Why Singer-Songwriters Need Vocal Technique

boy singing into microphone illustration
Be true to yourself but explore all the possibilities of your instrument – says Berklee Voice Professor, Anne Peckham

Be true to yourself but explore all the possibilities of your instrument – says Berklee Voice Professor, Anne Peckham

Voice Department Chair and Professor at Berklee College of Music, Anne Peckham chatted with Singdaptive about why vocal technique is essential for singer-songwriters.

One of the trends I see is that musical art is moving toward a more thoughtful, singer-songwriter-based music.

There will always be the ‘fire-works’ singers, but at Berklee and in my private teaching I am seeing more and more artists who want to perform their own music with a sincere, personal, individual approach.

Here are 3 reasons why singer-songwriters may wish to take their vocal technique more seriously:

1.You can break free of your comfort zone to be more expressive
I think there are many singer-songwriters who write to their weaknesses – they avoid the notes that are tough and especially avoid the passaggio ‘break’ area.

I try to challenge vocalists to develop more of their vocal range, even if it’s just light improvisation or embellishment on ‘ooh’ in upper register. This adds contrast, texture, and a unique mode of expression to original music.

I want singers to think outside of the box of what they can already do, to explore with their instruments in a playful, creative way to find new colors.

Singers are creative people and need to continue to stretch their boundaries, not just function within their comfort zones. Developing craft and control of vocal technique is crucial to this end.

This includes full access range (upper and lower registers), breath control, and the ability to connect with emotions, and keep access to an authentic vocal sound with a relaxed throat.

To maximize expression, vocalists also need to be able to sustain phrases, and sing with tone that is soft and tender as well as with bigger, bolder sounds.

2.You can explore emotions.
It’s important to understand that songs, like a story, progress through many ideas and emotions.

Even when a song is sad, it isn’t only sad. There are also moments of hopefulness, remembrance, anger, regret, and deep love.

I want vocalists to dig deep to find all the expressive feelings portrayed in music.

There are many different levels that should be explored within song writing and vocals. In order to access maximum expression this vocalists need to be able to sing with freedom.

It’s can’t be just about forcing out a sound. It’s about shaping and colouring, creating highs and lows and finding something that is truly unique and authentic.

3. You can maximise your vocal control.
If you feel that you’re about to cry, your throat will start to close up and it becomes difficult to make an openly expressive sound.

Expressive singers must have a relaxed throat allowing for maximum expression and control. The best way to find that is to feel that the emotion ‘pours out’ rather than having to fight against tension.

A relaxed throat allows emotion to travel from its source, the gut and the heart, to connect with emotions and show up in the voice.

We can tap into emotion as an actor does — keeping full access to your instrument while expressing meaningful ideas and emotions.

-Anne Peckham

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