Be Present, Not Perfect

Be Present, Not Perfect

To have your singing stand out from the crowd, you need to be as YOU as you can be –says Juliet Russell

One of my favourite ever recording moments is when Michael Jackson’s voice cracks on She’s Out of my Life.

What I love about it, is that it communicates everything about the heartbreak of that song.

(From 3.00 onwards and especially the last notes)

That phrase is the result of a singer completely responding to the lyrics and giving himself over to the moment.

We are hearing someone striving for emotional connection rather than perfection, and that’s what I’m interested in.

How many of us would have wanted to re-sing that line, treating it as a mistake?

Too Focussed on Perfection?

We are hearing someone striving for emotional connection rather than perfectionTechnique is important, but sometimes we work on it to such an extent that singing becomes an exercise.

We want to impress, rather than to connect. One of the functions of all art, singing included, is to communicate and to share our histories, experiences and aspirations.

As singers we can sometimes be too focused on perfection; it’s honesty, authenticity and emotional connection that often make the difference between a good performance and a great performance.

Alongside “nailing” the musical elements and technical challenges, I’d like your goal to be connecting to the feeling of the song, the emotion.

Sometimes emotion is raw and not “perfect”. It is expressive and real.

Learning to experiment and make braver choices can enhance your expressive choices and technique.

Try This

I’d like your goal to be connecting to the feeling of the song, the emotionChoose a short musical phrase – no words, just a vowel or sung consonant.

Experiment with singing it through a number of times, with a different emotion each time.

You are can change the vowel sound, but don’t add lyrics.

As a starting point, try the following:

1. Weary
2. Excited
3. Frustrated
4. Joyful

5. Then choose 3 more emotions of your own (or as many as you like!)

Listen to what happens to your voice when you sing with a specific emotion.

Write down any features that you notice with each emotion and compare e.g. what are the differences between a weary sound and an excited sound?

To stand out from the crowd, you need to be as YOU as you can beCan you hear how emotion influences technique, as much as technique can influence emotion?

How can you use this exercise and apply it to your own songs or covers?

To stand out from the crowd, you need to be as YOU as you can be.

Finding a way of emotionally connecting to your songs and communicating this to your audience is key.

If you are feeling it and openly expressing yourself, your audience will feel it too.

My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids

SaturdayMorningCartoon SaturdayMorningCartoon – “Sugar We’re Going Down” by Fall Out Boy (Cover)

I enjoyed the personality of the lead vocal.You’re engaged in the lyrics and express the narrative well. The female vocal is really nice when it joins in too. When you sing the chorus the second time around (at 2.00), there is so much more energy and brightness in the delivery, which is great. Earlier, the lead vocal gets flat in places, often at the end of lines so ensure you are using enough breath support. The lo-fi approach to the video has charm, but work on tightening up the musical elements. In terms of vocals that includes the blend of the harmonies especially in chorus 1. The vocal breakdown at 2.22 adds something interesting and the harmonies and responding vocal are much better here.

Khady Youm Khady Youm – “Heard It Through The Grape Vine” (Cover)

You have a very interesting and individual vocal sound. It’s the kind of voice that immediately makes your ears pay attention. Your pitching is good and you use your vibrato nicely too. When we get right to the end of the video, you do a little section from Take a Walk on the Wild Side, in which you look at the camera and are a bit cheeky. This is where I think we actually get a glimpse of the artist and your personality. Before then, you create a good sound, but I want way more emotional connection from you. You need to think about and feel what’s going on in the song; what the message is, what the emotion is. That’s the difference between having a really good sound and a being really good singer. You have stacks of potential. Get the emotion and the performance right and you’ll be flying.

Juliet Russell is a coach on BBC1’s The Voice, and has coached Grammy award winners, Brit nominees and X-factor finalists. She is passionate about developing artists and working with individuals and communities to develop their voices and creativity. As a performer she has sung with Damon Albarn, Paloma Faith, Imogen Heap, Yoko Ono, Alt-J, Seal and Ringo Starr, and has composed music for film, TV and radio. She runs Expressive Voice courses for singers wanting to explore their voices creatively, grounded in knowledge of vocal anatomy. Juliet holds a Masters degree in Music Performance and is also a vocal arranger and choral director.. | Twitter | Facebook | Peer Review