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Effective Lead Vocals, Part Two - By Jeannie Deva
Mike Techniques
Many vocalists are in the habit of "eating" the microphone. The only problem is, as you sing louder, you run the risk of pre-amp distortion. The result will be a muddyunprofessional sound for you and the band.

When you do your sound check, keep your mike at least two inches from your mouth. Once into your performance, you'll have some leeway. As you sing louder, back off the mike a bit. If you want to reduce your volume, you can bring the mike closer, and still be heard. Practice varying the distance of the mike at home or in your rehearsal space. It can take a while to get used to it, but it's worth the result.
More Vowel, Less Strain
A straining voice is physically uncomfortable and painful for the audience to hear. Your voice is the result of sung vowels. It's vital to work closely with these vowels. Stressing consonants closes your mouth and exhales the breath too quickly and forcibly. Vowels, on the other hand, require an open mouth and utilize your breath more efficiently.

Choose a song and sing it through. Notice any words that coincide with points of strain. Work those phrases over, while directing your attention to the vowels of these words. As you stop pushing on the consonants and focus on the vowel, you should find yourself gaining greater vocal comfort while improving sound quality. Continue working through the song in this manner.

Who's Listening
When you sing for others, it's important to keep your focus on the audience rather than on listening to yourself. Focusing your attention outward to your audience will give your whole performance greater direction and energy. Amazing as it may seem, if previously tight, your throat will have an easier time relaxing, and you can find your sound becoming fuller.

You can practice this focus as follows: Choose a song to work on. Select an object in your practice space. Stand a few feet away and talk the lyrics of the song to this object. You may feel self-conscious at first, but keep doing it until you feel comfortable and know that you're maintaining your attention (not just eyesight) on this object. Next, sing the song in the same manner. Now do this to your image in a mirror. Use your reflection as though you're singing directly to someone else.

Eye Contact
Eye contact should be a decision based on appropriateness rather than emotional restriction. When singing a particularly moody song, closing your eyes can help convey the emotion best. There are many situations, however, when looking directly at your audience is exactly what's needed to convey your emotion. In those cases, doing so will make your performance more powerful.

Let your song interpretation dictate what you do with your eyes. When you're on stage, even if you have to pretend you're looking at amorous fans to help keep you from withdrawing, look with purpose at your audience. If the lights are shining in your eyes, it's difficult to actually make eye contact. But keep in mind, your audience does not have the lights in their eyes. They see you. They don't know you can't see them. You know where they are - look at them anyway! Use of appropriate eye contact can give you greater command of your performance space and opens the channel between you and your audience.

The Big Picture
Deciding what effect you want to create on your audience is the final and most important aspect of performance preparation. This enables you to make each song your own. It's easy to sing a song glibly or pretend to be someone else, but that robs you of your own personality and uniqueness. You need to be yourself and fully connect with each song you sing, to have an impact on your audience.

I'm sure you've listened to at least one vocalist who doesn't have a technically great voice, yet really commands your interest and inspires you. While not having the technical proficiency of a Bobby McFerrin or Mariah Carey, such superstars as Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger and Janis Joplin still can inspire millions. Technique can give you a bigger vocabulary of sound, develop your self-confidence, and help you to not blow-out your voice. But what makes one singer great and another a bore, is the degree of life and communication projected through the song, and it's emotional impact on the audience.

Through experience, you can learn how to modify your performance and material to fit the performance situation. An intimate coffee house, a Top 40 club, a large stadium, wedding, or your family's living room have their own requirements. You obviously wouldn't always sing the same way or even use the same material in each of those situations. Consider the environment in which you'll be singing. Decide if there is an overall mood you want to create, and what kind of experience you want to give your audience. From there you can break it down song by song.

Focus on the technical details of singing during your practice time until they become part of your approach. When you're performing, the techniques will be there to support you while you immerse yourself in the music, your message, and your audience.

Jeannie Deva is considered by many to be one of the top vocal specialists. Her method of voice training is known and respected around the world. She is the Founder of Jeannie Deva(TM) Voice Studios (Boston, Waltham, Cape Cod) and staffed with Deva Method Certified Voice Instructors. Originator of The Deva Method(TM), A Non-Classical Approach for Singers(TM), Ms Deva has gained respect in the studio as a recording session vocal coach and vocal producer.
Clients include many local, national and international acts.

Her home study course includes a book and cassettes along with her popular Vocal Warm-Up CD. Private coaching sessions include in person, by phone and a correspondence course by tape. For information on private lessons, books and tapes, contact Jeannie Deva Voice Studios, 295 Huntington Ave. Suite 209, Boston 02115, (617) 536-4553, Toll Free in the USA: 888-536-SING., New location soon in LA!

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