To this question I answer: “Add more emotion!”
…but oh, if it were only that easy.
For the majority of us singers (myself included), we struggle with bringing emotion into our songs. We strive to sing with passion and presence, but somehow it comes out dull and lifeless. Like so many other facets with singing, this can be incredibly frustrating and devastating.
I have been in this boat before…and I fall back into this boat time and time again. Learning how to sing with emotion is not just a one-time quick fix deal. It is something we must work at for our entire singing career.
Fortunately for us, there are some techniques that can help us learn how to sing with emotion. Here are a few tips that will aid you on the journey.
How To Sing With Emotion Tip #1: Ask yourself, “Do I truly connect with this song?”
It can be a tough question to ask, but I’m afraid we must ask it in order to assess if we truly possess the emotion to sing a certain song(s). Some songs relate to us more than others, and our emotions have a peculiar way of showing just that. Strip everything away and truly ask yourself if the song you want to sing connects with you. Trying to sing a song that you do not connect with is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole: it just doesn’t work. If you find yourself struggling to add emotion to a particular song, you may want to think twice about singing it.
How To Sing With Emotion Tip #2: Start learning vocal compression.
Singing with emotion can be fostered by learning a vocal technique called vocal compression. Vocal compression is the art of using the arytenoids to compress the vocal cords, giving your tone texture and flavor. This vocal technique adds a sense of urgency and emotion to your voice. Learning how to compress your vocal cords gives you the ability to “flip” a switch in your voice. You can start a song with a gentle, breathy tone and then bam! Vocal compression takes over and you have just gripped your audience. I would strongly urge you to work on mastering this technique. It is an incredible tool in your repertoire of vocal abilities.
How To Sing With Emotion Tip #3: Learn how to bend notes and sing runs.
Ever hear those R&B vocalists and wonder why their voice moves around so much? It moves around like that because they are engaging in the art of note bending and attaching those bended notes into runs. Bending notes can add emotion to your singing because it engages and captivates your audience (because they want to do it too!). There are many ways that you can learn how to bend notes and sing runs, but I have found that imitation is one of the best ways to learn. Listen to some of your favorite singers, study how they bend notes, and then imitate how they do it. Mix and combine all the note bending techniques you learn and voila!, you’ve just created your own style that adds emotion to your songs!
How To Sing With Emotion Tip #4: Use facial expressions to enhance emotion.
I give thanks and credit to Tyler who commented about this – it is something that originally slipped my mind. Facial expressions have a way of subtly (or in some cases not so subtly) communicating inward emotions. The idea behind communicating emotion with your facial expressions is to enhance the particular mood of the song without distracting the listener. That is why it is so important that the facial expressions be subtle yet noticeable. This admittedly takes some practice (at least it did and still does in my case), but the benefits far surpass the investments. Think through the type of song you are singing and then practice facial expressions in the mirror. Try to match certain parts of the song with certain facial expressions and judge for yourself whether it can elicit emotional appeal. It may be that you have a chance to enhance emotion with a stoic glance or a shimmering grin. Whatever the case, be sure that your actions will not leave your audience distracted from your singing!
Finally, take time to record yourself and listen for emotion in your singing. Pick up on the areas where your emotion shines and strengthen them. Pick up on the areas where you struggle to sing with emotion and practice! Believe in yourself, and before you know it, you’ll be singing with emotion and passion in no time!
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