Vocal Coach Says “YOU ARE THE MESSAGE!”
Part 1: The Vocal Side
As Vocal Coach moves to our new BLOG format I wanted to feature a previous article that addresses a key to being a successful singer. When you sing there needs to be a coordinated effort between a number of parts of your presentation. If not the distractions and filters between you and the listener can completely block your message from getting through.
CONSIDER THESE KEY ELEMENTS AND HOW YOU NEED TO PREPARE:
The Sound/Tone Quality
Think about it. Does the message invite a full rich, vibrant tone quality or a softer, almost airy sound? Is it a declaration or conversation? Are you testifying or asking questions? You need to answer this question then practice the various possibilities. If you can’t think of any, try listening to accomplished singers and imitate what they do for various kinds of songs. Then, begin in integrate some of these qualities into your own vocal sound. A caution: I said integrate, not copy. You still need to be you, just with more possibilities of sound.
Treatment of Diction
If you’re singing a hymn or English art song, the way you pronounce the words will be handled differently than in a worship song, or a contemporary/pop style of song. If I’m singing, “My Jesus, I Love Thee,” I’ll treat the words differently than when I sing the Broadway song, “To Dream The Impossible Dream.” If I don’t, I will be putting up walls between myself, and my audience. Again, listen to the pros, imitate and play with the different options. Build some choices into your diction options. It’s the only way to keep things real and really communicate with the listener.
Phrasing & Expression
Going back to the earlier example of the difference between “My Jesus, I Love Thee,” and “To Dream The Impossible Dream,” let’s consider phrasing and other tools of expression. To begin with, most hymns will have built-in phrases that invite breathing at certain places. And, though you may make things more interesting by stretching that a bit, you are still at least partially limited unless you are doing a real pop arrangement.
With other songs, however, you have more options as to where you might breath, pause, or bring attention to a word with more or less volume or a dramatic and sometime sudden change of tone quality. The options are many and best learned by listening to those who do it best, then imitating them to feel and hear you and your voice doing it. That’s how a singer builds a repertoire of creative options. If you have never heard and felt yourself do it, you are not likely to draw on that option any time soon, even when it would be the perfect solution.
Summary: Get inspired by those who do it well in the same way you get inspired by watching an excellent, experienced athlete. Observe, analyze, imitate and integrate. And, remember throughout that to do this safely you must maintain the foundations of posture, breathing, tone, diction and expression. It’s a lot of work . . . with a lot of rewards.