3 Essentials for Delivering a Great Vocal Performance (part 2)

This is the second of three blog posts outlining my SeedsConf workshop on vocal performance.

In part 1 we discussed preparation.

In part 2 we will focus on AIR. Delivering a sincere, passionate vocal performance is impossible if you don’t know how to use your lungs properly. Lack of air causes pitch problems as well, so this is something singers need to pay close attention to. Along with your weekly vocal stretching, I suggest adding some lung capacity exercises to your routine. Spend some time doing intervals of deep breathing. Practice holding a pitch for an extended period of time while holding a tuner. Get out and run or do something aerobic. The more air you can store in your lungs the more controlled and compelling a performance you’ll be able to deliver.

POSTURE is tantamount to getting the most out of your bank of air. I want you to think of the passageway between your lungs and your lips as a garden hose. When the hose is kinked, the water is restricted. Unkink the hose and the water flows freely. It’s a natural reaction to go for a high note by lifting your head up. But this action is counterproductive, causing you to “kink the hose”. Go ahead and try it - sing a high note with your head up, then again with your face forward. I’ll wait...

Notice a difference? Try it again, this time singing a scale as you slowly tilt your head upward. Can you feel the air beginning to wane? Now try it again with your face forward and your chin dipped slightly. Again, I’ll wait...

Standing up straight (your mom was right!) and staying relaxed will help you use your air more efficiently as well.

PITCH will make or break your performance. And great pitch is directly linked to the amount of air you are expelling during the song. A performance coach and mentor of mine once told me, “I better see you lying on the floor bleeding from your throat before I hear you singing a flat note.” He wasn’t kidding. If during a rehearsal he heard me begin to give up on a note he would charge onto the stage and scream, “PUSH!!!!”. He wasn’t literally asking me to blow a hole through my throat, he was wanting me to push every ounce of air I had in support of that note.

His concept of “singing on the breath” may be the most influential vocal tip I’ve ever heard. Think of the words and notes that you are singing as riding on a magic carpet of air, gliding from your chest and out through your mouth. The notes and words may disappear but the magic carpet continues to move forward. Every phrase you sing should begin and end with air! Try this: sing your ABC’s and let your air push through long after the pitch is gone. “A-B-C-D-E-F-Geeeeee.......” and so forth. If you begin to feel a bit lightheaded or feel the need to yawn after a few minutes of this then you’re doing it right! Properly using your air to maintain pitch will also lead to great...

PHRASING. When you get right down to it we are actually telling 3-5 minutes stories. Have you ever read a story to a child? To keep their attention you must project an attitude of excitement, wonder, and suspense. Proper phrasing adds to the drama and anticipation of the songs we present onstage, causing the audience to hang on every word we sing. Otherwise they are just words set to music. Take some time this week and listen to your favorite singers. Figure out what draws you to them as a performer. Pick apart their phrasing and ability to tell a story. The second quickest way to lose your audience (the first is to sing out of tune) is to sing a song without any emotion. Boring! Learn to bring the art of phrasing to your delivery.

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Andy Chrisman
Worship Pastor
Andy came to Church on the Move in 2005, having been in the music industry for over 25 years. He's dedicated to raising up the next generation of worship leaders, and even though he spent many years with the group 4him, he says he's "having more fun now than I ever did on the road."