Saturday, March 19, 2011

More Than Just Singing

Well hello there! I guess it's been a while, but I promise that I have legitimately been busy finding inspiration for this next blog to make sure it was just perfect for you! No, for real.... c'mon, would I lie to you? (the answer should be that I wouldn't)

So what have I been up to? Well, working with some of the best collegiate a cappella groups the Northeast could offer! I've been going to lots of shows, teaching lots of workshops, writing for other websites, and overall trying to reconnect to why I started Acalosophy in the first place. And it has hit me:

I don't care about music!

Ok, that's a lie. Duh! Of course I care about music! But notes on a page can only mean so much. Your sheet music (or whatever arranging style you use) should serve as the foundation of any song you perform rather than be the entire house. (This analogy will be expanded later) Really, the notes aren't everything and no matter how intuitive your arranger is, they will never be able to tell a full story.

Story? But you're singing... Ok AND telling a story. You are a storyteller. No matter if you sing the solo, do the percussion, sing bass, or sing soprano. It is your job as a performer to convey the story of the song. Even if the story is "well I got drunk, I got married, and now I don't remember", I mean THAT is one heck of a story to tell. Are you angry? Are you sad? Do you think it's funny? Do you even have feelings? Uh...are you a robot? (You don't know how many groups I see in my daily life that I'm convinced are made up entirely of robots... too many. Far too many...) And think about it, there are (most times) already words to your story. PAY ATTENTION TO THEM!

So, that house that I believe is music. What do you need for a house? The foundation, a floor, some walls, and a roof. (cue the music for "A House is Not a Home" and get all your mushies out.) So think of it this way, the foundation is the notes because you can't have music without the notes. The floor is kind of how all of the parts fit together, the walls are dynamics, and the roof is the final touch. The roof is expression and emotion and though I know some may disagree, the roof is what makes a house... emotion or storytelling is what makes your music. What good does an empty piece of foundation do for anybody? (The answer is, unless you intend to build a strip mall...nothing.)

"But Lo, this stupid arranger (trust me, we think we're stupid too) has me singing nonsense and  oo's the entire time." So? What's your point? There is still (most likely) someone in front of the group pouring their heart out to the audience, tell their story. One of my newest sayings in workshops is "It's just as much your solo as it is the soloist's solo". If I, as an audience member, ever took my eyes off the soloist, everyone in the group should be telling the same story through their faces and body language. Now THAT is captivating. THAT'S going to make me remember you.

So where do you start? Talk about it. Have a discussion within your group about the song means in general and to individuals. And I totally understand that not every song is dripping with emotion, so just decide that the song is meant to be fun and everyone should look like they're having an awesome time because chances are Awkward McAwkwardsauce in the back will probably rather be thinking about what he at for lunch than how he is supposed to look on stage. At the end of it all, everyone should be on the same page about what you'll be conveying on stage. You'd think it would just come naturally and people would get it, but most times background singers don't even pay attention to the lyrics.

Speaking of, hey if you're a background singer, why don't you just take a couple minutes to take a look at some of the lyrics that are happening in front of you. Maybe knowing that the pretty ballad you're singing is actually about heartbreak or losing somebody could save you from looking silly and smiling. Also, everyone has a line. Even if you're singing incredibly annoying repetitive eighth notes, you have a  line... or phrasing. Find the emotion in your line. How it ebbs and flows and helps tell the story. You can totally emote while singing "din do den do" as long as you somehow find the connection in your line.

So that's it. Do more than just singing... be a performer. Be a storyteller.

Until the journey continues...

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