Whether you’re learning new material or looking for a way to breathe new life into a favorite song or a well recognized standard, a change of scenery may be just the thing you need for a fresh perspective, some finer tuning, or a shift in focus.
Take a look at some of the pieces you need to learn or further explore interpretively. Think about locations the songs suggest. Then find some place near you that you can travel to that has physical elements of the suggested location for the songs. You want this to be a place where you won’t be too self-conscious about singing the songs or speaking the lyrics out loud. You want to feel free to roam with your vocal range as you create a sense memory of time and place for the story of each song.
Two or More to Gather
Have up to two or three songs selected that you feel will work with the space you’re visiting. You want these songs to feel at home in some way in the space. Maybe you have a song about a desire to get away from it all. So, your chosen space might be a rooftop or a clearing in the woods. It might be an open field or a parking lot. Look for a space that suggests freedom while tying directly to a sense of story, place, and space in your song.
You will engage in singing, speaking, and playing with these two songs in the free, outdoor space of your choice. But you’ll also be creating a sense of connection with the location. You want to have a sense memory to recall when you sing this song on stage, in the studio, or at rehearsal.
Walk It -Work It
Once you arrive at the location you’ve chosen, go for a walk. Hum or silently sing the song as you survey the space. You can then begin to speak the lyrics conversationally through the verses; and then, sing the chorus as you begin to find spots in the space where you feel a connection.
You then walk quickly or jog while singing or speaking. Or you can stand still and enjoy the view, the choice is yours. The goal is to connect the song with the environment until you find a spot that feels right for the song.
Feels Like Home
Once you find the place that feels like home for the song, sing it through one time at that spot. Then, speak it through and note specific places in the environment that reinforce the lyric or trigger a potential memory to create for the lyric. As you find locations that trigger specific memories that can serve as markers, speak that part of the lyric that is related to what you see. Then, sing the song to reinforce the visual marker.
Keep building specific markers and memories for the lyrics until you feel the song is complete. Then, sing the song all the way through. Speak the song once more, noting the visual markers and memories triggered. Then, go for a walk, recalling the visual markers and memories as you begin to hum or silently sing or speak the song through.
Find places in your space that feels like home for any other songs you have with you. And work through the process for each song that you’ve brought to this space. In some cases, you may want to find additional locations to travel to where you can create other points of reference in a song.
Three Times Over
Next, sing your songs as you go for one last walk at your location. Sing them repeatedly, going from one to another, or sing the one song you’ve brought. You want to keep singing over and over until it becomes second nature as if it were a stream of unconscious thoughts. Keep walking and singing until you have completed singing the piece or pieces at least three times.
Upbeat to Downcast
Now engage each song as a persuasive speech. You deliver the song the first time as something upbeat and playful as you smile or laugh your way through. Even if the song is naturally a sad song, you want to make it uplifting and an effort to cheer up others. You can run, jog, skip, or dance your way through this lighthearted rendering. Once you finish your upbeat version of your song or song set, rework the songs as a sad tale you speak. Let the sorrowful story become a mournful cry as you sadly sing a circle around your chosen space.
One Last Call
Go back to the spots that feel like home for each song and simply sing one last time as if you were on stage at your favorite venue. Make note of any imagery that will serve as significant markers and triggers for helping you convey a sense of time and place for each song. Again, if other markers are needed, you can choose an additional location to visit.
Play for Payoff
This exercise helps to boost confidence, provides specific imagery, helps explore nuance and related interpretive skills, and gives you a great vocal workout. It helps to strengthen concentration, focus, and memory. It keeps your imagination and inspiration both healthy and available.
By making sensory connections between the songs you sing and actual physical locations, you’ll stimulate muscles you use to sing and boost creative thinking. You’ll also become more aware of the role that sense memory plays in effective story-telling and in enhancing your performance.
Dare to Share
Share your sense memory experiences with others in our forums. Talk about the impact that making these connections has on growing your confidence and comfort levels as a singer, singer-songwriter, or singing musician. Note what this exercise does to stimulate new ideas and to help with choosing material.
Finally, never forget that the ultimate sense memory experience is an ongoing open invitation to claim the space that ultimately defines your singing success.