The Game Changing Vocal Discovery
By Janine Le Clair
Have you ever stopped to think how often you actually listen to an ENTIRE album of one artist? Or how few artists we enjoy enough to listen to ALL of their twelve songs in a row? After reflecting on that, remember also how appealing the single song has become; lending variety to our ears when shuffled amongst different artists and perhaps even genres. Part of this phenomena is because of how easily bored we can get and how often we need change to hold our interest. And I’m not just talking about over the course of an hour, but even over the course of a mere three minutes. Within every song there is an opportunity to lose interest by your listener. The average listener may not know why they’ve become bored, but it’s easily done, even if you are a great vocalist singing your best.
Although continuity in vocal resonance is an important indication of expertise and ease on the listener; too much of the same can be the very reason they didn’t line up to buy your album. The famous Russian theater actor and director Stanislavski said, “Generality is the enemy of all art.” And I agree with him.
Within each verse, sentence, thought, moment, word, lyric, there are opportunities for texturizing. You must lend different descriptions to the thought, you must deliver varied resonance, chose a myriad of colors in your vocals to paint the lyrics and things of this nature, if you want to truly captivate and mesmerize. There are dozens of ways we could say a sentence to a friend or family member or enemy-each of those revealing more information about the situation, the mood, the opinion, the desire, the intent or the essence of your motivation. Adding texture is a way to stay true to the truth in a delivery. And furthermore, figuring out which choice of textures is your favorite, or the one that ideally resonates with you, is the key to a seasoned vocalist. At the end of the day, believability cannot be faked.
There are many ways you can diversify your texture. It can come out through consonants, breath, tone choice, dynamics and many other techniques. The list is almost endless. And again one of my favorite moments is when an artist makes this particular discovery during our lessons because it’s like opening up their own galaxy to navigate. Their options become endless.
Here are some of my favorite beginning tips on how to acquire a variety of textures:
- Experiment as if you were a cartoon character. Think about voices like Homer Simpson, Daffy Duck, The Muppets etc...those actors are using different resonant pockets to get their voice to diversify like that, which proves there are many extremes of tones. Push your tone into your nose while just speaking the sentence “Hi how are you today”, and then push it way back into your throat and repeat that sentence. Try and see if you can find one or two in between choices of resonance placement as well. Take several minutes each day to speak in each of these places so you become familiar with your range of possibilities. It sounds silly, but if you’re not willing to act silly, you’ll only learn so much.
- Sing the exact same note on one vowel at a time, four times in a row with three objectives; a full chest voice, a lightened chest voice (adding falsetto texture), a head voice, and a lightened head voice (adding falsetto breathy texture). This will work best in your mid range, in a spot where you’re able to sing the same note in either head or chest easily.
- Repeat this exercise on vowels such as ah, oo, ee, eh, oh.
- Repeat this exercise on an entire sentence in a song you are working on. Tape yourself as you do this. You’ll be amazed how much more you pick up on after you listen back to a recording, rather than just in the moment.
- Listen closely to great texture singers. Some of my favorite examples are Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, John Farnham, Vanessa Amorosi, Tina Arena, Carrie Underwood and the late, great, Michael Jackson.
It’s an exciting time to be coaching on Music Row as modern techniques come up more and more on a daily basis with artists refining their craft. I love my job!