Technical proficiency is definitely desired, but a singer can be a top-notch technician but not necessarily have a clue about the underlying feelings that drive the songs that they’re singing.
Generally speaking, technicians have a more analytical or intellectual understanding of something. They can hit the notes dead on, but may fall short in terms of phrasing and nuance. As a result they can come off as somewhat robotic because the warmth, passion, rage or sorrow is not being engaged to help color and heighten the technical skills.
The following is a very silly, fun, but easy to engage exercise. It can be used in part as a warm up. It can also be used to relieve stress or vent at the end of a trying day. It can also be practiced at the start of a day when you’re reluctant to take that first stagger or strut out the door.
The exercise is designed to help you release and apply feelings, sometimes appropriate and other times not so, to the point that it seems as if they came completely out of left field on another planet!
Your Top Five Songs
Start by pulling together a handful or two of songs that you like to sing. It doesn’t have to be anything too heady or heavy, unless that’s what you enjoy. The goal here is to begin with material that you know well and enjoy or even love.
Now here comes the wacky part. Use the following list of emotional phrases for this exercise. You can add to the list, if you wish. For this example, the emotion-driven phrases are: I’m scared to death, I’m so ticked off I’m fuming, I want to make love to you, I’m so happy I could fly on wings of joy, I think I have swine flu I feel so yucky, I want to sing this to the heavens because it’s deeply spiritual, and This is the saddest day of my life.
Feel Without Thinking
Now without thinking just snatch up the first song you get your hands on. Then, look at the first emotional phrase on the list – “I’m scared to death.” Get yourself in your freakiest fear mode and sing the song you grabbed first as if you are scared out of your wits.
Then, choose another phrase. Let’s say it’s “This is the saddest day of my life,” so you sing that same song as if it’s the end of the world. You can exaggerate and fake tears as you bellow your way through.
Once finished, choose one final emotional phrase. Let’s say it’s: “I want to make love to you.” So you sing the very same song one last time as a sultry, tempting, steamy, tease.
Sing It Straight
Now, after finishing the third emotional rendition, sing the song one more time all the way through as straight and natural as possible. Note how the song has textures and colors and a feel that goes deeper than usual, even when the emotions chosen for the exercise seemed so wrong for the song.
This exercise loosens up your emotional apparatus and lets you play with the feel and delivery of a song. It allows you to be silly, make mistakes, experiment, to “check out” in a way. Then, when you touch home again in the song, your journey brings a richer, wider array of warmed up feelings to the piece.
Oceans of Emotions
On another level this exercise gives you permission to explore emotions that otherwise may tend to get masked or held back because of self-consciousness or personal experience or thinking too much.
This gives you an opportunity to cry as hard as you want, laugh as loud as you can, and in the process rewire your emotional circuitry so that the power is available as needed for dimming, surging, and otherwise lighting up the heart of the listener.