Updated: Jul 23, 2019
Welcome to the final part in this 5-part blog series 5 Key Ways To Enhance Your Song Performance. I hope you have found the first four keys worthwhile and have been experimenting with them in your song practice. As I sat down to write this final key I came across the following quote, “The Human Voice is the most perfect instrument of all.” –Arvo Pärt.
What an accurate quote that is. I think the most incredible aspect of the human voice, as an instrument, is that every voice is unique; and no other instrument has that ability to the same extent. A piano always sounds like a piano, a flute always sounds like a flute. And while of course the specific musician who plays these instruments will bring a certain life to those instruments, ultimately, at its core, the timbre sounds the same.
As a singer we must embrace our unique voice. We must use it to our advantage because there is no one in the world who sounds exactly like you. That is why I love teaching voice lessons. When a student comes in for a singing lesson no two students sound alike and each voice brings something special to the specific song being sung. That brings us to our 5th and final key…making the song your own!
You are wonderfully unique and there are so many things that make up the person that you are. It’s amazing to me the amount of times I watch performers who don’t utilize their talents. There are so many times when I hear a singer sing and it just sounds like a copycat version of the original.
In an audition scenario you want to stand out and be noticed. And on stage you want the audience to look at you and be convinced that this is the first time they are hearing this song (even if it’s not). How do you do this? By making the song your own. You might be asking, but music is music, if I sing what’s on the page won’t it ultimately sound the same? No, it won’t.
The first four keys that I outlined in the previous blog posts will definitely help make the song your own, but here are a few more tips to keep in mind:
How you use the vowels and consonants of words is so important. Emphasizing certain words can have a huge impact when singing a song. It can affect the meaning and intention dramatically…or comically for that matter.
Find those key words within the lyrical phrase and use them. That is what is going to make the song your own and make it truly unique. I recently had a student in a voice lesson that was singing the song “A Change In Me” from Beauty and The Beast. We were working on the final phrase of the song and she found that by giving the “ch” in the lyric “change” a bit of a punch it really landed for her emotionally. I believed what she was saying, it gave the lyrical line more depth, and that one simple choice helped make the song her own!
In music, the dynamics of a piece is the variation in loudness between notes or phrases. Dynamics are such an integral part of performing a song. Deciding at what points in the song require a more softer/quieter feel, as opposed to the moments that require strength/volume, can be very revealing and greatly affect how your song can come across. Be aware of the dynamics you use and remember that dynamic choices can greatly impact and help with the story telling of your song. Your choices may not be another singer’s choices, but that’s what will make your performance stand out!
Phrasing is the expressive shaping of music and relates to the shaping of notes in time. Articulation and dynamics definitely play an important part in how you phrase a certain line. The shaping of notes is important for expressing a specific emotion. In a dramatic song, you might decide that specific notes/lyrics should have more weight to them. Or, if it is a comedy song, attacking the notes with a lightness or bounce. By being specific with your musical phrasing, you are making strong choices for your character’s emotional state and in turn, are telling an expressive and focused story.
Some songs are easier to make your own than others. What do I mean by that? If you are singing a song that is closely identified with a performer – for example “My Way” sung by Frank Sinatra – you have more of a challenge ahead of you because the listener will always be comparing you to that singer. That is not to say you shouldn’t sing those songs, it just means you have to work that much harder to make it your own.
Now, when you are in an audition scenario, I encourage you to pick songs that are not over done. The reason it is not a good idea to pick a song that is over used is because it’s hard for the audition panel to look at you with fresh eyes if this is the third time that day they are hearing your song. Also, if you sing a song that is strongly identified with a specific performer (also known as a signature song), there is an automatic comparison made between you and that performer. Auditioning can be challenging on its own, so why create an immediate obstacle for yourself with a bad song choice? There may be times in an audition situation where you are required to sing a song that is well known, for example if you are auditioning for “The Wizard of Oz” and they ask you to sing “Over The Rainbow”. Thank goodness now know how to make the song your own!
And that’s a wrap on 5 Keys Ways To Enhance Your Song Performance. I’d love to hear from you on how they are working. I encourage you to continue experimenting, playing, and most of all have fun when singing your songs!