by Rae Nyx, Vocal Coach
There are many different philosophies on what is most important when it comes to singing. I feel the most important is Passion. It’s pulling the heartstrings of the person listening to the song. I have gotten into sooo many arguments with other vocal coaches about this very thing. Here are the six main aspects to think about or to bring up to your own vocal coach:
1. Breathing – This is going to sound weird, but almost everyone breathes wrong in the recording arts industry. It’s the most common comment I’ll make when I watch singing TV shows or even listening to a CD. And yes, you can tell even with breaths taken out of the sound recording. Your breathing is very important. Here’s a few pointers to take with you now: Don’t use your shoulders when you breathe. Breathe from your gut. Instead of pushing out your chest when you inhale, push out your stomach. Inhale through your nose. I know these sound like mundane things but you’ll be amazed at what they can do for you.
2. Pitch – This is where some of the arguments come in. To a lot of vocal coaches and music teachers, they feel this is the most important thing. I have to disagree. It is important, don’t get me wrong, but I have heard a lot of amazing performances and the singer didn’t hit ALL the notes. Sometimes you just get lost in the performance, which isn’t a bad thing, but try your best to be mindful of your pitch, when you can. Tips: Don’t be afraid to go for the note. Even if you feel it’s out of your range. You never know, you might surprise yourself. If it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it. You may potentially wreck your voice permanently. (Yes, one note can do that if you try too much. I’ve seen it happen!)
3. Tone – Your tone is the unique sound of your voice. Whether it’s raspy or pure or a certain twang. Again, here is where I get into arguments with other coaches. In classical, having the same tone as the person next to you can be valuable in a choir setting. But in the mainstream music industry, sounding the same isn’t a good thing, well unless you want to work on kiddy shows for the rest of your life. All singers sound different, and most classical teachers will tell you it needs to be fixed. That is not the case. I don’t even believe it is in classical. Most well known classical artists sound different. Before I even had a “trained” ear, I could tell the difference between classical artists. Your tone is what sets you part from everyone. Tips: Use what you got. There’s nothing wrong with that!
4. Vowel Placement – This is something most people don’t think of when they are singing. This is where it can get very technical. There are different places to “put” a vowel when singing the note. Weird, I know. These are the sort of things you want to ask your own vocal coach about to get a further explanation. Tips: Don’t be afraid to go against the grain. Just because it’s “technically” correct doesn’t mean that’s what needs to happen. Sometimes it can be your defining factor.
5. Phrasing – Phrasing is how you make the notes move with the music, using breath and dynamics. Where you breathe, and how loud and soft you are. The easiest way to explain it is, “You wouldn’t breathe in the middle of a word, would you?” The same thing goes with music, only in a larger definition. With dynamics, if your angry and speaking out about something, you wouldn’t be quiet about it, if you were sad and alone, you wouldn’t be loud. You would be whispering. Tips: If it makes sense when you say it, sing it that way. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different phrasing. Try it at different dynamics, breathe in different places, till you feel it sounds right.
6. Passion – Okay, now we get to the big one. The most important arsenal in the singer’s belt. If you don’t feel the emotion, then what’s the point in having lyrics. There are singers out there who don’t have “wonderful” voices, but you can always feel the emotion! Of course, it’s a little easier to do this if you wrote the song, but if you didn’t you can still channel the feeling through to the listener. Tips: If you wrote the song, go back to when you wrote it. Channel the feelings that brought you to the point of putting these words down on paper. You wrote it for a reason, didn’t you? Let people know the reason and feel it. If you didn’t write the song, read the lyrics until they are burned in your memory. Think of something that happened to you that comes to your mind when you read it. Channel that memory. Think of it as you sing the song. You don’t have to worry about reading the lyrics as you sing them, cause you already memorized them, right? And most importantly, take it personally. Make the lyrics become a part of you, whether you wrote them or not.