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Country Vocals Lessons: Acting for Singers - Emotional Mechanics of Singing

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In this lesson we're going to
dig into a little bit of
the emotional mechanics of singing.
I know that when I first moved
to Nashville back in 1988 I was
trying to get a record deal,
trying to get a publishing deal and
become a famous singer and musician but
I actually made my living as
a actor because I was lucky enough to get
into an acting studio run by Ruth Sweet.
Fantastic acting coach and
it was only in the study of acting
that I felt like I really
started to connect,
as a performer,
with a deeper emotional sense.
And it also made me a better songwriter.
I just learned so
much from the study of acting.
And I want to share a few of
those little tips with you and
I've got a really fun exercise
that I like to do to really
highlight how we use our emotional tools.
And how as a singer you can apply
those emotional tools to really
breathing life into lyric
when you are singing a song
just like you apply your Ben's and
Scoops or the use of a yodel or cry.
Your technical tools as a singer.
These are emotional tools
that can can really inform
your performance and
understanding of a lyric.
So one way of thinking about a song and
a song lyric is that every
song is a movie scene.
Every song is one little emotional scene
where the purpose of the song is to convey
a singular, powerful emotion or feeling.
So as a singer it's really
valuable to be able to
identify what emotion you want to convey.
Convey, and to have kind of a handle on,
or a consciousness of
all the little emotional tools
that you might be able to apply
in accomplishing that
overall emotional purpose.
So for example in the song Crazy,
if you're approaching the singing
of crazy as an actor, there
are a couple of really key questions that
you would want to ask right off the bat.
The first is, who are you singing to?
It's very critical for
an actor to know in the planning of
a scene who am I playing this with?
Who am I trying to communicate with?
You speak to your mom probably in
a little bit different tone and attitude.
You take a little different approach
with your mom than you would with your
boyfriend, right?
And a lot of it is not even conscious.
We don't even think of the ways that
we are shifting our body language,
our facial expressions,
the vocabulary that we use
between mom mode and boyfriend mode.
Your tone of voice, your inflection.
Lots of really subtle things change
depending on to whom you are speaking.
Same is true when you approach
a song lyric, you wanna think about,
to whom am I singing?
Again, the context of the song Crazy,
if you look at it from that perspective,
crazy, here's the lyric,
I'm crazy for feeling so
lonely, crazy, I'm crazy for
feeling so blue.
I knew you'd love me as long as you wanted
and then leave me for somebody new.
So clearly the singer is singing to
someone because they are identifying
that other person as you.
So one obvious choice of who Who am I
singing to when I'm singing this song,
is that I'm singing to the person who
ditched me, the person who broke my heart.
Maybe I've passed them on the street,
maybe I've run into them somewhere and
am singing to them.
Well, how is that gonna color,
how is that going to inform
How I present myself to this person.
I'm basically telling them
how they broke my heart.
Lots of options there.
You can be angry.
You can be really sad and, woe is me.
You might take several
different emotional approaches
if you're singing to the person
who broke your heart.
On the other hand, one interesting choice
might be that you're not singing to
the person literally in reality at all,
but you're singing to yourself.
I'm actually saying all of
this to myself about this
other person but I'm not with
them literally and physically.
I am singing in my mind,
I'm singing to myself Well that begs
the question, what do you want?
And that's the other key question that the
actors ask themselves when they approach
a scene.
Here's my script.
I am talking to this person,
what do I want?
What am I trying to get at this moment?
What do I want to happen?
What does my character want to happen.
Why am I communicating in this scene?
So again,
in the context of the song, Crazy,
if I say I'm going to approach it like I'm
singing to the person who broke my heart,
I've run into them at a restaurant and
I am singing to them.
I might decide I want to approach it
because I want them to want me back.
I want to change their mind.
I want them to see how passionate and
in love with them I am, and
make them come back to me.
So I'm gonna have that as a big purpose.
That's my motivation for
singing this song to them.
In the idea where I'm singing to myself
that I'm singing this song crazy.
I'm crazy for feeling so lonely.
I'm crazy for feeling so blue.
What I want is to get
myself over this person.
Can that be a motivation?
I'm trying to convince myself to get
over them or I'm just wanting to,
maybe I wanna choose as my want,
my motivation.
I'm gonna sing crazy as I am just
Wallowing in my own self pity.
I am just miserable and
I'm just wallowing in my misery.
You're going to approach that lyric
slightly different depending on what
choices you make about
who you're singing to and
what you want to happen
with this communication.
So when we ask ourselves those kinds of
questions and we approach singing a song
as an actor it brings up a lot
of interesting possibilities.
Emotionally we start to tap
into the fact that buoy.
I would approach these sins
I would take a different depending on
who I'm talking to and what I want.
So that means there are lot of
emotional tools that I might
use to make that performance
more interesting.
So if I'm singing crazy to
the person who broke my heart,
I might start by trying to be very
confident and I'm gonna pretend like you
didn't break my heart to make
it appear like I'm not so hurt.
But by the end of the song,
I want you to feel just how passionate
In it I am and how important it is
to me that you come back to me.
But I'm gonna start by singing, crazy,
I'm crazy for feeling so lonely.
You broke my heart, but
I'm getting over it, I'm gonna be okay.
But by the end of the song I'm
trying to convince you that I'm so
passionate that you
have to comeback to me.
It's those little shades of emotional
nuance that can really make
a performance a very interesting and
compelling for your listener.