I've been taking vocal lessons for over 8-9 months. I started out as a novice and I'm beginning to develop ok resonance and balance. One of the problems I'm havingwith singing is energizing my voice. At times it can be dull and lack some emotion. It's a hit or miss for me and I have a very difficult time spotting when my voice is energized and when it's not. Thus, it's hard for me to replicate. My question is this: what are some cue's as a singer to know your voice is energized?
Good question. I can see that it's hard to articulate what you mean, but I still think it's a good thing to ask about and have answered.
I suppose a way of describing it might be that you'd like to sing a song, and sound like you mean it ?
"Project, dahlinggg" as the luvvies say. Its true though - sing at the person who's outside the venue having a cigarette. Make it so that they can hear it and join in (even if they can't really).
There's an element of making it sounds like you're 'trying a bit' too. One way of doing this is to sing songs where you have to reach a bit to get to a note. You don't want to strain yourself of course, but songs which are too low in your register might come across as a bit durgy. Transpose tunes upwards if necessary.
My experience with this has been that the drummer of my band writes prtty good songs, but he has 3 kids so when he recoreds his demo (usually late at night) he keeps the volume down. As a result when we come to play it with a full band, it's quiet because he's sung it at a level (pitch, and volume) which is confortable when singing quietly, listening through earphones etc. With a full band you have to project over the general hubbub and for most people that would involve raising the register a bit. Sometimes we've transposed up half an octave.
I guess there are lots of ways of delivering "energy" when singing - some about sound and some about timing or the way you pronounce words.
An example is John Lydon of the Sex Pistols: Have a listen to "Pretty Vacant" or "God Save the Queen" - there's not a lot of vocal technique going on, not even in tune some of the time, but there's a LOT of energy.
My point isn't that he's a great vocalist, it's that delivering a tune with gusto isn't (always) about vocal acrobatics. I think it derives from the timing of syllables (very 'on the beat') and in Lydon's case, a sneering attitude.
If you're doing a cover, maybe you shouldn't muck about with the timing of the lyrics, but it's something to pay attention to.
Listening to vocal performances by other singers will help you to develop your musicality. Listen to the ways in which other singers phrase melodic lines, articulate words, use dynamics, and so on.
In the meantime, aim for contrast of these same musical elements when you sing:
- use contrasts of dynamics. Ensure these contrasting dynamics can be easily discerned, by making your p sufficiently quiet and f sufficiently loud.
- use a range of articulation. Some words will suit short, bright articulation (staccato), others will suit a smooth articulation (legato).
- react to the lyrics. As the mood of the lyrics changes, try to express these changes in your vocal performance.
- be careful to use good diction; this will add vitality to your singing.
Aiming for greater contrast of these musical elements will help you to energise your vocal performances. As you gain a greater understanding of repertoire, through listening and performance, you will be able to move beyond mere "contrast", being able to use a range of dynamics, articulation and diction to perform pieces in a way that expresses your own musicality.
General hints for a general question:
- Listen to vocalists that have the energy that you want to have. Record yourself imitating them. Compare and change your vocals to match their vocals.
- Sing from the diaphragm, not from your chest or your throat.
- Learn to phrase. Listen to trumpet players and violinists and try to copy as in step 1.
- Record an argument from TV or wherever. Sing along with the argument and try to copy the phrasing and intonation as in step 1.
For more specific advice, add a link to a recording of yourself singing.
Create your own style by listening to other singers. I also had the same problem when I first started singing its all about the confidence. Keep on training and sing in front of people a lot that'll help you build up your confidence. Energy comes with confidence. The more your confident with you're singing voice the more outgoing and energetic you'll sound. Good luck with that
I definitely recommend listening to other singers and paying attention to what they do. Think of songs where you really think the singer expressed the emotion well, and really listen to the way they use their voice. Try to imagine what it is they're doing with their voice; visualize it. Then try doing some of those things with your own voice. Some techniques will probably come easier than others, but I encourage you to experiment and go outside of your comfort zone.
The other thing I'd recommend is recording yourself. You don't have to play the recording for anybody else, but it's a much easier way to hear yourself more like other people hear you. Some microphones don't pick up the timbre faithfully (for example, if you record into a laptop mic), but that's OK for this purpose. It can still be extremely useful to give you an idea of inflections, help you identify strengths and weaknesses that are hard to notice when you're singing. But when you hear them on the recording, it makes it easier to notice them next time you sing.
If you don't like the sound of your voice on a recording... try to ignore it; you sound a lot weirder to yourself than you do to other people. You can always delete the recording after you're done with it. I was very self-conscious the first few times I listened to a recording of myself, but once I got over it, I was able to get a lot out of it. Mostly it's been helpful in picking up weaknesses ("Oops, didn't realize how breathy I sounded during that part") and evaluating how things come across ("I think the tone I used during this verse was too harsh"), but there have also been times where I thought I was singing a part badly but it actually sounded fine ("My voice tends to crack a little there, but it fits with the emotion of the song").
To sum up... listen a lot to others, and listen a lot to yourself. The rest will come with practice.
I think a lot of this has been covered by other answers, but I'd like to reiterate a couple items, and add one that I think is very important:
Singing correctly has a lot to do with the "energy" in your voice. If you lack proper support and breathing, you're likely to have weaker tone than if you concentrate on the mechanics of singing:
- Support your diaphragm - having a weak mid-section often causes my vocals in particular to require more air and more effort in order to get a good tone. If I pay attention to controlling my diaphragm, I can often sustain longer and sing louder.
- Breathe deep - Make sure you have the breath to get the volume and sustain you need. Breathe with your diaphragm and your ribcage, rather than your shoulders and your sternum. Diaphragm goes down, ribcage goes forward, shoulds and sternum stay where they are.
- Proper total location - don't sing too much from the throat or too much from the nose. My choir director/vocal teacher used to describe it as a "buzz" in your face. For me, it always resonated around my eyes and cheekbones.
Ella Fitzgerald is quoted as saying "I just tried to do [with my voice] what I heard the horns in the band doing." (source) Phrasing can take a boring phrase and make it interesting. It can also make it impossible to sing along with, depending on the degree of syncopation. I've heard it said that jazz singers began to syncopate to prevent the audience from singing along with them (though I don't have a source for that).
Play with different ways of singing different words and phrases. I've found that my most interesting phrasing comes from spots in a song where I haven't written enough lyrics for the number of measures - or I've written too many. See what happens.
Here's the one big point I wanted to add to this thread: Believe in what you're singing. It's a lot easier to "get into" a song if you know the meaning, and can at the very least empathize with the author. It was for this reason that my choir director would often read through the translations of songs in Latin, Spanish, Portuguese... if we knew the meaning of a song, it was easier to empathize.
This can be tough. Believe me. Sometimes, I'm just not feeling it. Sometimes I literally don't believe in a song's lyrics (actually quite frequently, as an Atheist who is a fan of blues/gospel/spiritual music). But the ability to empathize is key.