It’s a question I get asked all the time, “How Do I Sing With More Soul?”
By ‘soul’, many people mean vocal depth and feeling, as well as power. Here is a quick overview of a few technical elements singers can utilise to achieve ‘soul’ in their singing:
Round out your vowels.
In terms of pronunciation, the English language emphasises the wider ‘Ah’ or the ‘Ay’ vowel and we tend to be more nasal and tight in the jaw. Soul singers tend to lean on the rounder ‘Eh’/ ‘Err’ sound. Think of the guttural sound you might make when crying. This ‘crying tone’ is difficult to describe in written form, but this makes up a large part of what ‘soulful’ singers use.
To further explain I’ll juxtapose the ‘English’ pronunciation against how’d you’d need to alter the same words to create a rounder sound––not quite as extreme as the written word makes it look:
“Day” becomes “Dee”
“Love” becomes “Lurve”
“I” become “Ah”
Notice with the first examples when you say them with a standard English pronunciation the corners of the mouth kicks outward at the end of the words. You want to remove this and move to the lips more forward and down, like a sad pout.
Dumb down some pronunciations.
In other words, watch how you say your “T’s”. “Water” becomes “war-da”. “The” becomes “da”. “Want to” becomes “wanna”. “Going” becomes “Gonna etc… Though this is a general rule, it’s not universal.
Set the sound lower and the timing back.
As mentioned earlier, where certain European styles are generally wide in shape, soulful sounds are rounder and more relaxed. The sound resonates low in the tummy, again like a cry. I often instruct my students to often put more “sulk” into their tone for this reason.
Soul singers also sit slightly back on the beat. Other styles might, in contrast, sit right on the beat. Again, like the vowels, timing becomes more relaxed, perhaps even a little improvised.
Soul singers take their time, they draw out the music, which results in a less hurried and “chill” sound.
Emotion is the linchpin to everything soul!
Any extra effort exerted in soul goes into emotional interpretation. Soul singers are not just hitting notes, they are hitting them for an emotional reason.
Again back to the crying. Think about how high and loud a sound you can make if you put on a cry, or even a whimper. These ‘high’ sounds are pretty low-effort to hit continuously. Try make a high pitched whimper sound like a puppy. If you can do it without tightening the larynx, you might understand what I mean.
Then there’s genetics.
At the end of the day, your tone is your tone. It is unique to you alone and can be built upon––though not necessarily changed entirely––and you wouldn’t want this anyway. Tone and style can be cultivated. For the most part, the main goal in learning to sing is to sound like a better version of you. This is where unique artistry––your biggest selling point––is born.
It is helpful to note that certain people and races have thicker musculature as part of their genetic make up. This ‘thick musculature’ can translate to the structure of the larynx, hence the ‘thicker’ sound some people can get.
Lastly, a note from Pavaroti:
“Learning music by reading about it is like making love by mail.”
As much as I can write about how to sing soulfully, you’ll find learning easier by actually doing it AND by having someone who knows what they’re doing instruct you. Think of a singing teacher as your outside ear. They can hear things you might not. A good teacher will all help you achieve goals quicker than if you tried alone. They will also ensure you don’t cause any vocal damage in the process.
But something you can do at home.
- Practice in front of a mirror.
- Keep your vowels round.
- Record yourself singing and play things back to hear any issues you might like to work on.
Feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.
image credit: Pixabay