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Country Vocals Lessons: Phrasing & Diction

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This lesson, we're gonna
talk about diction and phrasing.
And we're gonna talk about
it in terms of what our
main goal as vocalists, as singers, is.
And that is, one simple thing,
to communicate,
to make some kind of connection
with another human being.
So, if we were opera singers,
I would approach diction in one way.
But for the country vocal chorus,
in fact, for
singing pop music, folk music,
any of the forms and
genres of music that are pretty
much not opera, not art song,
not classical,
these are conversational genres.
The style of music may be different,
but it's all a vernacular
of the street, or
a vernacular of the common people.
It's not what I would call high
language or elevated language.
So, when we talk about diction,
in the context of pop music,
country music, folk music, jazz,
we are wanting to put it in the context
of conversational speaking, and focusing
on what is going to best communicate
the emotion and the story of the song.
So, we're gonna consider two things and
try to balance those issues
anytime we talk about diction.
The first thing we're gonna
talk about is clarity.
You want the story to be clear.
Words have meaning, and
the lyricist wrote and chose,
carefully crafted that lyric,
for very specific reasons.
Every word means something.
Every syllable means something.
So you're going for clarity,
you want your listener to understand,
have an intellectual
comprehension of the words.
If you're singing a song,
a great song, and you kind of slur
through an important word, and the
listener goes, what, what did they say?
Now, we all have great stories
about misunderstanding a lyric.
My favorite is my husband growing up,
the Jimmy Hendrix song,
excuse me while I kiss the sky, he thought
it was, excuse me while I kiss this guy.
Now, he loved the song,
even misinterpreting the lyrics,
but if we're going to deliver a lyric,
we're gonna be going for clarity.
The other thing we wanna consider
really carefully is context, and
we wanna balance these two things,
clarity and context.
We want the diction,
we want the words to be clear,
at the same time, we have to consider the
context in which we're delivering them.
A country song is gonna have some language
that's got country pronunciations.
We're gonna say, ya'll, and
we're gonna drop the g at
the end of a lot of ing words,
I'm goin fishin' instead of going fishing.
So that's what I mean when
I talk about context.
We want to make sure that we are using
good diction and establishing clarity
in the context that's appropriate and
emotionally true for the song.
That might mean you slur
a couple words here and there, or
you don't completely enunciate
perfectly every syllable.
As long as your message
is reaching the listener,
and you're being true to
the context of the song and
the style of music in which you're
singing, you're good by me.
In addition to diction,
we're gonna talk about phrasing, and
I like to think of it
as the art of the arc.
The arc, arc, and this is a term that we
use in any kind of literature when
we're talking about story telling.
That's what I associate it with.
A well-paced story of any kind,
whether it's a movie,
a TV show, a short story,
a novel, has an emotional arc,
and so you build the emotion
of the story that you're telling or the
part of the story that you're telling so
that it has an emotional movement from,
from a smaller version of
the emotion to an enhanced or
grown version of the emotion.
I actually apply this when approaching
phrases even within a melody.
The art of the arc, you can apply
even within a line inside a line.
I think a good example is
Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
This is a beautiful melody, one of
the most classic melodies of our time.
Somewhere over the rainbow,
you just don't wanna do it, right?
Because it's built into the melody,
the arc of that phrase,
is contained in the melody.
Somewhere over the rainbow.
And then, it's almost like
the melody has built in for
you a natural place to end a phrase and
begin another phrase.
A lot of times,
what we understand to be great melodies
are melodies that composers,
who are very deft in their craft,
have constructed a melody that has
very natural arcs within the melody
where the thought and the place to
breathe coincide in very natural ways,
ways that relate to how human
beings speak to each other.
So when you're looking at how to phrase,
one of your key indicators is gonna
be the shape of the melody, and
is there a natural place inside
the melody where you want to breathe.
For singers, just like for
violinists and guitar players,
anyone who's playing a melodic instrument,
even though a violinist doesn't have to
breathe in-between phrases, you will
see them build the arc of a phrase,
and they will themselves breathe when
they lift the bow to begin a new phrase.
It's a very natural mode of our
communication, that when we speak, we
complete a thought, then we breathe, and
continue the thought with the next phrase.
So, our phrasing in speaking
is very closely related to
good phrasing in singing.
So, these are some of the things that
we're gonna be thinking about as we move
through the next few lessons,
and especially in
an upcoming video submission,
where you're going to submit a song.
You're gonna be thinking about diction and