Develop Your Vocal Artistry Like an Expert: 3 Effective Exercises
Hey there, Smule fam!
If you’ve ever been moved to tears by a powerful vocal performance, you’ve probably wondered, “How the heck did they do that?” Sometimes, it seems, like expert delivery and vocal artistry is meant only for the best of the best. The good news, though, is that this couldn’t be further from the truth–all it takes is a few helpful tips and a whole lot of practice!
That’s why we’re here to shed some light on developing your vocal artistry like a pro. We’ll also be focusing more on the overall emotional delivery of a song in this article, and not necessarily the artistry in singing each word itself.
1) Step Inside the Singer’s Shoes
Wait a minute, aren’t you the singer in question? Well yes, but actually, no. Unless you’re performing an original song of yours, you’ll always be covering a song that was originally sung by someone else first. What this means is that there are likely dozens of ways to sing the song you’re tackling, and in turn, dozens of renditions to study when developing your own.
When we say step inside the singer’s shoes, we mean study the lyrics and spend some time reflecting on the singer’s emotional journey throughout the song. How does the song start out? How does the story evolve throughout the song? How does the singer seem to be reacting and changing throughout the song? How have other singers in the past conveyed this emotional journey and evolution in their own takes?
It might sound like overkill, but thinking about these things is worth it if you’re really looking to give a world-class performance. Studying the lyrics and other vocalists’ renditions can also help give you an idea of what parts of the song you specifically identify with. Once you’ve tapped into these rich emotional reserves, you can start thinking about how you want your vocal delivery to reflect the key moments in the song.
2) The Power of Volume
In our first article from our Singing Technique series, we briefly touched on the importance of dynamics in vocal delivery. Dynamics matter because they allow you to convey deep emotions in a relatively simple way. When you sing quietly and softly, you can sound like you’re deep in thought or reflecting on something sad. When you build a slow crescendo with your voice, you can convey a sense of growing power and redemption. All of this is to say that manipulating the dynamics in your delivery can produce some seriously awe-inspiring results.
But developing vocal artistry would hardly be a worthwhile venture if you didn’t have a little fun doing so! To work your vocal dynamics, take a nursery rhyme–any one will do–and practice singing it at a normal volume, softly and quietly, and then loud and boldly. Compare these three versions (between laughs, of course!) and take note of how they hit you emotionally. You’ll most likely be surprised at the differences that emerge in each version!
You can further expand on this exercise by singing the song in any emotion you can think of: angrily, fearfully, joyously, blandly. Practicing with an easy and relatively neutral song will allow you to dig deep and tap into certain dynamics that convey different emotions most clearly.
3) Staging Matters
So you’ve got the emotional journey down along with the dynamic you’ll use to convey its evolution. Now what?
Unless you’re singing this in a studio booth, chances are you’ll be performing this song for a live audience. If that’s the case, you’ll need to think about your body movements and overall staging of the song.
Staging is exactly what it sounds like: how to move your body on stage while performing a song. Good staging pairs body movements with key moments in the song for maximum emotional effect. Bad staging distracts the viewer, as mistimed body movements can take away from important lyrics.
When you’re “at rest” up there, meaning you aren’t moving much at all, keep your arms bent at a 90-degree angle with hands and wrists slightly bent inward. Don’t let your arms hang like wet, lifeless noodles at your sides, but don’t fold or clasp your hands for the entire performance, either. A relaxed, bent-arm posture allows you to move your hands for effect or make bigger gestures for important moments in the song.
If you do plan on moving about the stage, save it for the pre-chorus, chorus, or bridge. These sections of the song typically highlight a sense of building conflict, an important epiphany, or a celebration of some kind, making them perfect moments for you to move and physically convey this shift in mood. Don’t be afraid to experiment with contrasting vocal dynamics and body movements, either; sometimes a quick turn paired with soft vocals (and vice versa) can make for a powerful delivery.
Go Forth and Change the Audience!
Half of the fun of developing vocal artistry is the journey itself. The more you practice your favorite songs with these techniques, the more fertile artistic ground you’re likely to discover. The beauty of developing your vocal artistry, too, is that it’s a journey completely unique to you. Everyone has art in them, and it’s bound to come out and evolve the more you give it the chance to do so.
Thanks for reading this latest article in our How to Sing Better series–check back soon for more!