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. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

How To Sing a Love Song

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Love is a universal subject for messages of music... And oh my goodness what a loaded subject! I want to start by giving you a sample of messages about love, along with some songs that carry them:

Four questions to ask:

The voice exists to deliver messages, and is successful if the message sung gets the desired response from the heart being sung to. So to sing a successful love song, you have to know
  1. what your message really is,
  2. to whom you're communicating,
  3. what response you want from that targeted heart,
  4. and what that response would look like in the body/facial language of that person. That's the brass ring... the ultimate goal you should be reaching for.
From the answers to those 4 questions you can choose the tone, volume, phrasing and vocal embellishments that you need to get that specific response.

Not feeling it? 

No matter, the only thing that matters is that the heart you're singing to feels it. Because it's not about you, there is no need to get nervous. No current relationship? Oh I beg to differ. We can sing love songs to our pets, our parents or grandparents, our friends, to the one heart of our audiences, to GOD, really to anything we love. And sometimes we need to sing love songs to ourselves. Patty Griffin wrote her love song, "Heavenly Day," to her dog. The point is, our choice of whom to sing to, should change the way we sing. Focus on that heart.

Mistakes to avoid:

  • Mixing your messages. Unless you're going for coy or confused... which actually become the central message, 'I'm being coy' or 'I'm so confused'.
  • Delivering your messages to the wrong place (anywhere the lyrics are not addressed to).
  • Failing to fully intend and commit to your delivery.  
  • Singing a song that's out of your wheelhouse of experience. This is why I don't like young kids singing mature adult relationship songs. They may nail the high note, but not the emotional response.
  • Over-emoting. Sometimes the power is in what you don't do. Leave room for your audience's imagination. Don't lose the realness of your delivery by trying too hard. As Star Wars' character Yoda says, 'Do or do not - there is no try'.

How to create nuance:

To really sing (or write, or play) a love song in a way that effectively captures the intended heart, you have to be able to perform in multiple nuances of human language. Vocal nuances require changeable external facial/body movement, fine control of breath, and morphing of the throat channel to create differing tone colors.

Here's an exercise for you:

Let's take a phrase and make it mean different things: "This is how you make me feel". Choose or create a little melody and sing it...
  • while frowning. 
  • while smiling.
  • with very wide open eyes, then squinting.
  • with a tight jaw, then while making chewing circles with your jaw.
  • while over-articulating the words, then while slurring or mumbling the words.
  • with a very flat, frozen soft palate, then with a yawny lifted palate.
  • while standing with your arms on your hips like supergirl/superman.
  • then while crossing your arms over your chest.
  • while standing stiffly frozen, then while swaying, moving your arms/hands or lightly dancing. 
Ask yourself... what does any of these changes do to the sound of your voice? Do you see how you can deliver different messages with the same words?

Now try this: Sing the same phrase 'This is how you make me feel" to get the following messages across. Let your message intention choose the changes you experimented in the previous exercise.  You are...
  • angry (you want an meek response, maybe shrinking body language)
  • happy (you want a corresponding happy response)
  • confused (you want a response of clarification or reassurance)
  • sad (you want an empathetic response)
  • infatuated (you want an 'I'm interested, too' response)
  • ecstatic (you want a mutually joyful response)
  • aroused (you want a mutual warm response)
  • safe (you want a deep breath response, a sign of acceptance and trust)

Ask yourself... what did you have to do, to change, to get those different messages and their respective responses?

OK so it's your turn: What's your favorite love song to sing? To hear sung to you? Hope this helps you deliver some love on Valentine's Day!

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  • At February 6, 2019 at 10:25 AM , Anonymous Ron Calabrese said...

    Hi Judy. I just finished watching all these videos and Whitney Houston is my favorite. Before her personal problems she had a beautiful voice over an impressive span and easily sung high notes without screaming. To this day her National Anthem at the Super Bowl is the best rendition I've ever heard.
    Being Italian, I've never had a problem emoting! Singing church music requires a harness on the Italianate delivery but pieces like the Bach Ave Maria happily allow an operatic style. As I get older and see my grandsons in church, I sometimes get very emotional, thanking God for such wonderful gifts. Tears begin to well up and I have to quickly gain control before the next hymn or mass part. Tears of joy and singing don't seem to work too well!
    Thanks for this very informative and entertaining blog.

  • At February 9, 2019 at 9:44 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Thank You So Much Judy :-) Linn Roll

  • At February 9, 2019 at 12:21 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    You are most welcome, Linn... glad you enjoyed this post!

  • At February 10, 2019 at 10:53 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hi Judy, this is FiFi Cox from New Zealand :) and I'm still enjoying your podcasts! This one is especially timely regarding the chorus competition in just under three months time. Will keep you posted! Happy Valentines day Judy!

  • At February 10, 2019 at 11:41 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Great to hear from you Fifi... so happy you enjoyed this episode! Yes, let me know how it goes for your competition!

  • At October 11, 2020 at 8:35 PM , Blogger Trish Lober said...

    Thanks Judy! Miss you and hope that I can take a lesson again when finances allow!

  • At October 12, 2020 at 10:10 AM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Trish, so happy you enjoyed this - and I look forward to next time I get to work with you!


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