In my last post, “How Using Solfege Helps You Sing Better,” I discussed the idea that in order to get the best intonation possible, the body and mind need to be in agreement about what note they want to produce. But I would like to go even farther and say that no matter how good your intonation is, if the message of the song does align with who you are as a person, your performance of that song will never reach your audience.
Everyone Has a Unique Message
I believe every person has a unique message to bring to the world. You might not know what it is, but you have one, and in order to become a singer who can engage an audience, you need to work this out for yourself.
Many singers confuse the kinds of songs they like to listen to with the kinds of songs that best fit their personality for singing. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think every song you sing needs to line up with your message to the world, but you need to have a core few songs like these where you have had the experience of connecting with an audience before you can feel successful getting other songs across.
If you write your own songs, well then, there you go, but not all of us are songwriters. And even if you are, there are times when it’s more appropriate to sing other people’s songs.
Discover Your Message
Spend a few moments thinking about what one thing you would say to the entire world if you had the chance to speak for one minute.
Whether I get this message across or not, I would want to quote Philippians 4:8 in the Bible where it says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
My idea is that a lot of problems would take care of themselves if we could all focus on the positive rather than let ourselves get sucked into worrying, gossip, speaking ill of others, and otherwise destructive behavior and thoughts. So songs that focus on love, beauty, and humor line up with my spirit and make me feel good when I sing them. I feel the best and most confident with myself singing very poetic love songs with beautiful chord progressions.
An Example of One Person’s Message
A few years ago, I was having the “what’s your message to the world” conversation with one of my female voice students who happens to be around the same age as I am. At the time, I was going through a lot of turmoil in my personal life trying to make decisions that would be beneficial for me, my husband at the time, and my three children. Without hesitating, she looked me dead in the eye and said, “I want people to know that they don’t have to do what they feel society expects them to do.” I’m sure that’s a total simplification of what she said, but it rang through me. It was as if it were a message crafted just for me for that moment, and it made a difference in my decision process. I’m pretty sure she had no idea what was going on with me. I fought back tears and just said, “That’s a very important message, Gina, and people need to hear it.”
We began culling through a few of her repertoire pieces, and I was able to explain why some songs worked better for her than others. Some songs were difficult for her to get across because they had nothing to do with who she was. She even felt uncomfortable singing some of them as soon as she got in front of people.
Extroverts & Entertainers Have It Easier
If a person is truly extroverted, that can person can adopt other personalities and “do the act.” While the meanings of the songs might not necessarily line up with that person’s message to the world, that person might feel comfortable in an acting capacity. Part of that person’s message might be “Let’s not take ourselves too seriously.” These could also be people who like to entertain themselves by doing impersonations. Some of my friends in the local scene here on the Connecticut Shoreline who are an inspiration to me in this way are Jilian Grey with Cherry Pie, Rick Comes with The Muddy Rudders and Jam Chowder, Mike Savino, Tom Knapp, to name a few.
I mean, all you have to do is look at this picture of Mike, right?
Let Me Hear From You
I would love to get some feedback from you. Go watch live performances of some of your favorite and not-so-favorite singers, and tell me which ones are believable. Who do you believe is telling the truth about themselves?
There are world-famous and world-class musicians out there who just don’t reach me. I think it has to do with the fact that I don’t feel they are revealing anything about themselves through their performance. Even worse, sometimes I feel like they are lying.
On a more positive note, here is an example of someone who has body, mind, and spirit firing on all cylinders: