remaining personal/vacation days for 2013 plus 2 weekend days to visit a Spanish speaking country and immerse myself in what will hopefully be nothing but Spanish spoken the entire time I am there, including on the plane, at the airport, etc. -- if possible...

I am going to write an entire sub-blog on my Spanish language learning adventure and countdown to my immersion trip in October, but let me summarize it for you here, to hopefully get you interested in checking out my other language learning blog. Up till now, my language learning blog has been entirely devoted to 300 or so pages giving a moment to moment glimpse into my February 2013 month-long Cantonese Chinese language immersion trip that I made to Hong Kong and Southern China. That is all about to change as I finally expand my blog into what it was meant to be from the start -- a look at my various language learning adventures -- my successes and failures in learning to speak, read and write Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese; French (which I learned as a child); Spanish; Hebrew; some dabbling in Latin and German whenever I am bored and want to switch things up; and most recently, Urdu.

For now, though, let me summarize for you my very limited background in Spanish, and what I intend to accomplish (and chronicle in my other blog) over the next month and a half:
  • 3 years ago for a 2-month period, I decided to start to learn Spanish. I watched all 52 episodes of the 1992 PBS series Destinos and read several Berlitz and other books purchased from The Strand in Manhattan. Following this short period of time, I was able to understand about 50% of standard Latin American spoken Spanish and able to understand about the same percentage of whatever I might attempt to read in the language -- nonfiction of course being easier to understand because of the likelihood of cognates, words similar to those in English the the same meaning and usage.
  • 2 years ago, for a 1-month period, I again watched all 52-episodes of Destinos, this time ordering the textbook and workbooks from Amazon for like $1 each plus shipping. I think I made it through the first 10 or so chapters of the book before losing interest and impetus, but I did watch the entire series through a second time, if I remember correctly. Total deliberate exposure to Spanish 52 hours of television plus approximately the same of reading time.
  • from 2 years ago to 1 month ago, occasional review of various 48 cent and $1 books purchased from The Strand Bookstore in NYC, occasional viewing of Spanish language movies with either English or (preferred) SPANISH subtitles -- the written Spanish of the subtitles reinforcing the oral Spanish that I was hearing while watching the DVDs, thus giving me 2 chances in real time to understand the same bit of Spoken Spanish as I was hearing it.
In summary, my guess is that I have so far spent approximately 65 hours of deliberate viewing of Spanish language television or DVDs and approximately the same amount of time deliberately reading "learn Spanish" books and other educational resources, as well as some comic books and every Spanish language advertisement I have seen on the NYC Subway.

Right now, I would say that I understand approximately 65-70% of the spoken Spanish I hear around town if I were to count the words. Unfortunately, as is always the case when one is learning a language, the 30-35% that I don't understand usually contains the crux of the matter at hand, the most important details such as what exactly is happening and whether it actually happened in the past, present or will happen in the future, OR if perhaps it has not happened at all and is merely hypothetical or someone's thought or opinion.

When it comes to written Spanish, I would say that I currently understand the main ideas of about 85% of nonfiction and about 65-70% of adult-level fiction (other than specific verb tenses -- in other words, I can recognize most major verbs but frequently am at a loss for whether they already occurred, will occur in the future, might occur, or are some sort of subjunctive wish or opinion). When it comes to kids books and comic books, my comprehension is usually at a much higher level, thanks to the relative simplicity of the language and any illustrations that might be used to communicate the storyline.

Over the next month and a half (my departure date for Cancun is October 23), I intend to cram as much oral and written Spanish into each day as humanly possible, splitting much of my spare or free time among the following resources:
  • Rewatching all 52 Destinos episodes (I am currently on episode 18 out of 52).
  • Watching 30 minutes of random Spanish cable television each day without subtitles and with no advance knowledge of what I will be watching.
  • 30 minutes of various official "learn Spanish" DVDs, gathered from Netflix, the public library, etc.
  • 1 page of a Learn Languages with Spiderman CDRom that I purchased from Amazon a few years ago and never watched, which takes an actual Ultimate Spiderman comic book and translates it into French, German, Italian, and of course Spanish. Comes with audio and other resources as well.
  • 1 Pimsleur Spanish or Latin American Spanish lesson (see my language blog for more on Pimsleur CDs)
  • 1 Prolog Espagnol video, from an Israeli company that sells books, videos, and apps which go from many languages to many other languages. I first discovered Prolog as a learn Hebrew resource, only to find out recently that they also make apps that go from any of  5 or 6 languages to another of the same with instructional videos to teach those languages. I currently have a bunch on my phone, including ones that use Spanish to teach Mandarin Chinese, French to teach Hebrew, and in this case French to teach Spanish. 
  • 1 Duolingo free learn Spanish app lesson. Pretty good stuff, though way too basic for me and I haven't taken the time to figure out how to skip ahead just yet.
  • 210 or more pages a day of random readings from a huge stack of books and comic books, which will allow me to accomplish my entire intended reading list prior to my departure for Mexico. Because I am reading many, many beginner and intermediate learn Spanish books, there is absolutely no need for me to actually "study" anything, because everything important will be repeated in the very next book that I read. This allows me to plow through the material and still retain most of the important bits with little effort other than the time spent reading the material, which passes quickly for me because I can read around 800 words a minute these days with decent comprehension when I eliminate distractions.
  • 10 or more pages of various Barrons and other learn Spanish workbooks, the kind that ask me to write my answers in the book so I am practicing my written Spanish as well, if only to a limited degree at this point in time. Right now I am working my way through Spanish for Gringos Book 2 (advanced beginner stuff).
I have also started to add daily Spanish conversations with store owners in my neighborhood, electricians who rent storage space in my backyard, etc. My goal is to be able to carry on full-length conversations with these folks entirely in Spanish without being at too much of a loss for words -- that is to say, I want to be able to think on my feet and express myself entirely in correct, basic Spanish -- before I depart for my trip next month.

Because I have the advantage of already speaking French, and of knowing how difficult it is to reach a level of effective conversational Cantonese Chinese for most everyday situations, I am confident that I can get my Spanish to this level by October 23. If I study 3-4 hours a day between now and then, that will translate to between 138 and 184 more hours of Spanish which I will have been exposed to. At this point, I am certain that will be sufficient to accomplish my goal of basic conversational effectiveness for most daily applications.
For more information on my language learning adventures which are outside the scope of this So Big It Hurts self improvement blog, please see www.speakmanylanguages.com.

Thanks for reading!
Brendan

Ok -- I dropped the ball and didn't write for over a month, BECAUSE I WAS LIVING MY LIFE...

Hi Doodies,

A lot has happened since the last time that I wrote, including one entire super-long blog entry that I wrote over a month ago, saved as a draft in order to finish it at a later time, and which I then promptly forgot about and never finished. Oops.

Well, let's see how quickly I can fill you all in on some exciting turns in my life...

First, about 2 and a half months ago when I first started this blog, I applied to study with a world-famous metal singer names Tony Harnell, a singer's singer whose group TNT toured the world for many years beginning in 1984 with their album Knights of the New Thunder. After 3 emails to his record label, spread out every 2-3 weeks without any reply, not even from an intern, I temporarily gave up on the notion of studying with one of the greatest "high singing" heavy rockers of all time...

That is, until a week and a half ago, when a very surprised me returned to my home late one night after studying Spanish at a local cafe to find a very apologetic email from one Tony Harnell, letting me know that he has had a very busy summer but did indeed read my very long email and listen to my mp3 demo soliciting him to become my new voice teacher. I almost pooped in my pants with excitement when I then read that although he had given up in-person teaching for a while, he would like to mentor me as a singer.

I imagine I must be doing something right and that I must be on the correct path with my singing and not "barking up a stupid tree" if a world renowned heavy metal singer wants to mentor my newly emerging high notes.

Here is a copy of the letter I emailed to Mr. Harnell which eventually elicited such a positive response:

Hello Mr. Harnell,

My name is Brendan Davies. I am a 40 year-old white guy living in Brooklyn. I currently work in the music biz as a member of the management team for singer/recording artist Roberta Flack. In this capacity for the past almost seven years, I have done everything from manage her physical business office, to tour with her as road manager for her 15-17 piece band and crew, to act as one of three executive producers for her 2012 Christmas album.

I am writing to ask you to please take me on as a new voice student. Below you will find a summary of my background and personal motivations behind this request, as well as my contact information, should you be willing to accept me.

I have asked Ms. Flack to speak to you on my behalf if it might make you feel more comfortable in light of the unsolicited nature of my request. Thank you in advance for reading this email.

Summary of me and how I came to ask you to be my vocal coach:

I discovered my own drive to create music when I was a teenager, though I did not act on it until college when I formed a cover band and took classical voice lessons during my junior and senior years (1993-4). Following college, I sang in a metal band in Durham, NC for 3 years, and then moved to NYC in 1998 to pursue my goals of being a professional singer–songwriter and auditioning for Broadway musical theater.

As often happens to many young hopefuls, I became very jaded during my years of waiting tables, bartending and temping. To make a long story short, about 5 years ago while working for Roberta, I lost my musical mojo, my creative drive and desire to see my own musical and performance journey through to its logical conclusion. Singing stopped feeling good to me, so I stopped singing. Until one month ago…

After 5 years of not singing and instead pursuing other non-musical interests outside of work; after 5 years of not even listening to the radio due to my own mental and emotional blocks, I had an epiphany last month that has allowed me to sing way up into my upper register in full voice in a way that I had only dreamed about during my previous attempts as a singer.

This epiphany finally allowed me to understand what vocal coach Thomas Appell wrote about in his book, Can You Sing A High C Without Straining. Suddenly I was able to sing along with James LaBrie and Geoff Tate for phrases at a time, which before I could only do in falsetto. Via Thomas Appell’s book and a bit of internet research, I subsequently discovered Jaime Vendera’s book, Raise Your Voice (2nd Ed.), and through Jaime’s book, I discovered YOU.

As a singer, I am ashamed that before 3 weeks ago, I was not familiar with your music or your incredible voice. Now you are one of my favorite singers. I want you to know that I am not simply writing this email as a wide-eyed fan; I loved Roberta Flack’s music for years before being introduced to her and being hired as a member of her team. I have a very respectful professional relationship with her today, which is only enhanced by the fact that I am a fan of her music.

Please consider taking me on as a new student for weekly, biweekly, monthly, or whatever kind of lessons you might be able to give pending your own schedule and availability. I would like to learn from you how to strongly and convincingly sing to the top of my range in full voice, in order to become a complete singer. 

So you will know that I am serious and to give you an idea of what my current voice sounds like, I have attached a 2 and a half minute comped mp3 recorded this week at a Manhattan karaoke bar, as I do not have a home studio right now. The demo begins with me singing in my original baritone register, followed by me goofing around  in falsetto, and then finishes with 3 short examples of me singing in my new higher full voice register that I would like to work on with you.

I look forward to your reply, Mr. Harnell. Thank you for your time.

Very best wishes,
Brendan Davies
[contact info here]
 And here is the mp3 demo that I sent to Tony, which I comped together from recordings made a few days earlier at Duet 25 Karaoke Studio in Manhattan, where I like to go sometimes to work on my upper register:
It has been a bit tricky getting in touch with Tony, but we did speak once on the phone and then various times via email over the past week and a half. He is in the process of finding a space in Manhattan for my upcoming [hopefully] weekly lessons - a space that I will share back to back with another of his students named Melissa, whom I have not yet met.

I am really excited and have been slowly but steadily disciplining myself to practice here and there -- of course to be ramped up to daily practice for however long I need to, once Tony hears my voice in person at my first lesson and helps me to create a game plan for developing my high notes.