This is primarily for all you singers, usually under the age of about 25, but A BUNCH OF YOU WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER, KNOW IT APPLIES TO YOU TOO!
I am constantly listening to singer after singer, on writer's nights, open mics, even some of the bigger songwriters shows that you CAN'T UNDERSTAND A DAMN WORD THEY ARE SAYING!!!! I don't know why so many sing like they have a mouth full of half dried concrete, or think that they are being "ARTISTICALLY INTERESTING" by sounding like Charlie Brown's teacher, "Wah..wah...wah...wah...wah..." That is sooo dramatic!!!!
If you don't ENNUNCIATE your words,people are not going to understand what you are doing, HOW do you expect them to know what you are trying to communicate? Most of the time it is VOWELL SOUNDS. "A, E, I, O, U, Y" listen folks, it is NOT THAT HARD. Just make sure people understand them.
If you have ever done a radio voice over or commercial, you know you have to "say everything with a SMILE." You have to say words and overemphasize the syllables so it all comes through crisp and clean. Also, being careful on "S's", (sounding like a snake), or "Popping the "P"'s" (sometimes you have to say it like a "B" instead) are all things to be aware of.
But it is mostly VOWEL SOUNDS. Making sure you clearly make your "Eeee's and Uuuuu'sss" are incredibly important. I have sat on stage RIGHT NEXT TO SINGERS that I get about every third word in their songs. The rest sing back in the throat, mouth closed through clinched teeth, or simply gloss over things that are some of the most important points of their songs, like their HOOKS!
If you are a guitar playing singer/songwriter, you need to look at your DYNAMICS and GUITAR MOVEMENT. If you have a song with a lot of lyrical movement, you need to minimize what is happening on your guitar. You need to drop your volume down and play quieter where you have more information going on. You can play UP in the choruses, but you need to have some varied strumming patterns, some more distinct changes through your songs. It makes a difference and you can't expect a sound person who might not be that good, or even a regular sound person who doesn't know you, to know when to pump up the volume.
With guitar players and keyboard players, MICROPHONE PLACEMENT is a big deal. Many of us look at our fretboards, or keyboards, or lyric sheets. WE tend to look away at points, and the microphones, which are OMNI DIRECTIONAL, will miss what we are saying, thereby losing half of what we are saying. Imagine those cell phone calls where you get drop outs and ins. Yep. That is what you sound like to people who don't know your songs.
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?
On MONITORS, people always want to hear that MOREME, button. "MORE ME!!! MORE ME!!!!" Hey look, sound people can only turn things up so far before it FEEDS BACK!!! So unless that is part of your sound, you better learn to PROJECT!!! The days of the whispering vocal (unless you drop down on your instrument also,) are long gone. We have loud bars, background noise, conversations, cell phone texts and usage, sports televisions, etc. all going on. If you want to be heard, IT'S UP TO YOU!!!!
One of the most flattering comments people give me is when they come up to me at a show as they are watching one of my "flock." They say "I can tell they work with you, because I can UNDERSTAND EVERY WORD!"
That's the idea. I drill people pretty hard. And if people come to work with me, that is going to be a huge deal, so practice it now. A few tips:
#1. PRACTICE YOUR SONGS.
Learn them without lyric sheets and FEEL your music. WE do understand sometimes you have to have them, learning new songsl trying out new thing, somthing you haven't done in a while. I get it. Lean the music stand back so it doesn't block people's views. And don't just read it, refer to it.
#2. RULE OF THREES.
I suggest when you practice, go over each song, THREE TIMES.
One to read along with the lyrics, two to place the lyrics a little farther from you so it is harder to read them, and third, farther away where you are doing more memorizing.
#3. RECORD YOUR REHEARSALS.
Get your camera phone or video set up and put it about 10-15 feet from you. If you have a microphone and stand, set it up so it is like you are singing into it.
Watch yourself. Can you understand all your words? Are you getting "off mic?"
You want to have it a little farther back because that is how your AUDIENCES SEE YOU!
#4. WATCH YOUR DYNAMICS.
Learn to play and sing softer and louder as your song demands. Limit "guitar turnarounds or solo's when there is no one playing.
DON'T BORE US, GET TO THE CHORUS!
#5. TAKE FORMAL LESSONS.
Now I am not the most EDUCATED singer, but have done a lot of training. The best? THEATER! If you are young, get involved in school theater or choir groups. Learn to ACT! In songs you are inhabiting a role. Do it well.
Go to a voice teacher and learn some techniques. Don't get bogged down, and turn into a professional student. Know what you are trying to learn and explain that to the teacher. Same with guitar or piano teachers. Find what YOU want to learn, and focus on that.
MUCH MUCH MUCH can be learned through the Internet. YOU TUBE has millions of instructional videos. Learn something.
#6. LEARN FROM THE PROS.
Go see a professional writer or artist ,particularly those in one on one acoustic or small, intimate settings. When you hear someone with great experience just NAILING IT, that is how it is done.
It's easy to sound and look great with million dollar light shows, incredible band players, dancers, lighting and sound people. That's a given.
But until you can AFFORD all that, (and even after) it is ALL UP TO YOU!!!! The best of today's artists are all good performers. Ed Sheeran Chis Stapleton, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves, are all dynamic performers. That is what separates them from so many others.
And I'll ASSURE YOU that you could set them down in the middle of a room, with just one instrument, and they could HOLD PEOPLE MESMARIZED. And I can GUARANTEE YOU, the greats, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Jefferey Steel, The Rolling Stones, could go solo and give you a performance you would never forget. I know this because I have seen some of them live in small, intimate settings.
I have seen so many of these really great artists and songwriters, AND been onstage with many of the most legendary where I have had to hold my own without the huge hits. So I can speak to this with personal experience.