Updated: Jul 23, 2019
Pablo Casals once said, “The greatest respect an artist can pay to music is to give it life” and I couldn’t agree more! I’ve been talking about key ways to enhance song performance and every key without a doubt helps bring life to the songs we sing. In the previous blog posts I spoke about the importance of Using Your Eyes (Key 1), Acting The Song (Key 2) and Breathing (Key 3). This 4th key plays a huge factor in bringing a song to life and it is…energy.
I talk about energy a lot in my singing lessons. When you’re learning how to sing, knowing how to harness your vocal energy is everything. A lot of times I will see performers who sound great and are acting the song to some degree, but they are just missing something. The performance or audition is a bit boring or is just medicore. They are missing a spark. They lack energy. I chose energy as one of the 5 keys because there are various ways of looking at it -physical energy, vocal energy and nervous energy. All of these contribute highly to enhancing song performance.
It takes a great deal of energy to perform a song a well. To be able to maintain that energy throughout an entire song or an entire show for that matter is extremely demanding on the voice and the body. Being a singer is like being an athlete. It takes stamina. When there is energy in the voice, the sound comes alive. When you bring a vocal energy all of your choices that you have made as a performer become fully realized. Your character’s intentions have a clarity and power behind it.
I have a student who I teach singing to over Skype and she has a lovely voice, but her main problem is that she is low energy. I will often ask her on a scale of 1-10 energy wise to rate her performance. She always starts at a 3. Just by being aware of it and having another go at the song she bumps up her energy level and she goes to an 8 or a 9. Let’s look at a simple exercise where you can play with vocal energy. Try singing Mary Had A Little Lamb in a very relaxed manner and with no feeling or energy. Now try adding some vocal energy. Make that Mary Had A Little Lamb a 10 on the energy scale. I’m sure you can hear and feel a difference. Vocal energy comes from having supported breath, bringing your character’s choices to life and through intention.
*Tip: teaming up with a great voice teacher or vocal coach can bring your singing to new heights. Sometimes we need an outside trained ear to help us and guide us.
For a performance or an audition to have that ‘wow’ factor, there needs to be an energy not only vocally, but physically as well. I have seen countless performers who are not only disconnected from their bodies, but have no physical presence. This is so important. I spoke about how vocal energy helps bring your character’s choices to life, our physical presence does exactly the same thing. The two work together. There needs to be energy with how you stand and how you move. If you are extending your hand or arm at a specific point in the song, don’t do it half heartedly, do it full out. Imagine there is an electric current going all the way from your shoulders through your arms, through your fingers and all the way out through your fingertips. Now, this of course does not apply to all situations. If your character is sick for example, obviously you will not have the same energy, but physical presence and intention still needs to be there no matter what the situation that is being portrayed. Physical energy is something I work on a great with my voice students. Whether you’re working on a musical theatre song, a pop tune, or a jazz standard, knowing what to do with your body is key.
*Tip: To be able to have physical energy when singing means you have to take care of yourself. It is so important to sleep well, eat the right foods and exercise your body. All of this will greatly contribute to enhancing your performance or audition.
Let’s face it, everybody gets nervous. It is completely normal, but we can actually use our nerves to help us when we perform. Nerves give us adrenaline – whether we want it or not, so why not take full advantage of this? You can use this energy in your performance or audition. The key is to be able to harness that energy in a positive way. So how do you do that as a performer? One of the ways is by proper preparation - practice the song over and over again so that you know it, so that it’s in your bones. In my singing lessons one of the things I tell my voice students is to practice the song with all that you have every single time. The act of repetition is what makes you prepared. If you are properly prepared by the time the nerves come around they won’t over power you. You’ll be in control. The more frequently you perform the more you’ll be able to harness that nervous energy. When you can take charge and use that nervous energy towards your performance, that’s when the magic happens!
*Tip: If your nerves start to overtake you always go back to your breath.
As you can see energy plays a huge part in your song performance. Take some time to watch some of your favorite performers and see how they use vocal, physical and nervous energy in their song performance. Stay tuned for next week where the 5th and final key will be revealed!