Sunday, January 28, 2007

Vocal Performance: Messages

There's an ancient Chinese proverb that goes something like this:
"A songbird doesn't sing to be heard, it sings because it has a song." I translate that proverb into this observation- The most important part of vocal performance is... THE MESSAGE!!

Here is an interesting vocal exercise:

Next time you choose to generate sound waves with your vocal apparatus, (or write something for someone else to sing!!)- I challenge you to honestly ask yourself: What is my motivation(s) for using my voice? Check all soul-searching answer (or answers) that apply:

  • I'm trying to get someone to like me
  • I'm trying to impress someone with my talent
  • I'm trying to win a contest
  • I want to make a fortune- no matter what addiction, violence, hate or sexual misconduct I have to sanction with my music.
  • I want to be famous (worshipped)
  • I need to know I have a voice that is heard
  • I want to make a living with music I believe in
  • I'm looking for a musical rush- to feel the passion of my own voice
  • I'm singing as background vocalist for someone's recording project or live show and they are trusting me to give my best vocal efforts
  • I'm speaking my truth for anyone who will hear
  • I'm mad and want to expose something
  • I'm in love and want to sing about it
  • I want to entertain and make people happy (and it's really about them)
  • I want to make people think
  • I'm trying to share some insight on love/faith/justice/forgiveness/freedom/mercy/integrity/faithfulness/life/etc.
  • I have a song you need to hear!

Btw... the only right answer is a truthful answer :)

The first answers, as you can see, involve insecurity and nervousness centered around yourself. I'd be lying if I claimed I have never been nervous or vocally insecure (that's how I know what YOU are doing! hehehehe)

As for contests... I'll share my thoughts about them on a future post, but here's a clue: I would like a contest named something like"American Positive Role Model" to take the place of "American Idol". (Investors welcome!)

If you're like me, you have more than just one motivation. And if you, like me, make a living with music, you have to draw your own fine line between the business and the art of music. As for me...I sang jingles and background vocals exclusively for many years, and I found that I almost lost my love of making music until I began writing songs that meant something to me. I still do background vocals and jingles today, but I know I also have to regularly sink my teeth into a message my heart needs to communicate to keep the fires going.

The paradox is, the more you make your performance a useful message to your listener instead of all about you, the better your vocal technique tends to be. See previous posts about body language on this blog.

Here is a possibly uneasy fact to wrap your head around. When you use your voice, you are sending a message. That message may cause people to like or dislike you, buy or not buy your music, reject or dismiss you, or... change something in their life or mark a memory because of your vocal performance. Music is THAT powerful!

Every choir practice. Every songwriting session. Every casual jamfest. Every recording. Every show. Remember who you are. Remember what messages you want your audience to hear. Then your singing can be considered - dare I say - a holy art. Comments always welcome...

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