Speak the Truth: Make a Song Live by Speaking it First.
To make a song live and breathe, speak the lyrics.
Speak the lyrics of the song when learning a song (even if it's your own original song) and check back in with this practice periodically. Speak them freely, as you would in a conversation.
This puts the meaning of the song in a context that is unsupported by melody or harmony. Speak it so that the lyrics communicate meaningfully through spoken voice alone. Connecting to the core meaning or feeling of the song like that brings you into a place where you're really speaking from the heart or telling a story when you sing, as opposed to just singing a lot of notes with words attached.
Speaking the song also frees your phrasing from the rhythmic cadence of the rhyme scheme. It's OK to use that cadence, but being unbound by it will yield phrasing that is conversational, natural, and fresh. You don't generally repeat the same patterns of emphasis and rhythm in your day to day speech, right? So a conversational approach will tend to have a spontaneous and genuine delivery, which may vary naturally with every performance.
This approach will also aid in keeping a more relaxed and healthy vocal technique. Think about how much tension you have in your tongue, neck, and jaw while talking with your friends. Not much, right? That's how relaxed it should be.
Next, speak the lyrics and add tone. It doesn't even have to be the melody of the song. In fact, it's probably better if it's not. Just something to get you making tonal phonation while speaking the lyrics.
Finally, speak the lyrics over the melody, retaining the kinds of inflections and phrasing you used when speaking them without music.
Bring lyrics to life by speaking them to yourself. Make them live for your audience by speaking them in song.
copyright 2010 Jim Dix
Jim Dix is a professional singer and voice teacher in South Florida.