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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Problems Singing Phrases: Uncontrolled Beginnings and Dropped Ends

We all too often focus on the high or long or otherwise difficult notes of a phrase. But the secret to getting the hard stuff right is often how we begin and end the whole phrase containing the hard stuff.

Without getting the beginnings and ends right, we will not communicate the message within the phrase, either. So we miss engaging the heart of the listener.

Beginnings:

We must prepare... intend... to sing the very first syllable of the very first word. Furthermore, we must prepare and intend to sing that beginning syllable on the right pitch with the right emotion. Making the communication of this beginning word and note important will cause us to breathe in such a way as to accomplish the note. It will also cause us to position ourselves without thinking much about it to open our throats, if we have trained our voices with correct muscle memory.

I had the great pleasure, thanks to the generosity of my vocal client Jim Wilkes, to see Glen Campbell and Jimmy Web in concert with the Nashville Symphony this week. While Jimmy is a magical and master music creator (and oh my gosh did I and all present just melt in the symphonic arrangements he brought to his legendary hits), Glen is the master singer. In his 70s, I've never known him to sing better. I watched his posture change, his spine elongate, moving his head back and his chest open when he was getting ready to sing more difficult phrases... and this happened BEFORE he began the phrase. It works, folks. In fact the only note in a phrase he didn't get was a pesky "ee" vowel for which he DIDN'T prepare adequately. He sang everything else so well it didn't matter... not even to the musicians among us!

Endings:

I don't know about you but when I hear a phrase delivered almost to the end, and dropped to a disappearing act before I understand the last word, I feel cheated. Not supporting the ends of phrases will also sabotage the hard notes in the middle. And again... the intention to communicate the last word will usually cause a singer to take, support and control enough breath to do so. This is partly because when it truly is our intention to communicate, we will create a more confident, resonant tone instead of leaky, breathy sound. Amazing how the mind works for or against the voice. A master performer like Glen Campbell will not stop til he's done with a phrase.

Try it next time you sing: make the beginnings and endings of phrases the most important notes and lyrics to communicate. I think you'll like it:)

And by the way, if you haven't heard the Nashville Symphony lately... you are missing an experience that will leave you truly breathless, but in a very good way!

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