Weekly Teaching Tip Feb. 20, 2012
Question: Some of my students aren’t as naturally musical. They love and excel in the vocalizing, but then when it comes to a song it’s pretty robotic and soulless. These students find it very difficult to bridge the gap between the vocalizing and singing a song with character and emotion. This is even after months of teaching so there is a great deal of rapport and trust built. How can I most effectively help someone who isn’t particularly gifted in this area have as much opportunity possible to develop and grow?
Answer: I find there are two basic types of students; those that have great style, but bad habits. And those that pick up the technique easily because they don’t have bad habits, but they don’t sound good on the songs because they don’t have the musical style. Both are difficult in there own way. Of the two however, it is easier to teach technique than style. Teaching style is difficult because it is something the singer must feel.
The real key is actually rhythm. In order to sing with feeling, emotion and style the singer must phrase the song not straight and boring, but with dynamics and with the rhythm of speech. The singer must feel the beat, but sing around the beat.
Some people just have better natural rhythm than others. The best thing for these ‘rhythmically and stylistically challenged’ singers is to totally copy good singers. Match them note for note. Once they ‘steal’ the original artists style they can eventually develop their own. They need to learn to feel the beat, but to sing around the beat.
The key to style is phrasing the song as you would speak with emotion. One person reads a story and it is boring. Another reads the story and everyone cries. The difference? One tells the story with expression and feeling, the other just says the words. This is what happens to singers. Some approach the song and their goal is to get all the notes and words right. Others are good at telling the story, phrasing it naturally and accentuating different words.
Once a singer feels the beat well enough that they can phrase like they are speaking with emotion, accenting certain words with a natural flow they will start sounding good.