6 Ways to Sing With More Emotion, Feeling and Expression in Performance

I have found over 3 decades of coaching some of the world’s greatest voices and being one of the world’s top vocal coaches, that it never fails to start with a great vocal technique. Vocal technique is the foundation upon which you layer everything else. When you build a solid vocal technique, the voice becomes stronger and can facilitate more expression – and you can sing with more emotion. When your voice is not strong, it’s hard to sing with more emotion or it will break and crack under the additional volume. To sing with emotion and no technique only results in an unstable sound or a voice that catches and cracks under the pressure. Your voice needs to be strong in order to sing with more emotion.

Great singing does both. Great technique and great emotion. In this case the singer is juggling two balls in the air. One is technique, and the other is emotion. Both balls have to be in the air to sound your best. But it’s not so easily accomplished. Because, when you focus too much on technique, the emotion suffers. When you focus too much on emotion, vocal technique (and pitch) falls flat. The goal is balance, but how?

6 Techniques to Sing With More Emotion and Expression

1. Marking.

Marking is a technique for rehearsing your songs in a light voice. It is a powerful technique that trains the voice to accurately execute the intervals of the melody line and find the center of pitch without strain. It also improves tone by improving the way the voice makes sound. When you rehearse a song this way, you will perform with better pitch and better execution overall. When a singer only rehearses at a louder volume that they usually perform with, it can easily program the wrong notes and vocal production into the voice’s muscle memory. This reinforces the wrong techniques and increases the likelihood of singing off pitch.

How to Mark: Sing through the song lightly but with a focused sound. A focused sound means a clear sound that is not breathy or pushed. Another way to explain this technique is to sing “small but clear”. If you can’t sing the notes small at first, don’t be discouraged, this is not uncommon. The voice has to learn how to sing this way by practicing it over and over. During your practice try to be as accurate pitch wise as you can. Use your ear to match the pitch and don’t worry about the quality of your sound until you can execute the pitch perfectly. Then try to get a good small and clear sound. You may switch early into head or falsetto, don’t be distracted by that. Just continue to execute perfect pitch.

2. Matrixing Pitch & Perfecting Execution.

This technique programs the notes of your melody into your neuron muscle memory and strengthens the singers’ ear and pitch. Particularly useful for preparing material for a performance and the recording studio. *Matrix = means that within which, or within and from which, something originates, takes form, or develops. Matrix* the melody by finding the corresponding notes on the keys of the piano. You don’t have to play the piano in order to do this. Spending the time to find the actual notes will show you the roadmap of your melody in a visual manner, further impressing it in your mind’s eye.

Note: If you read sheet music you can refer to it, if not, you can make your own sheet music or write the notes or patterns (up/down) of your melody over the corresponding words on your lyric sheet.

Sing on “ah” as you play the corresponding notes on the keys of the piano or sing the notes of the song (you can also use a different vowel-like “ee” or “oh” if that’s easier). As you sing pay close attention to executing the exact notes. Try not to slide into your notes, but hit them square on the nose.

As you practice this, pay attention to the distance between the notes. Notice how far apart or close they are. You might have some revelations realizing a note is closer than you thought, or higher or lower. If the note you usually struggle with is the same note you sing earlier in the song in another spot identify how easy it is to sing the note there, but how hard the note feels later. Try to bring the same approach to the note you have in the earlier part of the song to the trouble spot. Identifying where the notes are helps carve your roadmap. Go slowly and focus on hitting the bulls-eye of each note, but not at a loud volume. You’ll notice when you try to sing pitches more accurately you’ll have a tendency to sing louder. Try to avoid this. Go over and over the notes that you consistently hit “off pitch” until you can execute them well. Another trick is to connect a note you are struggling with to the note before. In other words, learn to “link” the “off pitch” note to the note in front of it. Make an exercise out of the tough spots in your song.

3. Putting More Soul & Emotion in Your Voice.

This process develops a stronger sense of rhythm which leads to more emotion. It develops a singer’s soulfulness and makes the song ‘feel good’.

  • Tap out the beat of the song with your foot. 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 . Focus on centering the beat perfectly. Do not tap early or late. Get in sync with the rhythm. This seems to be easy, but rarely is. Most people’s sense of rhythm is either early or late.
  • Sing the song and clap your hands together for each syllable, every word and note. Be sure to be EXACT. Do not miss anything. Notice where you are off and go over it until it is right.
  • Combine step one and two. Be exact and work over trouble spots by slowing the rhythm down until you can get up to speed without losing the rhythm.

4. Placing Emphasis on the Right Word or Syllable.

Emphasis on the right word or syllable is everything. Speak the lines below putting an emphasis on only one word in the phrase. Repeat the phrase again putting the emphasis on another word. How does it sound? Notice the different words being emphasized brings a different emotional feeling to the line.

Try the sequence below speaking slowly changing what word you emphasize following the yellow highlight:

Imagine if you could fly
Imagine if you could fly
Imagine if you could fly
Imagine if you could fly
Imagine if you could fly

Repeat each line noticing the different meaning each accented word brings.

Also, try putting the breath in different parts of the phrase.

Imagine (breath), if you could fly
Imagine if (breath), you could fly
Imagine if you (breath), could fly
Imagine if you could (breath), fly
Imagine if you could fly

Again notice the difference in the meaning and the way the phrase falls. This process is particularly helpful when you have a chorus that has the same lyric line over and over. I wouldn’t do it in the order above – but use the exercise to find ways to keep repeated phrases from sounding monotonous.

5. Make it Yours.

Every singer has their own unique way of expressing – their own way of interpreting a song. A lot of people run into difficulty here because they don’t know how to change up a phrase and make it their own. It is easier to “copy” someone else’s phrasing and expression seeming like the “safer” route. However, learning to improvise and bring your own interpretation to a cover is what makes you stand out. Doing it your way is what gives singers recognition and their own style.

But how? My biggest advice is to go in the direction your voice wants to go. Don’t force notes that are unnatural. Start with finding the right key for YOUR VOICE. A half step up or down makes all the difference. If the song has lots of riffs, and you are not a riff-er take them out. If the song has no riffs, and you like to riff, try adding some. If the song is fast, try slowing it down to make it more acoustic and ballad-like which will make you sing it differently. How does your voice want to sing the song? Experiment, record, and listen back. Sculpt your song. At our company we have several vocal arrangers that help artist sculpt their vocal for their recordings, and we do workshops throughout the year to demonstrate this. We pick spotlight artists to redo their arrangements “live” on camera. It’s pretty cool. Get on our list to be notified at caricole.com, or join our community by texting “ccvm” to #917-732-7163.

6. Monologue Your Lyrics.

A technique or trick to deepening your emotional connection to the song is to speak the lyric out loud like an actor doing a monologue. Speak slowly reflecting on each phrase before saying it. Make sure you mean what you are saying. That means asking yourself, “what would I feel to say that phrase?” Then feel it and speak the phrase. Your goal is to get each phrase coming from you with more conviction and authenticity. Questions to ask are:

  • What is the song saying?
  • What emotions are present in the song?
  • Envision a scenario that just happened that the lyric is a natural reaction to.
  • How would you have to feel to sing this lyric.

When you monologue, be sure to speak the lyric aloud, very slowly, emphatically, in front of a mirror until you are convinced that what you are saying is real. Then sing the song from that place. You’ll find your song has more meaning for yourself and this approach will greatly enhance your emotional delivery.

To take a deeper dive into this, get a copy of my Ebook Vocal Resource Library where we take a deeper dive into “Mastering a Song” along with the latest vocal breakthroughs, remedies + vocal techniques all included in this 38 page Ebook. Click below to get an automatic download sent via email.

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