The Word is the Thing.

When it comes to singing what do William Shakespeare and Frank Sinatra have in common?

Week 5 of my time as Vocal Coach in Residence, and this week I’d like to focus on THE WORD.

Specifically: the sung word(s) in the performances in this week’s Peer Review videos by Sophie Love and Will Spears.

“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.”
-William Shakespeare

Instead of offering separate video reviews I’m going to depart from my usual review format because I have virtually identical things to say about both videos…

My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Reviews

Two young singer/songwriters with original songs. Both performing words that (I assume) they know well.

Good developing voices, good developing guitar skills, good developing performance skills.

Good things happening—but one fundamental issue holding the performances back: I simply cannot understand what you are singing about.

I don’t understand most of your words, and when I do understand the words, I don’t feel like I grasp the meaning of what you are trying to say.

“Throughout my career, if I have done anything, I have paid attention to every note and every word I sing – if I respect the song. If I cannot project this to a listener, I fail.”
-Frank Sinatra

For All Singers: Enunciate

I assume that in writing original songs that you have a message, some important idea, you want to communicate.

You have already taken the time and effort to write both lyrics and music to convey your message.

Now, your performance must speak that message.

At the very least we have to understand every word you sing. Mumbled or mispronounced words just will not do.

Don’t Be Afraid to Sing Like You Talk

When you are close to a song, familiar with it, you may not realize that you are not enunciating the words clearly.

Find an outside ear – someone who has not heard the song – ask them to listen, and possibly to transcribe what they hear. Can they understand you? If not, find a way to fix that.

Don’t be afraid to sing like you talk.

Sophie, you have a different regional accent than I, so I’ll chalk up some of the difficulty in understanding to that.

When you talk at the beginning of your video, however, I have no trouble understanding you. When you sing you should be just as clear!

Will, your singing does not sound like Kansas City, or any region I know of in the central United States.

I assume you are singing after the manner of singers you admire; in doing so you are warping your vowels so much that I cannot tell what you are singing most of the time. It doesn’t sound like English!

If you pronounce a word differently while singing than you would while speaking, you’d better have a very good reason for it.

An Exercise

Try just speaking your lyrics, in your normal conversational voice. Are you pronouncing words differently? Are you enunciating differently? Is it possible to sing more like the way that you speak?

“Speak clearly, if you speak at all.”
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

Sophie and Will, you have good talents; be sure that your talent is being used for something. In this case to tell the story you want to tell with your song.

Next week: the other half of UNDERSTANDING

-Mister Tim

See Mister Tim’s Exclusive Interview for VoiceCouncil Magazine

Mister Tim is the mastermind behind more than a dozen award-winning a cappella groups, including 2010 Harmony Sweepstakes champions Plumbers of Rome, internet sensations moosebutter, beatbox quartet Mouth Beats, and all-original vocal bands VoxBom and THROAT. He is a published composer and arranger, a dedicated teacher, and a solo artist, most recently with his solo vocal live looping show “Vocal Magic.” He was a headline performer in the Las Vegas Strip production of “Toxic Audio,” is in demand for speciality corporate music projects, and is an active educator, coach, and clinician.

  • Devavoicestudios

    Excellent advise, beautifully communicated! Warm Regards to you Mister Tim! Jeannie Deva