Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Singers: Wipe that smile out of your voice...

...unless you're singing a smiling song!

A hallmark of a master vocal stylist - whatever the genre - is that the emotional color of the tone of voice chosen matches what the heck the lyric is saying. Can you imagine Bonny Raitt singing "I Can't Make You Love Me" with a big smile on her face and in her voice? Those lyrics contain ANGST - and if the tone her voice doesn't contain some kind of quiet but powerful angst, the listener would feel betrayed by ... vocal fraud. Yes, I'll go that far.

That doesn't necessarily mean you need to sound angry. There are many, many emotional colors between "happy" and "angry". What about:
  • Sadly accepting (I Can't Make You Love Me)
  • Seriously sarcastic (Just Another Picture To Burn)
  • Comically empowered (Man, I Feel Like A Woman)
  • Powerfully reflective (The Dance)
  • Determined (This Is A Man's World)
  • Deeply thankful (Amazing Grace)
OK, I think you get the idea.

One of the biggest mistakes I hear amateur singers make is that of singing a lyric without the right emotion in the voice - and many times smiling all the way through the song like it's a popularity contest is the mistake.

I have also known professional jingle singers who've made a fortune singing commercials but cannot get arrested as artists. This is because they have made a career out of selling product in 30 or 60 second bursts of song. If you're selling a product, you usually do it with a friendly smile. You also do it with lots of energy... which gets tiring for the listener when 60 seconds turns into a 3 1/2 minute song. The lyric, unless it's punk rock, usually needs varying emotional dynamics to sound like an authentic message to a human being.

Next time you listen to a playback of your voice, ask yourself if the emotional color you're using matches the lyric and the music. And unless the song is something like "I'm A Happy Girl", it might be best to loose that fake smile. (Think of this as tough love from your coach here, dear friends)

What do you think?

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