To become a better, more effective singer, you need to become a stronger communicator and become a more effective storyteller.
The challenge for many singers is a tendency to either mask feelings or hide the story of a song behind technical skills. In other words, they may get so caught up in showcasing some aspect of their vocal ability, or get caught up in the arrangement of a song or the killer vibe of their band, that the meaning behind the song gets lost or becomes compromised.
Story Helps Sell The Song
The greater your understanding of the story in each song, the more gratifying the experience will be for your audience, and the more effectively you can use your technique and interpretive skills to enhance, reinforce, and add color and texture to a song’s story.
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Listen + Learn
As you learn a song, think of it as a conversation you’ve overheard. Read it without the melody and look at what grabs you, intrigues you, or has you wondering what is going on.
Then, speak the song through as if you are sharing the song as your own personal experience. Keep speaking it until it begins to prompt specific images as the story of the song begins to come to life for you.
Triggers + Cues
Let your imagination play for a while as you consider different scenarios for what has triggered the story of the song. Play with these until you have a full, clear, picture that rings true and moves you. Let the story of the song move you to the point of feeling vulnerable. You want that private moment that is real to come to life inside of you.
Each song will have different stories to tell. Some will be dark and disturbing while others will be light and even comically engaging. Some stories will be embarrassing to tell but all the more gratifying for the audience because they know that feeling.
Bring It Home
Your most effective songs resonate beyond those amazing notes so impeccably on pitch. It is those chords of truth that resonate in the hearts of the audience that bring the song home and eventually make its singer-storyteller a household name and iTunes phenomenon.
Other Prep Steps
To get to know the story of your song you may read it aloud, or you can listen to different versions of it over and over to hear a variety of emotional spins on its story.
You might use it as a meditation at a specific location that is triggered in your imagination. You might find an actual physical spot on the beach, in the mountains, or in a motel room that serves as a place to visit and relive its story.
You may want to write the song out as a letter or paint it or sketch it to help it sink deeper into your heart and soul. The bottom line: you want the story of each song to come to life.
Flicks + Pics
Try seeing the story of your song as a short film or series of snapshots. Let this play through without the lyrics and without the music. Run it until it seems as real as a memory. Then, add the words and music as you see the story come to life.
You will find that as you sing, these visual elements of your story will then naturally impact inflection and phrasing, while providing a richer, more satisfying experience for you as a singer. The visuals of the story literally give a deeper meaning and greater focus to the song.
As your audience responds to the story behind each song, you will naturally feed off of their energy and responses. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Listen to the feedback you receive after your performances, and ask about what they related to in a specific song. Find out what images or feelings were triggered. You’ll be amazed by the diverse range of imagery and emotions.
Singing Is Storytelling
In musical theatre songs are used as plot points, twists and turns in the action of the story. They are also used to reveal the inner thoughts of a character, to release emotions, and to express motivation for actions the character may or may not take.
Scores + Soundtracks
By listening to soundtracks from musicals and taking a closer look at the songs, you will gain a greater understanding of the power that the song has as a storytelling element. You will also gain a greater appreciation for the relationship that is established between the performer and the audience through the song.
See + Hear Others
See and hear as many strong singer-storytellers as you can. Once a month, get out and listen to singer-songwriter showcases and open-mic nights. In many cases, the story behind the song is often shared. Make notes on what works or doesn’t work emotionally and vocally in conveying the story shared to introduce the song.
Also check out strong spoken word performers that use rhythm, music, and song to enhance the impact of the stories they tell. In addition, storytelling festivals often feature artists that share their stories through song.
By exposing yourself to these storytelling elements you will become a better communicator overall. Your interpretive skills and phrasing will naturally enhance the story in each song. Your rapport with your audience will also be strengthened as you get a better feel for how to interact and relate to your audience in between the songs you sing.
Feed The Forums
Use the forums at singingsuccess.tv to share your challenges and triumphs with storytelling. Look for subjects, historic incidents, and themes that have served as triggers or focal points for songs. Look at the variety of perspectives that songs can have on a specific theme just as witnesses to a crime may notice different details or may feel differently about the motives or the severity of the crime.
Brett’s Clip Tips
Storytelling can trigger powerful emotions for the singer. You don’t want to be so overcome by these feelings that it gets in the way of the story or muddies your performance so that it lessons or distorts its impact. For tips on mastering emotional elements when singing, check out Brett Manning’s video lesson here at singingsuccess.tv called “Singing With Substance.”
Storytelling + Singing Success
Trust yourself, your audience, and the story of each song you sing. Remember, the singer as storyteller represents specific points of view that are framed, filtered, and focused by thoughts and feelings beyond the notes, melodies, rhythms, and tempos. A successful singer moves the audience by making these points of view come alive in their hearts as a shared experience.
The more comfortable and confident you become in your storytelling, the more compelling will be the true story of your singing success.