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Singing Without Crutches

Ensure your own accompaniment does not dominate your voice – says Niels Nørgaard of Basix

I have always envied artists who effortlessly sing to their own accompaniment.

I play the piano myself, and I sing in Basix, but I rarely both sing and play at the same time.

I really love it, though, when I hear the symbiosis between a singer and her/his (non-vocal) instrument.

That is, I love it when the accompaniment lifts the song to a higher level without dominating the performance.

One of my favorite singers is Rufus Wainwright whose voice and piano playing work together to create a perfect, unique and very moving musical expression.

The Challenge of Self-Accompaniment

If you are too dependent on your guitar/piano when you sing, it might become a crutch that takes away the focus of the song.

It can create a barrier between you and the audience you want to captivate.

Or, if you are very concentrated on playing the piano, you might forget focusing on the phrasing of the song, or you might lose track of the story you are telling.

I would rather listen to a moving vocal performance accompanied by simple chords than a fragmentary and unfocused one, dominated by an elaborate score.

Try This

If you always sing to your own accompaniment it might be a good challenge to try singing and letting somebody else play.

Or, you might want to be even more daring: sing your song a cappella in front of a mirror, or for some listeners.

I think this would bring a new perspective to your performance and, for a while, make you focus a 100% on telling your story.

-Niels Nørgaard of Basix

My Reactions to this Week’s Peer Review Vids

Louie Ongpauco – Your Body’s a Wonderland (Cover)

What a great, feel-good performance. In Danish we would say you have “breath on your voice”, and it sounds great. I also love the smooth sound when you harmonize with yourself. When you use that “airy” approach to your voice there is a danger that you ”lose” some of the notes and their tuning. I hear that on some of the low notes in the beginning of your performance as well as in the “ba-da-da” part at 2:05-2:14. Focus on supporting these notes to keep them from slipping away – as John Mayer achieves. Thanks for a great version of the song!

Jehn Cerron – Feel Happy? (Original)

You have a very beautiful, crystal clear and natural voice, Jehn, and the fast vibrato adds a moving frailty to it. And I love the way you use your beautiful high range. Sometimes it sounds like your focus on playing the piano is disturbing your interpretation of the song a bit. An example is the line ”always you know even with this I’ll be there” (sorry if I got the lyrics wrong): The onset is a little weak and I miss some intention to carry me through that long phrase. Maybe clearer pronunciation of the lyrics at the beginning and a more emphasized conclusion of the phrase would make a stronger expression? Also see my ideas above for strengthening your vocal presentation. Thanks for a beautiful performance!

– Niels Nørgaard of Basix

See VoiceCouncil’s Exclusive Interview with Basix

With a grand total of 4 international CARA awards, including “Best European Album” and “Best Holiday Album” the Danish vocal pop group Basix has proven themselves to be among the very best of a cappella groups worldwide. Follow the group on www.basix.dk or www.facebook.com/basix

Basix will be giving feedback for 5 more weeks on our Peer Review videos – sign up to get their latest words here.