Sing With Your Ears
A singer’s voice tends to march to the sound of its own drummer, often impervious to subtleties in the underlying rhythm of the track.
The background–band, orchestra, piano, or your own guitar— sets up various internal rhythms and sub-rhythms. You will encounter at least one rhythmic ‘push’ in virtually every song. This push gives a kind of “syncopation-lite” feeling to the rhythm. But that’s a good thing because this anticipation generates energy and excitement.
Unfortunately, although the band may be busy anticipating the next bar line and pushing the rhythm ahead, all too often the singer fails to push ahead with them, thereby dragging the beat and falling farther and farther behind.
If the singer drops behind the band’s beat pattern for even just a few milliseconds, this subtle disturbance to the singer’s brain and voice tends to generate multiple vocal problems. The tone becomes unstable, intonation suffers; the singer runs out of air and the energy in the performance fizzles out and fades away.
However, singing with your ears can help fix pitch problems, stabilize breath control, give your music variety, and help the words ring clear.
Instead of ignoring the band, why not let its rhythmic pushes cradle your singing voice and carry the vocal accents forward? To sing with your ears is to allow yourself to surrender to the group rhythmic give-and-take, making certain the vocals are in sync with the underlying music.
It’s like surfing the ocean waves: you can be “lofted” or “carried” to the top by the band. When you rise on the crest of a sound wave, the music surges under you and re-enforces the sound of your voice. If you fall back and fail to surge forward with the music, the wave has crested and the sound is already fading in decay—providing no lift to the singer.
Of course, you have flexibility. Music is like any living organism; it’s not just a straight line. It lives and breathes. It moves ahead and it moves back. If you go with the flow, it will cradle and carry your voice. If you are inflexible, it cannot cradle you and will be at odds with your efforts. You’ll be fighting the rhythm.
How do you find the push? It’s easy, start by listening to the music of your favorite singers. Isolate and listen to the bass line and the kick drum. Concentrate only on the music track. Do Not Sing the Melody! Simply feel the inner rhythms and how the vocal line fits with the accents–especially the push-ahead aspects of the rhythm section.
Then sing along, using a single syllable sound (like ‘dum’) to imitate the rhythms and pushes, until your pushes match those in the music.
Be bold. Punch the accents with your hand so you are sure of them. Then gradually insert your vocal line into the mix, making certain that you fit smoothly into the grooves instead of fighting them. You’ll soon see how good it feels to sing when you keep up with the energy of the push.
If you’ve enjoyed this article or have any questions, I would love to hear your comments!