Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Romantically-Inclined Survival Guide: The Serenade

Objective: Woo Woman of Interest
Process: The ancient art form of The Serenade
Location: Pretty Much Anywhere
Equipment/Skills Needed: Instrument, singing voice (good or bad), practice, confidence, mojo
Wait? What is the Romantically-Inclined Survival Guide?
The day before Valentine’s Day, I was wandering about the second floor of my dorm tower creating chit-chat and calming down obnoxious freshmen.  While this is my job, I also enjoy spending time with my residents, as they always seem to have fun things going on in their lives. Of course, the chit-chat that I created, on February 13th, was about expectations for the next day. The question of the night, as I phrased to the ladies was this:

“Here’s the situation: It’s Valentine’s Day.  A guy friend, that you know pretty well but mostly just hang out in groups, approaches you.  Keep in mind that you consider him a friend.  There may be a knock on your door or he may chase you down in the middle of the UU Plaza. Either way, he is holding a guitar, and right then and there, he begins to serenade you.  Of course, you listen, completely surprised. When he is finished, he asks you: “Will you be my Valentine?”  What do you say?  Keep in mind, you don’t know what he will take out of you saying ‘yes’ to this simple request. Oh, and here’s the catch: he’s not cute.”

Usually, this was followed by a series of complaints.  “That’s not fair, Zach” or “Why do I have to answer this?” were common protests given by the ladies.  But, gentlemen, keep in mind that girls love to answer these types of questions, and with a little prodding and a smile, they will most always answer.  Attention given to them in the form of a romantic fantasy, or even nightmare, is a sure way to secure a constant flow of roundabout conversation that will leave you sitting politely.  If you want the girl to babble, these are the kinds of questions that get them going.  And when a girl babbles about romance, be that her future wedding, a future husband, or a dream date, she nearly always has a positive memory of that situation.  And guess who was in that positive memory? You.

One lady’s objection, though, caught my attention.  One of my girls, Brooke, said that there was no way that she would ever be serenaded because no guy would do that for her.  She complained that it was “not even worth it to get my hopes up.”  Obviously, I had to prove her wrong…

The next night, Brooke was working at one of the nearby dining halls during the “Late Night” shift.  I grabbed my guitar, some chords to “Forever and Ever, Amen” by Randy Travis, and some resident as backup.  Strumming the entire way to the dining hall, I built up my confidence.  By the time we reached our destination, however, the reverse effect had occurred.  I was trembling a little bit but only to where I could tell.  My voice was ready to crack and my loosely thrown-together plans were running into road blocks left and right.  There was loud music on in the dining hall, and there were more people than I expected at 12:30 am.  I quickly and stealthily asked the manager to turn down the music, and my wish was granted.  It was game time.

I strode up to Brooke, mustering all the swagger I could, while she was making burritos, and I simply started strumming.  Pretty immediately, she figured out what was happening and turned to beet-red.  When I started singing, the first couple of notes were so far off, I thought about walking out right then and there.  But I pressed on, and with a measure or two, I found my stride.  My mock-Randy-Travis voice was intact and those awesome words were flowing.  Then, as I looked up from my chord sheet, I was stunned to find that Brooke had retreated to continue to make burritos for other customers.  This really threw me off, but I pressed on, so much as to raise my voice a little and sing with some enthusiasm.  After one verse and a chorus, I ended the song with a personalized “forever and ever, miss Brooke.”  Applause broke out from almost everybody in the dining hall, as I was now the clear center of attention, everyone except for Brooke.  She simply stood there, still red as the Valentine’s decorations that hung from the ceiling, with an embarrassed smile and mouthed “thank you.”  That was enough for me, and I retreated to the confines of my dorm, after grabbing a late-night burrito, of course.

Back in the tower, after all the babble and giggling, the majority of the girls on the second floor said that they just couldn’t turn down a good serenade.  Some even said they would say ‘yes’ even if he was a bad singer.  The first conclusion was something I think most men could venture to guess, but even I was a little surprised by the shear pity and “cute” factor that a poor rendition can produce.  But what if the girl you are going for is one that has higher standards?  How do you prepare to blow her away? Below is your Survival Guide to the Serenade.  

Step 1: Pick a Song
This is a key step.  It should be a song you already know, preferably. Some considerations and recommendations.
  • First off, the song you pick better have a romantic tone. The word “love” is a strong indicator of the romantic aspect of a song. Note: just because a song says “I love you,” does not mean that you ACTUALLY “love” the girl at hand. Music has that artistic license to it, so don’t worry about going in over your head. 
  • If the girl of interest and yourself share a favorite genre or song, that could be a good way to go.
  • Make sure the vocal range of the song matches yours, and if you are going to be playing an instrument, the song should be easily played on that instrument. For those of you with proficiency in a particular instrument, transposing a song or covering a song is only recommended if it makes the song more romantic. Make sure the song is still recognizable, though.
  •  Keep in mind that while you are singing, the girl will just be listening to you silently. This can be awkward if not dealt with correctly. If you are singing to her in a public place or surprising her, keep the song to a verse or two and a chorus or two. In private, you could use a full song if you like.
  •  The song should mean something special to you. If you heart is in the song, you will be golden, even if you sing it poorly. Girls especially feel when a man gets emotional. And they eat it up.
  •   Writing a song for a girl is best saved for once a relationship is getting more serious. The only exception may be if the song is about a crush and is funny, but keep in mind that songs unfamiliar to girls will be harder for them to relate to.
Step 2: Prepare
This seems obvious. But the only way that you will have confidence and mojo, two things you will need, is to get some practice in.
  •  Memorize the song. That way, you can break it out whenever the opportune moment arises and you don’t have to have someone hold lyrics or chords for you. That can be awkward.
  • Practice outside. Many times, a serenade may occur outside, for various reasons. I promise now that you will sound different to yourself outside as opposed to inside.
  • Figure out when you might be able to break-out your primed tune. On a date? In the middle of campus? Below her window (Romeo style)? My personal preference would be to meet for “just hanging out” in my room and then slowly work my way into the song by first starting with some chords while we are talking. But I give mad props to the men who bring out the surprise serenade: “Oh, what’s this? We happened to be at the beach at sunset, and my guitar, which you didn’t even know I played, happens to be in my trunk? Wow, what a coincidence!?!” Cheesy? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.

Step 3: Engage Wooing
You’re ready. Its bags are packed. Just send it home.
  • Build up some confidence. Smile. Prepare her by hinting at your feelings toward what is about to happen. Being nervous is ok. In fact, girls love that stuff. The idea that a guy she (maybe) likes is about to something endearing and he is a little nervous is Hollywood quality material. Just slowly break out the guitar and watch her light up, turn bright red, and grin to yourself, knowing you are already 80% of the way there.
  • Employ mojo. This is accomplished strumming your guitar to hear the notes you’re about to sing. Slowly hit some keys on your piano. Talk to her. Look her in the eyes. Don’t break eye contact first. Just say that you “have a little something [you] would like to show [her]…. It’s nothing really. But I know you really like Gavin DeGraw. I’ve got nothing on him, but, hey, the song is amazing.” The gigglier she gets and the more you hear the notes and chords in your strumming pattern, the more mojo you build.
  •  Start singing. From here, you are pretty much a winner. Starting the song will be the hardest part. Once you get going, don’t forget to make eye contact. A quick glance as you hit a high note will take her breath away.

Step 5: Romantic Few Lines + Hug/Kiss
There are some perks to wooing a woman, you know.
  •  The romantic lines will be another survival guide.
  • The hug/kiss. Well, you can figure that out easy enough. (You may not get one of these if you pull a Romeo and are at a distance.) Of course, you many choose to bypass this all-together in order to play the mysterious-but-still-moderately-distant-but-totally-into-her-thing

Well done, man. You have just completed a serenade. Go grab a drink to sooth your masculine but emotional vocal chords or watch the sunset with a girl wrapped up in your arms. Either way, you most succeeded. If you did not, fear not. Some women will, however ironic this is, flee from an endearing act. But fear not, you are laying a foundation. Do not be disheartened, but be confident that you have followed in the footsteps of some of the greatest romantics in the world. They have climbed great heights, but none without setting up a base camp.  

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