You sing well, you make great sounds and you can put a song across.
Why do you look like a dead fish in the song intro?
Song performance techniques from a West End vocal coach
Most singers identify with melody, shape or lyrics, and many come alive when they are communicating through them. But the song intro and postlude are part of the song experience for the audience. Of course, the singer doesn’t sing during them.
It’s one of my pet hates in auditions: the pianist has started the song but the singer just isn’t present, and by the beginning of the postlude he’s already gone for a coffee. It demonstrates two things – no respect for the pianist, and no understanding of the song’s purpose, its atmosphere and when it begins and ends.
So here’s an exercise to help singers deal with the silent parts of a song intro:
- The first question to ask is: when does the song start? You might SAY when the first note of the intro starts (or even before) but do you DO it?
Ask the pianist to play (or listen to a performance track of) only the song intro and the interludes (the gaps where you don’t sing). What emotions does each unsung piece of music create? Is it what you expect or does it undercut the first line of the lyrics?
You might like to add some words or descriptive phrases, or just give yourself a colour, a mood or a shape to focus on before you sing.
- In the Vocal Process Webinar on Exams, Auditions and Competitions we introduced the ’Answers on a Postcard’ technique to help you find your way immediately into the song. Use it here to identify the mood, emotion and feel of the intro.
- Think of your eye line. Do you want to make eye contact which the audience at all? If so, when? When the pianist starts the song intro, when you start singing, or later on a meaningful phrase?
- If you don’t want to eyeball the audience (if it’s not in the character’s best interests), decide whether you’re going to use your chosen focus point before you sing or when you sing. If the latter, where are you going to focus as a pre-singing point? And why?
- Making the introduction (and the interludes) work without speaking or singing forces you to think through what happens to the character when they don’t sing. It also helps you understand AND memorise song entries and structure.
Find the thought at the beginning of the song intro, and hold the thought (and your energy and focus) until after all the music has ended. It really helps you and your audience process the emotions of the song, and lets them get the maximum out of your performance.
And that’s pretty useful!