Singing the Blues 101

Below are some basic vocal notes for the performance of Rock Me Baby, by Big Mama Thornton, from the album Sassy Woman.

We went through some of these examples during a workshop I led for Supporting Women in Blues in May 2014.

We had a lot of fun- especially exploring ‘vocal creak.’

Dynamic Contrast
The most striking thing about this is how she uses vocal textures like gravel and vocal creak to create dynamic contrast in the vocal line.

There is also a very gospel-like ending, with a lot of percussive stops.

Have a listen along with the picture, and it should help you hear a little of what’s going on.

The notes loosely follow the ‘vocal scoring’ as written by Donna Soto- Morettini in her book, Popular Singing; A Practical Guide to: Pop, Jazz, Blues, Rock, Country and Gospel.

Enjoy!

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Singing the Blues 101

20140514-190831.jpg
These are sim basic vocal notes for the performance of Rock Me Baby, by Big Mama Thornton, from the album Sassy Woman.

The most striking thing about this is how she uses vocal textures like gravel and vocal creak to create dynamic contrast in the vocal line.

There is also a very gospel-like ending, with a lot of percussive stops.

Have a listen along with the picture, and it should help you hear a little of what’s going on.

The notes loosely follow the ‘vocal scoring’ as written by Donna Soto- Morettini in her book, Popular Singing; A Practical Guide to: Pop, Jazz, Blues, Rock, Country and Gospel.

Enjoy!

What did you like about the gig?

The gig was a smash!

We had people singing along, laughing (in the right spots,) tapping their feet, and generally being entertained.

But each singer came away with a different sense of what they liked and didn’t like about the performance.

Songwriting guru Pat Pattison said it best when he addressed how we tend to hang out in the negative side of constructive criticism.

Find out what you love about a song-  because we want to hang out where we are most passionate.

I’m not sure if they were his exact words, but I find it helpful to think about what you liked about a performance before you start thinking on what you’d like to improve on.

What did I see that everyone could work on?

Well, I looked at all these clever, creative people singing and thought to myself, ‘They could be singing their own songs.’

So they’ve started writing, and that’s a big step, but we’re taking it in tiny steps.

Sometimes we need to take tiny steps to get underneath the radar of our ‘fear alarm.’

This tiny steps approach is owed completely to Robert Maurer’s book: One Small Step Can Change Your Life

What’s one small (tiny-as-you-can) step you could take for your music or performance?

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This is Liz and Dave Johnson performing some brilliant original songs at the Dancing Dog Gig.

 

Let the Feelings Follow (excerpt from my Journal/Morning Pages)

Most of the singer shaved started writing songs since our concert. The biggest challenge so far has been ‘turning up’ to write. So we’ve been going through the process of drafting during class. That way it becomes something-anything! But it becomes something to work with, rather than something that doesn’t exist yet.

Sheridan Stewart's Success Secrets of Confident Women

If we are always waiting to ‘feel like it’ chances are whatever ‘it’ is may never get done! Progress will be sporadic and the results inconsistent at best. So often we are waiting for inspiration to strike, to ‘feel like it” before we are willing to take action. But truth is that’s arse about-face! Mostly, our feelings follow our actions, not the other way around!

Dedicate time regularly to creative projects = feeling inspired!

Eating healthily and exercising = feeling vibrant

AFFIRMATION “I take action now & trust that my feelings will follow!”

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Gig Preparation Tips

Our first gig as a studio of singers is coming up on November 3 at the Dancing Dog, and everyone is excited/nervous about getting ready.

Here are a few tips for being ready for the day.

Learn the lyrics

Not rocket surgery, sure…but it is important to be clear on second and third verses, bridges, and the form of the song.
The form is about how many bars there are for the introduction, and each section.

Song Introductions- ‘Where’s Wally?’

It’s a great idea to plan how you will introduce your songs so that you’re not putting pressure on yourself to think of something in the moment of being onstage.

I think of it as the ‘Where’s Wally?’ of the song. If you can introduce your song with something your audience can listen out for, it gives them another reason to tune in. For example, if your song is a love song set in Footscray, you might introduce it with something like:

Everyone has a love song set somewhere romantic like Paris, or London. Here’s my song, in such a romantic location…

Hot tip: If you’re introducing a sad or serious song, create a receptive atmosphere by injecting some light humour.

Get a handle on your self-talk

Our brain can be very effective at protecting our sense of safety. Which means we can often discourage ourselves from doing something scary. This is great if you’re thinking about bungy-jumping without a rope, but not so good if it’s something that stretches and tests us, like singing.

Here are some strategies from Russ Harris’ the Happiness Trap website- I highly recommend his book ‘The Confidence Gap’ for singers. The Confidence Gap
There are plenty of free resources on his website:
Confidence and values
Imagine how you might act and feel if you were absolutely confident. There is a list on this pdf of the values you might be expressing.
In the lead up to this concert, a lot of singers have benefitted from identifying what thoughts and feelings they are willing to make room for in pursing their goal of performing. That’s meant that when those thoughts and feelings have turned up, the singer has been able to say ‘Oh, there’s the procrastination (or anxiety/self-doubt) I expected to come along.’

Last, but not least, practise how you will perform in the mirror
This does a few things.
It means that our outsides can match our insides, and we can check if our body is telling the story of the song, (or the story of how nervous we are!)

If we do this regularly, it means that we can get a consistent result, and be confident that we will deliver at least some of this performance when our adrenalin levels rise.

Once you’ve ‘controlled all the controllables’ the outcome should leave you in a space to enjoy the moment!

In the words of Helen Keller: ‘Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.’

Break a leg 😉

Songwriting Worskshop tips

On Sunday I drove into camp Sunnystones to take a workshop on songwriting.
On arrival, the hostess with the mostest, Steph Payne, informed me that some singers were excited about doing a songwriting workshop, and others were…less than excited. Okay, maybe daunted.

Once we were all settled, we started diving into our senses with some timed writing exercises. The goal was to become aware of all our senses.

You can check out the daily object writing online group here.

The group’s self-described experience ranged from ‘never’ having written a song, to writing ‘crappy’ songs- or the cousin of the song….the poem.

And there we plenty of moments of brilliance- our word, ‘butter’ gave us ‘the colour of egg yolks and daffodils’, ‘slippery butter pooling in the bread’ and evoking ‘Grandma’s kitchen.’

The was also enough ordinary* (read- sucky) writing that some people frowned at their page. But writing, to me, is about creating a lot of work- creating a bunch of words and phrases that may be, for the most part- very ordinary. But we’re mining for diamonds, or nuzzling around in the mud like a truffle pig. And we’re just looking for surprising moments; images and phrases that stand out from the mud of our inevitable ‘ordinariness’.

This choir was up for anything. We warmed up their voices and did a couple of improvisation exercises where they created their own songs without even realising it.

By the end of the session we had two song starts of a verse, a chorus, and enough laughs that I hope to hear the finished songs soon!

This photo is from a worksheet of a song I’m working on at the moment 🙂

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Beginning Singing; One Story

I can’t remember if it was hot or cold, Summer or Winter in my first singing lesson. I do remember the pip of anxiety gnawing away inside. I knew the teacher auditioned her students and wasn’t sure exactly what that meant.

My teacher asked me to do a bunch of kooky things like blowing raspberries…and singing scales where my confidence swung wildly between thinking I knew what I was doing, to not having a clue.

At the time, I wanted nothing more than to sing jazz. The teacher pulled out ‘I Cover the Waterfront’. I did my best to fumble my way through the notes, and make it sound like a song.

I had no idea about the kind of journey I started on that day. I just knew that I loved singing, and was so excited when the teacher said she would take me on.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but doing something even though you’re afraid.
I stretched my comfort zone that day, and found something that turned into a life long passion.

How do you stretch your comfort zone?