Tips For Song Mastery
this article Im going to discuss the phonetic system I
use to help me learn new songs and master those that I already
Ill hear someone tell me, "You sound just like so-and-so."
Of course, my natural voice has something to do with it, but
a lot of it has to do with the fact that Ive studied the
singing style of the original artist and practiced repeatedly.
So lets begin!
begin by dissecting the song, syllable by syllable. Ive
stressed before the importance of having the lyrics of the song
in front of you while practicing, and it helps tremendously
if the lyrics are in a word processor where you can modify the
words as you see fit. Examples of how I do this follow.
Variations: The on-screen lyrics might display the word
"doing", but how does the original artist pronounce
it? For example, does it sound like "do-en", "do-in,"
or "do-ing"? Ive found that oftentimes the word
"to" is often pronounced more like "ta",
and "you" sounds more like "ya". The word
"motion" may be pronounced "mo-shun," "mo-shin,"
or even "mo-shen". More examples include: "lover"
vs. "lovah", and "thee" vs. "the".
These slight variations in vowel pronunciations put icing on
the cake on how closely you match the song to the original.
Of course, you can always add your own style, but I find it
challenging and fun to try to imitate the original artist as
close as I can. The following are other subtleties that I consider
when analyzing the song.
Effects: Do certain syllables sound more raspy, guttural,
or breathy than the others? If so, I make a side note to myself
next to the word on my lyric sheet. To do these effects, practice
singing words with your tongue in different locations, or changing
the shape of your mouth while singing. If you have difficulty
producing the right effect, consider whether or not there are
emotions associated to the words. Meaning, if you can sing with
emotion behind the words (even if youre just pretending),
this can often help you get the special effect you desire. Try
to create a mental scenario of what the song is about. Is the
singer signing with feelings of sadness, surprise, anger, or
excitement? You can pretend you are "telling a story"
to the audience, sharing a personal experience, or whatever
the song may be about.
Words: Which words of your song mesh together? I find it
extremely helpful if I change my lyric sheets to reflect this.
For example, I might change the words "what you need"
to "wutchaneed." If there is more of a pause in between
the words, I might in extra spaces in between the words or separate
them with a comma, depending on how long the pause is.
Length: Pay special attention to the length of each syllable.
However, dont just consider the vowels. Ive found
that almost every consonant can also be "stretched out,"
either at the beginning of the syllable or at the end. Place
special emphasis on the consonants where appropriate. I have
found that the most common consonants that I hear length variations
are on "Ss" and "Ts". "Ss"
can be sung with more of a hissing sound (or a lisp), and "Ts"
can sometimes be pronounced very distinctly or even barely heard
Check for the volume of each syllable being sung. It might vary
from a whisper to more of a shout. The syllable may start off
quiet and progressively get louder or vice versa.
Some syllables dont always maintain the same pitch. This
topic is quite broad for this article, but Ill give a
few examples. Some syllables can start off in one pitch and
slightly rise up or down, or it can be even more drastic, putting
you into falsetto. On my lyric sheet, Ill draw a curvy
line above the syllable to designate how the pitch goes. If
the last word in the lyrical sentence goes up in pitch, it helps
if I pretend the sentence is really a question. This way, my
voice will raise in pitch automatically.
get the little twists and turns in your song documented, you
can listen to the original and read along when practicing. This
way, when youre on stage youll find that the on-screen
lyrics dont mean a whole lot anymore. Your brain will
replace the words seen with what you practiced with on your
customized lyric sheet! All these little distinctions can make
quite a difference in your performance. And, as always, have
with the kind permission of
Richard Baisner a.k.a.