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What's My Style? Part 3, By Jeannie Deva
|In the last of this three part article, we will explore several other factors that distinguish one singer /musician from the next.
Rhythmic precision is an important part of vocal control and will influence style. For example, choices of which word or words you sustain or sing quickly, execute smoothly or haltingly, should spring from your interpretation and emotion. This essentially has to do with how you phrase each line in the song. Ultimately, the phrasing needs to be believable.
Embellished melodies are abundant in today's pop and R&B music. They sometimes sound like someone is competing for how many notes they can get into a line, rather than using them to assist the emotional impact of the song. That being said, embellishments must be practiced so that they are executed exactly. Certainty about the melodic notes and which vowel to sing is essential to accomplish this. The vowel pronunciation can remain the same through an embellishment or change as the notes do. But if you make the mistake of singing an embellishment on a consonant instead of a vowel, the embellishment will not sound as good as it could, will not be as comfortable to execute and can be squeezed off pitch. To enhance your embellishment ideas, listen to other singers as well as embellishments used by instrumentalists such as guitarists, horn players, and blues or jazz violinists and harmonica players.
Staying at one volume without change can tend to make a song boring, emotionally monotone and less believable. Music at its best, is a universal language that can convey energy and emotion. Sometimes you can create quite an impact if, as the song hits its melodic or dynamic peak, you pull back on your volume. Aretha Franklin used this approach on some of her early albums.
VIBRATO VERSUS STRAIGHT TONE
Vibrato can be used on the last half of a sustained note at the end of a phrase or throughout the sustained note. This technique can enhance the emotion of the song. You can even reverse this by moving from a full vibrato into a pure or straight tone. (This is the sound of your voice without vibrato.) If you aren't certain how to create a straight tone, sing the word "send" on any pitch, and sustain your sound on the "eh" vowel. Think the vowel forward just a bit, adding a slight touch of tension on the vocal folds, without straining. Then try going back and forth between straight tone and vibrato. Once you've mastered this, experiment with other vowels and areas of your vocal range. By varying the width and speed of your vibrato, you can create many different textures and effects.
Staying objective is of utmost importance when working on the creation of style. If you have a particularly difficult time with this, you may find working with a good voice teacher your saving grace. Record yourself whenever you can, as a tool for greater objectivity. Use the recordings to better analyze your strengths and weaknesses. This helps you determine what aspects of your vocal technique and song delivery need work. If your recording equipment is not excellent, you will not be hearing a true representation of your voice. But you can still use the recordings to help yourself with phrasing, embellishment, and interpretation decisions. When listening back, be the audience, not yourself as the singer. Listen, take notes, and keep recording yourself, until you are satisfied with how you are performing each song. The final question to ask yourself when critiquing is: Do I believe "him/her"? If not, practice the song with the idea of singing the song to someone in the room and really get across the thoughts and emotions to someone. After all, for a song to work, you must communicate it to others.
Jeannie Deva is considered by many to be one of the top vocal specialists and Master voice teacher. Founder of Jeannie DevaTM Voice Studios (Boston, Waltham, LA) and originator of The Deva MethodTM, A Non-Classical Approach for SingersTM, she has also gained respect for her record production and recording session vocal coaching. Clients include many local, national and international acts. Her home study course includes a book and cassettes.
For information on private lessons, books and CDs, Contact:
Jeannie Deva Voice Studios
Boston: 295 Huntington Ave. 02115
Cape Cod: 24 Reid Ave. W. Yarmouth 02673
Los Angeles: 10257 Parr Ave. Sunland, 91040
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