So, I'm learning riff and runs and memorized major and minor scale. I happen to have a problem that my riff and runs are messy, so I followed this tutorial:

Which is linked to this tutorial:
Now I did hard onset (staccato) on each first and fourth note of the run (like what is instructed on the video) until the end of the run.

Now I hear my riff and runs and I'm amazed, thanks to the tutorial. It has become better and I think separated nicely. But I think I need to find an easier way to do it (I mean as to do it with less effort) because I feel like I need to do more effort this way in separating the notes making me tired, and when I sing loudly or do a few times anything, it then became messy again, this is my problem. May I ask, is there an easier way for a hard onset or I mean staccato so I can sing it loudly and clear and separated on a fast riff and runs? Any help is greatly appreciated.

1 Answer 1


First of all there is some really weird terminology going on. She is saying trill, but talking abouts turns for one thing. Similarly staccato is not about the softness of the vocal onset. It is a matter of note length. I can do an emphasized onset in legato singing, and I can also do staccato with a soft onset (though that one requires more control). Also melisma is not the technical term for vocal runs, it is a term for a way of distributing text to music. It simply means multiple notes belonging to the same syllable. This also does not implicitly mean it has to be legato. The technical term for a run is — well — run. Or if you want to act smart maybe a style of coloratura.

With that out of the way: Singing clean runs requires interplay and flexibility of two components:

Flexible voice

For being able to sing different pitches in a fast way your voice needs to be able to quickly change pitch. This gets harder when your voice is set up in a heavy manner, for there is more mass you need to adjust. But you need to be able to make that switch to a different pitch as fast as possible. Else you voice will slide: The pitch change will be during the note. This requires experience and practice: Try to sing scales an arpeggios slow and fully legato with no accents, and then try to speed up while keeping so.

Flexible diaphragma

Articulation comes from the diaphragma. Here you will decide if you sing legato or staccato. But also you’ll be able to add a tiny initial impulse to each note. This will not only help separating the notes, it will also help your voice in adjusting to the correct pitch and to some extent mask instabilities of the pitch. For this reason it is vital to train you voice to be able to sing runs without doing so. Here the key is control and precision. You need to be able to give the right amount at the right time. You can practice that on a comfortable pitch: Try to articulate fast rhythms with different but consistent strength and precise timing. Here you’ll probably also need to build up some stamina. But the key is not strength: You’ll only need a tiny impulse.

If you have these things down it is still necessary to integrate these things. Coordinate the pitch changes and the articulation. That stuff.

Finally: Fast runs are not easy. There is a reason why these are used to showcase ability.

  • Thank you so much! May I ask, what is the difference between normal pop/r&b riff and runs vs arabic riff and runs/melisma? Are they just sung like normal or is there a difference in riff and runs note pattern between two genres?
    – Whatssuppp
    Apr 15 at 5:25

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