The Tool To Sharpen Your Interpretive Skills

Far too often singers will get so hung up on vocal histrionics or showcasing their technique that they neglect to touch the heart of an audience through their interpretive skills.

For example, if you have a six-octave range, that’s very impressive. But what’s even more impressive is using that range to properly support and color each nuance, emotion, and movement in the story or message of the song you’re singing.

Message + Story

In order to ensure the message is clearly delivered and the story properly told, you must connect with the audience by sharing your full understanding of the song’s message and story.

The following is a simple but extremely powerful exercise to help you make a personal connection with each song. Through this connection you will find deeper meaning, as well as a song’s subtleties and nuances that might otherwise go unnoticed. Though the exercise sounds tedious, you will discover colors, textures, and feelings that will translate into opportunities to strengthen interpretive skills that can then be strategically enhanced by technique.

Know The Notes By The Letter

This exercise can be applied to every single song you will ever sing. It is an exercise that invites you to make a unique, personal connection to the song. The exercise is simply referred to as: by the letter. To get acquainted with this exercise, choose three songs you know well and have performed countless times.

Notes Of Many Colors

To get started, you will need colored pencils, multicolored pens or sharpies, or, for the very brave, crayons. You want a variety of different colored writing tools. You also want to have several different colored sheets, types, and/or textures of paper.

You might choose a white sheet of copy paper and two different pastel sheets. You might pick three different sizes of paper such as a lined index card, a blank thank you greeting card, and a piece of loose leaf paper. For the really industrious, you might choose a paper bag, a napkin, and a coffee filter. The objective is to choose three decidedly different pieces of paper, with each being appropriate for one of your three songs.

To Whom You Choose To Move

Obviously, you’re about to write the song as if it is a letter. But it’s not just some letter being blindly sent to a random recipient. You must have a specific person in mind to receive the message or hear the story of each song. So, before you do anything else, decide who will receive each of the songs.

Shift Shades As Desired

Now, start with your first song by choosing the appropriate piece of paper and the color in which the song is to be written. You don’t have to intellectualize or over-think the choice of color. You can simply grab the colored pencil, pen, or crayon that you feel will appeal to the recipient or grab their attention.

However, as you write, you can change colors for emphasis, or to represent any decidedly clear shifts in feelings or perspectives in the story the song is telling or in the message the song conveys.

Handwritten On The Walls Of The Heart

Each song is a handwritten letter. There will be no electronic intervention or technological deviation here. You can print it if you wish, but it must be printed by hand. Each of the letters you write is an extension of the song that’s written in your heart.

The writing process serves as a labor of love, an expression of thoughts with feeling, and is a personal message that has been strictly reserved by you for the recipient only. No one is looking over your shoulder and no audience is eavesdropping on what the recipient receives.

Stretch + Shake

After you finish each letter, take a few moments, shake out your hands, stretch your fingers, and then move on to the next piece of correspondence. Once all three letters are finished, give it a rest. Then, pick up each letter one by one, and read it out loud, as if you are its intended receiver.


After reading through the letter aloud, reread it silently as you make brief notes on the things that stir feelings, beg questions, and make you want to respond. You can grab a highlighter or use a different colored writing tool to underscore anything that has struck a chord in you or has prompted a question.

Personal Points Of Connection

This exercise gives you a personal point of reference and contact upon which to refine your interpretive spin on the song. The physical act of handwriting gives you a tactile point of connection. The colors and different textures give you a visual point of connection. Reading the letter aloud gives you an auditory point of connection.

Feelings, reactions, questions – all that you noted as being prompted by each of these points of connection serve as indicators of how your audience can be moved.


Whenever you’re stuck on gaining a full understanding of a song, use this exercise. You can engage this exercise with fellow singers and share your findings to further define and refine those interpretive skills that will make your performance personally resonate deeply in the heart of your audience.

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