Monday, October 05, 2015

Want to sing with more energy? – pretend to be somebody else

I ran a gospel singing weekend recently. One of the songs was flagging a bit so I suggested people ham it up a bit and be more “American”.

Miranda sings
Miranda Sings by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Suddenly the song came to life and everyone was energised. Playing some kind of ‘character’ when you’re singing can really enliven your singing. Here’s how ...

It’s said that you need to be ‘authentic’ when you sing, that you shouldn’t try to imitate somebody else, but rather celebrate your own unique voice.

I agree with that totally. But sometimes we all get a little self-conscious and could use a simple trick to get us out of ourselves. That’s where pretending to be someone else comes in.

Pretending doesn’t mean copying. It just means tapping into the idea of another singer which might liberate your voice for a particular song. That person may be from another culture, another gender, another genre, another universe even.

For example, in warm ups when I see that people are being a little self-conscious I might ask them to imagine that they are a superstar opera singer on the stage of La Scala and there’s a huge audience who have paid a lot of money to hear their wonderful singing. Suddenly the room comes alive.

People forget themselves for a moment. They aren’t imitating a specific person, but rather tapping into their inner opera star.

When an African song has no energy, I might suggest that people imagine they are from an African village where they’ve sung (and danced) the song since they were very young.

An Eastern European song that’s sounding a bit too ‘English’ might come alive if I ask everyone to find their inner Slav or Russian Bond villain or meerkat with an Eastern European accent.

It’s not about accuracy or parody or lack of respect, it’s simply a trick to stop singers from thinking too much and carrying their own cultural baggage into a song.

People might think they’re really hamming it up and being totally over the top, but from the outside (the audience perspective), there’s a subtle change which is just right.

If your singers don’t believe that, split the choir in half, get them to sing to the others, then give an instruction about becoming another kind of imaginary singer then ask what changes they saw.

You might also find this post of interest:

Want to develop your voice and sing better? Be silly and play!

Chris Rowbury



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Chris Rowbury


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