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How to convey emotion while singing.

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Hey guys, I guess this is more of a performance technique thread than a vocal technique thread.

One odd thing I've realized with my singing is that, no matter what I'm singing, my face always seems to be either angry or neutral. If I try to show any other emotion, it seems kind of fake or forced, and the audience will probably know that I'm not really feeling it. I think it's mostly because, where I come from, it's not normal to show excess emotion, so I grew up with a sort of always-serious face.

I see singers who sing liker they're actually feeling emotions as they're singing, and I keep wondering how to so it. So I guess the question is, how do I convey believable emotion to the audience as I'm singing, even if I'm not feeling that emotion?

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I try to connect with the story of the song. If it is a Love song I try to imagine that I am singing it to someone that I feel that way about. Or find a face in the audience that you can sing to.

When you get right down to basics they call it acting. Also practice the song while looking in the mirror. Just like recording your training to help with pitch control and fine tuning the sound of your voice, making videos of yourself singing can help guide you to better facial expression and body language.

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Hey chest puller great question. Personally i find something in the song to connect with or someone in the audience to connect with . It doesn't have to be a lyric but melody you really like in a verse or chorus and someone in the audience that looks like they could get embarrassed if you look at them for to long. Hand gestures especially over your shoulder cause excitement in an audience. And looking angry and sad aren't far off from each other so between looking angry sad,happy, hands over head, and staring straight through someone you got an arsenal

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To some it could come naturally but I would imagine that the professionals would have some kind of guidance for song delivery along with singing technique. Sometimes what you say is not as important as how you say it.

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that's one of the jobs of a vocal coach as opposed to a teacher who is more about technique.

but it is absolutely critical if you are going to perform professionally that you get in touch with your emotions and feelings....

it's what makes the difference.....your connection.... you need to make with the audience....and the audience is simply looking for you and your honesty...

they will excuse a vocal error (or not even notice one) when your being true, but will turn off like a light switch if you are faking it........i.m.o.

take a look at the lyrics of the songs you really like...it may be subconscious, but there is a reason(s) (perhaps not apparent to you) why you gravitate to certain songs....

hit songs are hit songs because they connect with the listener.

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This works better for originals than covers, but I find that singing in certain keys can just squeeze the best emotion out of you.

When writing an original I'll start in whatever key, but then I'll try upping and lowering the key until I find just the right one where I feel the song, where it works best for me.

This has nothing to do with vocal range or straining or anything like that, but just finding the place the song gets the best of you so to speak.

You can do it with covers too for practice, but probably not in a live setting because if you change the key too much it may sound weird for the audience.

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@daniel: hand gestures, huh? wow, I didn't really think of that. They give your hands something to do, and take attention away from your face. Thanks for the tip :)

Personally i find something in the song to connect with or someone in the audience to connect with

Ok, so if there's a particular part/ emotion in a song that I can identify with, it's not that hard for me. However, there are 2 problems with this.

1. My most (and probably only) identifiable emotion is anger, because for some reason I can show it on my face more believably than others, and

2. What if the song has so many emotions, and some that aren't even basic, like really deep emotions? Then it becomes a problem for me.

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@MDEW: practicing in the mirror just makes me realize how inadequate my acting is :/

@Videohere:

but it is absolutely critical if you are going to perform professionally that you get in touch with your emotions and feelings....

I'm a man, so unfortunately me and feelings don't go very well together :P Like I said, I can only really connect with anger, so how do you suppose I start "training" my other deeper emotions??

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2. What if the song has so many emotions, and some that aren't even basic, like really deep emotions? Then it becomes a problem for me.

Sometimes it's good to think of yourself as an actor, or a singing actor.

Actors need to convey emotions and feeling that they don't necessarily feel that moment or at all for that matter. but that is their art and their job

You should try to place yourself in the lyrics and try acting them out emotionally, ask yourself "What if I was feeling this way" and make yourself feel that way.

If that doesn't work, pick a person or a situation from your life that somehow relates to the lyric and think of them and picture them in your mind while singing.

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@Power:

This works better for originals than covers, but I find that singing in certain keys can just squeeze the best emotion out of you.

I think you're talking more about the color of the voice itself while singing? Because I can have an emotion color to my voice, that doesn't match my face at all. And that sucks. Like, i could be singing an sad love song, and it could sound genuine, but when I look in the mirror, my face is neutral. So I guess I need more of face emotions than voice emotions ... :/

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Watch some live singers. Many different performaces. Take Adel for instance Every time she sings a certain song the hand gestures are the same in the same place in the song no matter where she is performing, one person or one thousand.

You practice your performance. Along with learning the words, learn gestures also.

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Watch some live singers. Many different performaces. Take Adel for instance Every time she sings a certain song the hand gestures are the same in the same place in the song no matter where she is performing, one person or one thousand.

You practice your performance. Along with learning the words, learn gestures also.

Hmm. So we drill emotions the same way we do songs & vocal practice? Interesting. So how should I go about doing that? Face muscle exercises? Or crying/ frowning/ smiling on queue?

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ProfessionalChestPuller, you're making it more complicated than it needs to be (shocking in this forum, I know...)

Simply allow yourself to FEEL.

Loosen up your mind from all these questions, which in turn will loosen up your face and allow yourself to FEEL.

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I try, Power, I try... Feelings and me just do not go well together :(

I'm at the point of thinking the best way is just to drill emotional faces & fake it onstage, rather than be in touch and all that, mainly because I'm used to keeping a neutral face no matter what I'm feeling. I think it comes from my country's culture.

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Most of the time big movements are all the audience is going to pick up on unless you are performing for TV or something like that. The worst thing you could do is just stand still and not move.

You do not have to practice smiling, frowning and such. Connect with your song or someone in the audience should be enough. Smiling when singing about your spouce leaving you may or may not give the wrong vibe depending on the nature of the song.

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Watch some live singers. Many different performaces. Take Adel for instance Every time she sings a certain song the hand gestures are the same in the same place in the song no matter where she is performing, one person or one thousand.

You practice your performance. Along with learning the words, learn gestures also.

Thinking of Adele- so many of her tunes seem to be about losing love, being f'd over by it, or whatever. Much more easy to get emotional about that than if you're singing rock/dance hits.

Kinda hard to dive into the emotional angst of "What I Like About You" and "Brown Eyed Girl".

;)

Sincerity is the key. Once you learn to fake it, you're gonna be home free.

Deja vu post...

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Pro chest puller, I have a question for you - when you are NOT singing, does emotion show on your face?

If so and the problem is only in singing, then this is actually a technique problem. A good "singer's face" won't conflict with the emotional intent. There will be a sort of facial lift (cheeks, eyebrows, upper lip, etc) that you can easily and naturally twist to portray any of the emotions. If anything, with the exception of neutral/apathetic.

The unemotional face comes from what Dante recently termed "dead cheeks" - when you don't lift your cheeks, don't contract the upper lip upwards, etc. you just relax everything too much. It's not only usually correlated with poor technique (because you're not shaping the resonance), but also obviously lacks the necessary facial expression to portray emotion. Whereas if you torque your face like hell into weird positions all the time, that is again probably not great technique, and then you can't express emotion because you're locked into funky facial positions you can't change.

You want to find the balance of a relaxed activity in the face to shape the resonance correctly, train like that and make it habit, (hopefully all under the guidance of a coach!) and then when you perform your facial emotions can go anywhere.

If you just don't show emotion on your face in general, then you'll have to fake it and continue to practice faking it, tweaking elements here and there, until it starts to feel real to you.

The "faking it" happens a lot more often than a lot of beginners are ready to accept. The natural tendency is often to be too afraid of expressing yourself the wrong way and to do nothing about it, but you have to start somewhere and sometimes going to an exaggerated extreme helps you get more comfortable with it. And then once you get over that initial first step of not being afraid to express freely, THEN you can practice and monitor yourself on it, in front of a mirror, or have someone else monitor your acting/expression, to tame it down into something that looks more authentic.

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Also, do you think that singers who are good at conveying convincing emotions are like that because they write their own songs that they can personally relate to? Or are they just really good actors?

AND, if it's because they write their own songs, won't it pose a problem for me, since I don't?

1. Might help a slight bit but it will never make or break a true performer

2. Yes

3. No

Not showing emotion because you didn't write the song is an awful excuse for not having put the time and effort into learning the skills of lyrical interpretation, expression, and acting (whether the real thing or subtle). So don't be that guy. The amount of singers in the world who can sing other people's songs emotionally and do so for a living is tremendous. The argument you're considering just can't be backed up in this day and age. You can argue the opposite - that a songwriter should sing their own song - our culture tends to expect that especially in contemporary music, but that a singer needs to be singing only the songs they write or else they can't show emotion, is BS.

side note: what happened to the auto editing? if i spell out BS as the full word it doesn't censor it

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Owen,

It's not the totally relaxed one. When I'm not singing, my face doesn't really show emotions normally. Of course I smile and frown, but I'm talking about that type of emotion that you can look in someone's eyes and see. Deep is the only word I got for it.

I guess I'll have to work on my hand movements, and relating a song to something personal. I hope it works though.

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You sing from passion or compassion . Either you have the passion to sing (Therefore just the act of singing brings out the passion in the song) or you have compassion about the message of the song (truely believe that the message needs to get to the public therefore you sing it with that intent). If it is just a happy nonsense song you sing for the mere fun of the song or for the audience to have fun.

Brown Eyed Girl is one of my best songs. I actually had a thing for a brown eyed girl and can relate to it. I never could relate to Queensryche, but I made an attempt at singing Silent Lucidity for a challenge posted here. Still I tried to find a connection with the song. It was not that good but it was not a major flop either.

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Different strokes for different folks. I have the luxury of singing songs that I connect with. There are some songs that most of my country have fallen in love with and there is just no way that I could sing them with anything other than contempt. So I do not sing them.

But yes, As Phil has mentioned if you are "IN THE GROOVE" of the song whatever comes out will be appropriate for the job at hand. BUT.... If you can manage to be "IN THE GROOVE" you have found your connection to the song, if only connecting to the beat.

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