Updated: Jul 23, 2019
In the previous blogs we covered the first two keys to performing a song with feeling and in character. To recap the first and second key are “Using Your Eyes” and “Acting The Song.” Have you been able to apply these first two keys to your songs yet? I hope you have made some wonderful discoveries and are bringing your song performance to new heights!
Let’s dive into the third key. When you take singing lessons, a big part of your lessons is learning how to breathe. When I teach voice lessons we spend a lot of time learning technique. Part of that technique is learning the best way to use your breath when you sing. Singing students learn that the most effective way to breathe is a combination of lower belly breathing and rib breathing (also known as the appoggio). We learn to sing on a small steady stream of air and what is/how to best utilize breath support. It’s extremely important to understand the technical aspects of how to breath when singing. I encourage you, if you don’t already have one, to find a singing teacher to work with who can help you with proper breathing technique. Breathing is an important tool for a singer, not only for technical reasons, but also for performance reasons. If you haven’t guess it already our third key in 5 Key Ways To Enhance Your Song Performance is…Breathing!
Let’s look at how your breath can affect your song performance. As we know, singing is always about telling a story. Your breath is a major component because it ties in directly to how you can tell a story through your voice. Breathing represents our emotional state. What do I mean by this? Well, breathing informs others of our emotional truth. A great example of how breath informs others of our emotional state is when we cry. When we are extremely upset our breathing becomes irregular. When we are scared we breathe very quickly. When we are happy our breath can be calm. Take a moment and think of other emotional states and what your breath feels like when you are in that state. In real life our breath tells our family and friends how we are feeling. The same goes when you are performing a song. Our breath informs a character’s intention, and affects the lyrics and musical phrasing.
What do I mean when I say “our breath affects the lyrics and musical phrasing”? As an exercise, sing Happy Birthday. The first time through I want you to sing it with zero emotion and hitting the notes spot on. Okay, now that you’ve tried that what I want you to do is sing Happy Birthday like you are extremely frustrated at someone. Create a little story about why you’re frustrated. For example, you have to sing Happy Birthday to a co-worker who just reamed you out in front of the entire office, embarrassed you at a board meeting, and also stole your sandwich the day before. Now give it a try. You probably found that the way you sang the musical phrases changed. The melody wasn’t so connected. Some words may have been punctuated more than others. Your breath was rooted in frustration and therefore the lyrics and musical phrasing reflected that.
I recently had a student who was taking a singing lesson and we were working on the song “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard. This young singer technically had the song down, but what took the song to a whole other level in our singing lesson is when she used her breath to inform all of the emotional shifts throughout the song. The song has many verses and she found a way to make every verse different by knowing what the emotional state was in each verse and by changing her breath accordingly. If you aren’t familiar with the song definitely check out the fabulous Glen Close performance here.
When you have figured out what your character’s want is in the song and what the story is that you are telling, it’s important to realize that your breath will play a huge part in communicating this with your audience or audition panel. I want to re-iterate that proper technique is key and it is only when you understand how to breathe properly that you can then use your breath to help tell your character’s story. When you are deconstructing your song, play around with your breath. Experiment. Try seeing how you can use your breath to show your character’s intention or emotional state. I think that by using the breath optimally you will see the huge impact it can have on your vocal performance
I’d love to hear any discoveries that you have found in any of the three keys that I have covered so far. Feel free to leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Next week we will cover the fourth key to enhance your vocal performance and it’s a good one!