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Achieving Your Own Voice

Some singers simply “stand out” in a crowd. You can too -says Rachel Lebon.

How does a singer authentically become a performer who “stands out” and has impact rather than becoming “just another singer?”

Here are some suggestions…

When Singing Covers:

* Change the tempo or rhythmic feel (e.g., up-tempo to ballad or vice-versa). Altering the rhythmic groove can also add a fresh perspective to a lyric.

* Don’t overlook songs that were originally performed by a male if you’re a female or vice-versa. Also consider material from vocal groups.

* Use different instrumental background, or substitute solo instrumentation for heavy instrumental accompaniment to alter the mood and intensity.

* Highlight important words and phrases by incorporating melodic variation.

* Explore phrasing that keeps the lyrics fresh for you, yet sounds spontaneous to your listeners.

* Be on the constant lookout for obscure tunes and material that can be brought back to life with a new interpretation. Become a collector of tunes.

When Singing Originals:

* Affiliate yourself with songwriters as sources for original material that you bring to life with your interpretation. Both parties benefit from such an exchange.

* As a Singer/Songwriter, have your songs sung by another vocalist, furnishing insight into your own material.

* Don’t become intimidated by technical elements or distracted by them. Keep your chops in shape to convey a wide range of emotion and experience.

* Know the distinctive qualities of your voice and “sound,” using them to your advantage. A variety of timbres and dynamics facilitate a wider range of expression

Whenever You’re Singing…

When you’re learning a song, reduce it to its basic elements.

Evaluate the lyrics for special nuances in interpretation – examine the original melody (as written for standards) before listening to other artist’s renditions – this will lessen the inclination to imitate.

To avoid imitating, listen to a variety of vocalists in a variety of styles to broaden yourself and activate a flow of ideas.

Remember to keep asking yourself these important questions: which songs consistently receive heavy applause from audiences? Which songs or styles are associated with you as an artist?

Keep those answers in mind when recording or auditioning for a pivotal performance.

My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids

Billy O’Con – “Gone Without a Trace” (Original)

Billy, you have a distinctive, somewhat nasal vocal quality flavored by your Louisiana accent, which gives you a nice, individual sound. Also, your original tune is catchy, enhanced by effective guitar accompaniment that gives subtle but strong support. The recording studio would make the words more present. Sung live, listeners might lose some of the lyrics. Watch out for a lifted chin that introduces jaw tension that can effect enunciation and clarity. Consider highlighting certain words by the way you pronounce them and micro-phrase to underscore lyrics as a motivation for repeating them. Following your solo (nice!) you might consider a modulation in the final chorus for a build. Good Hold!

Andrea Godin – Alicia Keys Cover

You display great range, power and variety of vocal timbres. I get the sense that you could also present a classical aria or art song. It’s clear that you are well trained, well coordinated and your song well presented. However, I want you to go to the next level in your live performance. This has to do with overcoming some of the strictures of your tightly choreographed and rehearsed presentation. The vocal embellishments and inflections don’t sound spontaneous enough to underscore the emotion, and the choreography also appears more executed than motivated. Don’t feel that you have to deliver every movement and/or vocal inflection as planned, particularly if it parrots the recording. Give yourself the option to include something new, something different, personal, “in the moment” that suits the specific performance situation and audience. You have all the ingredients. Now focus on Andrea’s own individuality.

-Rachel L. Lebon, Phd

Rachel L. Lebon, Ph.D. has been a professional vocalist and studio singer in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Nashville and Miami. She was on the faculty at Belmont College and is currently at the University of Miami, has toured toured world-wide with “Tops in Blue” and on a State Department tour of the Soviet Union and Portugal. Rachel is the author of two published books and conducts lectures, symposia and adjudication worldwide on vocal pedagogy and voice disorders.

  • Tom

    Once again Rachel L. Lebon, Ph.D., your advice is to the point, and actively helpful. Thank you.