Learning Your Song: The Essentials

Learning Your Song - The Essentials
Giving your song more soul is possible – says Jeannie Deva

You might think the steps of learning a song obvious: learn the words; learn the melody.

Singers who succeed find that there is actually more to it than this.

By following the 11 steps below, I think you’ll discover a more powerful connection to your music – and a more powerful performance.

1. Map the Song Form – Type out the lyrics and label each section (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) so you can see the entire song arrangement. This gives you the outline needed to quickly learn it.

2. Establish the Best Key. Make sure that the melody note you start on permits you to sing the lowest and highest notes comfortably. Put your best foot forward and choose a key for which you can sing the entire melody range with ease while also sounding appropriate for the style and mood.

3. Learn the Melody. With this step you will isolate the melody and work on your song until you have gained complete familiarity. There is a wonderful result achieved when you practice the melody separately from the lyrics. You can use an “oow” or “ah” or any single vowel of your choice.

4. Learn the Lyrics. Define any words you don’t know by using a dictionary. Develop a personal interpretation of what you’re saying with them – which also helps you remember the order of the lyrics, verse to verse.Put your best foot forward and choose a key

5. Map the Lyrics With Your Mouth: Learn them by saying, as well as singing. Do this repetitively with and without musical accompaniment.

6. Resolve Any Pitch or Range Difficulties. Consonants can cause muscle tension in the tongue which will adversely affect the functioning of your voice. Isolate the vowel sound (not vowel name, but vowel sound) for the notes and phrase or word giving you the problem.

7. Learn All Important Rhythmic and Musical Cues. For every phrase know how many beats you have to wait and on what beat you begin. With enough practice you will end up “feeling” your entrance and coming in on time. If not, you can always simply count the beats to come in correctly.

8. Lock Into the Rhythm. Thinking the vowel sound as part of the melody note (not the consonant) will improve your rhythmic accuracy. The consonants are NOT your voice. Remember, your melody notes are created by the vowel sounds of your voice.

9. Develop Your Phrasing. Phrasing is the way you rhythmicize the words in each sentence of your song. Your phrasing should have a similarity to the way you might speak the words to someone in a conversation. Style and phrasing are intimately entwined. This in turn, is intimately connected to your interpretation of the song. Singing with meaning as if you are singing to someone really helps!

10. Phrasing and Breathing. Each complete thought that you sing should flow without a mechanical interruption such as taking a breath. Prior to those sections, you would simply plan on taking a breath so you don’t interrupt the phrase.

11. Determine Dynamics. Staying at one volume without change can tend to make a song boring, emotionally monotone, less believable and so less communicative. Explore the emotions inherent in the music as well as the emotional variations within the lyrics. From there you can develop your sense of dynamics for each song you sing.

-adapted from Jeannie Deva’s book, “A Singer’s Guide to Powerful Performances”.


Jeannie Deva

Jeannie Deva is the Celebrity Voice and Performance Coach seen on E! Entertainment and TV Guide Channels as well as many other television and radio talk shows. Jeannie is author of the internationally acclaimed Contemporary Vocalist book and CD series, as well as The Deva Method Vocal Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs CD. Past and present clients include Grammy Award Winners, American Idol finalists, members of the J. Geils Band, Foghat, Felecia Howse of Bone Thugs n’ Harmony, Lynda Carter, Broadway leads in Fame, Color Purple, Lion King and Wicked, singers for Sting, Stevie Wonder, Pink, Celine Dion, Joss Stone, Christina Aguilera. Jeannie’s private studio is located in Los Angeles. She teaches in house and internationally via Internet web cam.

Website | Facebook | YouTube | Purchase Her Book


  • KowBoy Tom

    Jeannie, Excellent article, thank you. “Phrasing is the way you rhythmicize the words in each sentence of your song.” Pow! You hit it right on the head with this.

    -KowBoy Tom

  • guest

    there should be an option to view a printer-friendly version. microsoft word, here i come

  • Vip6356

    Select copy paste worked for me.

  • Cher22

     Excellent.  I use her Deva Method for Vocal Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs before every performance.  She shares very valuable information for the singer and I look forward to her new book.