Successful Self-Accompaniment

Support your song to its best advantage –says Rachel Lebon

I’m really impressed when singers can accompany themselves in a way so that one no longer notices the instrument but can soar with the voice – today’s reviewed artists accomplished this.

This is no small feat.

How can self-accompanied artists achieve this? I am going to share my checklist for successful self-accompaniment.

Isolate the elements. This starts with practicing the instrumental accompaniment until it becomes second nature and incorporates nuanced dynamics and changes of texture. Accompaniment should complement the vocals, since pounding keyboards or hard -strumming guitars won’t underscore your song to best advantage. Avoid compromising comfortable keys for your voice to accommodate comfortable keys for accompanying, which can have an adverse effect on vocal projection and intelligibility as well as vocal endurance.

Practice the vocals a cappella. I encourage self-accompanists to recite the lyrics initially as a poem. Then, speak the lyrics rhythmically while mentally hearing the accompaniment, focusing on “buzzing” the lyrics and tweaking phrases. You should able to maintain a steady tempo comfortably and work with the natural rhythm, intonation and stress of the language. Then merge the language with the melody so that both communicate clearly to the audience. Ultimately, attitudes implied by your phrasing should sound spontaneous as opposed to pre-programmed.

Practice in “real time”. That is, practice in tempo throughout the tune, forging ahead if you hit a glitch, since you must do just that in performance anyway. At the polishing stage, “cold” single run-throughs throughout the day are more “real world,” since you only get one try in performance anyway.

Make audio recordings. Record your practice sessions so you can discern alterations in vocal quality and intelligibility while analyzing the impact of certain adjustments more objectively. Once comfortable, you can then video to evaluate facial expressions, movement and posture as well as the entire presentation. Finally, practice holding for a few seconds after the final note decays to maintain the mood for you and your audience.

Remember, successful self-accompaniment may look easy for some vocal artists.

But if you look behind the scenes, you’ll often see they’ve followed this checklist.

-Rachel Lebon

My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids

Kaitlyn Martin – “Worth It” (Original)

Hi Kaitlyn, you have written a very engaging original tune – nice vocals, guitar work and well done in playing to the camera. I like how you altered the accompaniment in different sections and utilized tempo changes and breaks. You might relax the tempo slightly so that the lyrics are easier to understand. I also suggest that you maintain suspension between phrase fragments (“Some may say….” ). Take a bit more time setting up the bridge and transitions and hold that final chord and your ending. You have a lot of potential as a singing artist – so keep striving toward your goals.

Luke James – “Animal” (Cover)

Luke, you have a powerful voice and good range. Nice staging of entrance and exit. Your guitar overpowers the vocals at times, particularly when you are singing in the lower range. Ensure that you use the wide range of dynamic levels and vocal qualities at your disposal. For example, “Hush, hush the world is quiet” is an obvious point to use a soft, intimate approach, and “Here we go again,” can crescendo into the BIG, final chorus. Also, let us see the sentiments you’re expressing in your eyes.

If you’re signed up to VoiceCouncil’s Peer-Review, you’ll be receiving unique coaching feedback from Rachel for the next 8 weeks. You can sign up now.

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

    Rachel L. Lebon, Ph.D. this is a brilliant article. You hit it right on the head. To understand the relevance of Dr. Lebon’s observations you need to have a number of “open mic” performances under your belt; then you will understand the wisdom of Rachel’s words.