Early in my career I was guilty of the sin that many of us singers fall into -
"this song is too easy. It's boring. I don't like it!!!"
My statement should have been -
"What have I missed? It sold 5 million copies!"
Over the years I realised, through experience and great mentors-
"It is never the song's fault".
What skills do I have that I can bring to this song, to make it come to life? The song is the canvas and I am the artist with the paint brushes and colours.
When practising, using backing tracks or even singing along with the original artist is fine, sometimes, but when doing that, you have a blanket to hide under.
As an audience member, I want to know what the singers personality, skills and musical feel can bring to the song. I don't want to hear an "impersonation" of an original artist.
I, still now, always search for a more creative and individual approach to whatever song I am performing. My basic toolbox for taking ownership of a song is usually...
The typical singer's skillset of:
- Timing - eg syncopation, feel, groove etc
- Tonal options
- Light and shade
- Stylistic requirements
- Story telling eg attitude, emotion, interpretation etc.
The one that I take the most advantage of is -
My 4 octave Range
Using options of:
- Bass resonance
- Full "chest voice/register"
- The vocal flick from chest to "false voice" (yodel style)
- Clean passage through the break (mixed voice sound), from chest to head voice
- Whistle register ...... (not bad for an old fella!).
And 2 of my favourite skills-
- Consonant awareness
- Rhythmic integrity.
These 2 are the ones I find that so many singers miss.... and they are sooooo important. (I will write more blogs including these skills as the weeks go by).
One of the best examples of fantastic musicianship, that might be taken as a joke to the more inexperienced singer, or instrumentalist is-
"Mary had a little lamb".
What, I hear you say? Yes really!! A nursery Rhyme.
Dial up "Stevie Ray Vaughn's" version of this silly little lyric.
His basic formula:
An old children's rhyme
Add a funky blues groove (which is his trademark style)
A key that has him using a "low, foggy" vocal timber
Add a hot lead break with the support from hot players
BINGO!! A terrific song created from a simple and basic lyric, by a master of musical craft.
Now your turn:
I have given you "my" basic toolbox of skill sets and an example of a nursery rhyme being turned into a great song by a master musician.
Now why don't you sit and think of what your toolbox of skill sets are?
What have you learned from your coaches?
What have you learned from your performances?
What "don't" you like about certain artists and what would you do differently?
Now with your vocal toolbox in clear thought, how might you take a song you really quite dislike and turn it into a song you can call your own?
Send me an email, send me a recording and I'd love to hear how you change what you call a "simple and boring' song, into your creative masterpiece.