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Singing with Emotion / Feeling

I'm in the middle of recording my first album with my band (and will be for a few more months). About half of the songs are classic metal oriented (Like old-school Metallica-ish), while the other half is more classic hard rock-oriented (Like Gun's N Roses or Led Zeppelin).

The classic heavy metal types songs are much easier for me to sound great on since they don't require too much emotion outside of apathy, nihilism and the usual "tough guy" stuff. I've been able to record them fairly quickly and they get a lot of praise from my bandmates.

HOWEVER... The rock oriented stuff like ballads, and the more exciting songs with a lot of energy-- I'm sucking really bad and they are taking forrrreeeever to even get half-way done with. Like-- Its not terrible, but I keep getting the same consistent feedback that I sound like I'm not putting enough 'feel' or 'nuance' into the parts. I know Ken has a video on the volume three videos where he discusses how to get more nuance in the songs by having a "bag of tricks". So far that has been going well, but it seems my overall energy and emotion is just not matching the song even though I really like the songs they wrote and I also really like the lyrics I spent the past two years writing.

Any ideas on how I can 'emote' better? I know it seems really silly-- but I've been so worried about technique and such since I started that it has been difficult to reconnect with that major aspect of singing.


  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 11,525Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
    That's a tough one. There are lots of emotions to feel. So which ones are appropriate for these specific songs? And whose emotions are valid, and whose are not? And who is faking it and who is genuine? That's what I want to know.

    Some vocalists use exaggerated voices and emotions as their Schtick. Talking Heads, for example. They pull that whole schtick off really well, and it's about as fake as you can get... and LOTS of fun!

    Then all the "my baby left me" songs... how far can you take that one? It's been driven into the ground... but then, when your baby DOES leave you, man oh man, it gets you every time!

    So really, people can get a little whiny about how you interpret "their" song. So maybe they can demonstrate the "proper" emotion for the song, and you can just copy them. Unless they, too, seem fake.

    What I'm getting at is that bandmates can sometimes be rather temper-mental (sic) about songs, especially original songs. You need some kind of idea about how that song makes you feel, and be allowed to "be" that song's emotion. If the emotion of the lyrics are genuine, you should be able to deliver them musically and emotionally in a way that people are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, at least until you come to the bridge. If we get all the way to the bridge and I'm not buying your story, then we've got a problem. Sing it, for crying out loud! Cry some tears! Chop an onion and let's see some real emotion!

    Sorry. I'm just having a little fun with this one. It's like people won't cut you any slack sometimes. You just get "into" the song and do your best. Often what some people call singing with "feeling" is what I call adding a little bit of vibrato at the end of the line. Or getting really soft here and bringing up the volume there. Often these subjective things like emotion being expressed by a vocalist are really hard to put your finger on.

    What can be really frustrating is when you actually are REALLY INTO the EMOTION of the song, and your bandmates are like "WHAT was THAT?" I think that's probably why so many people sing with their eyes closed. They don't want to see the incredulous looks on their bandmates faces. Shot down. Another one bites the dust!

    I guess that's why they call it a "performance". Sorry. I'm not helping much. Maybe just to get people started talking about it. This is a good topic.
  • bentkbentk Posts: 435Pro
    edited June 20
    It is a relative thing. If you have great resonance and a killer supported tone, stuff will always sound good if not great. Feeling is very personal. Some people like the emotional breathy tone some singers use. I can't stand it. I prefer a more solid tone, playing with dynamics, resonance and volume. Choosing where to mix more, and where not to.

    Vibrato is a really important factor. But keeping the bright sound Ken teaches us, and playing around with that will get you really far. You will discover what sounds good and what does not. But that is all personal.

    If you get good at glottal compression, you could distort some lines if you want and if you like that. so basically, if you learn all the tricks and technique Ken teaches, it gives you a massive toolset to play with.

    And just my opinion: singing like you are crying, over-using breath, using ridiculous vibrato (very extreme or weird intervals) and the thing some singers do when they go from head voice into chest voice really quickly and repeatedly. I personally don't like these most of the time. So there you have it, it's personal.

    Some singers also use some strange effects in there voice, a lot of popular singers do that actually. It might be seen as 'artistic' or 'emotional', but i prefer good technique with a solid personal style. Not using any strange sounds or bad habits, just pure vocals. Everybody already has their own sound, use your toolset to make it extra personal. In the end it doesn't matter what others think. If you like it and it's received well on the whole, that's great.

    A lot of the feeling comes from the melody actually. The music sets the tone. If you can relate to the lyrics and if they are well written, that can help. But the feeling is set with the music, and the vocal melody is part of that. Now with this, you can emphasize certain notes or vocal melodies to let them ring out more or less, playing with dynamics and tone. Some chord changes allow for some powerful melodies, and that can really shine through when you emphasize them. This is why i think it is important to always develop yourself as a musician, not just as a singer. At least have a feel, if not a theoretical base for melody.
    When you listen to songs, notice which parts get you on an emotional level? which parts do you think 'that's so awesome!'? Have a look at these parts, and see how they work on a musical level. Layout the chords and melody, or play them if you can. You will quickly see what is going on. You don't even need a really big theoretical background in music theory (although that is always good), just a feel and basic understanding of what is going on.

    All the best,

  • Howl87Howl87 Posts: 8Pro
    I swear, you guys are seriously the best. You really broke it down and gave me a bunch of options here.
    Now that I think about it, my vibrato is pretty much non-existant once I start singing anything with hyper-glottal compression. Technique-wise I will work on my vibrato and resonance based on what I'm hearing, but pretty much everything else you guys have said is super relevant and actionable. Thanks so much!
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