Guest Author - Allan Harris
What does it take to be a singer? And how can you improve your singing skills?
In parts of Africa, everyone sings, and there are songs for every occasion. Even if you want to say something negative about someone, you can say it in song.
Many people think singing is easy because, after all, everyone has a voice. And from that point of view, it’s true. But what if you want to make singing your career? To sing professionally you may need to learn some of the following skills:
Phrasing is the art of strategically placing your words where you want them, or stringing them together to put some in front of the beat or behind the beat. Phrasing can:
- add emphasis
- add emotion
- get rid of monotony
The master of phrasing was Frank Sinatra. If you listen carefully to his singing, you’ll hear how he lagged some words and sped up on others, but it always sounded natural, as if he was speaking. Another singer with great phrasing is Joni Mitchell. In the rock arena, you can listen to Freddy Mercury. And if you want to go back a bit, Louis Armstrong was wonderful at phrasing.
Great singers are great actors. They learn to put just the right amount of emotion into their words. In fact, a lot of singers also do voice-over work for ads, radio, TV, and documentary films. So learn to be a good actor.
To improve your ability to act and sing, develop your listening skills. Listen to all kinds of singers, even if you don’t care for a particular style of music. Try imitating various styles and find out how close you can get. Listening and imitating will teach you what you can do with your own voice.
Your listening skills also help your ability to sing harmony parts, essential both for working in a band and doing backup vocals in recording studios. When you try to match other singers, notice what they do with each word or phrase.
Do they sing a word for a “normal” length or do they cut if off? Do they slightly elongate the word? Do they emphasize a particular syllable? Do they scoop the pitch at the front end of the word? Do they put a bit of a growl into it? Notice where they take a breath.
Try matching what they do as best you can. The more you pay attention to listening, the more your phrasing and acting will improve.
Happy listening! And happy singing!