Five Ways to Make a Song Your Own

Five Ways to Make a Song Your Own

glennstrumpetnotesYou don’t have to be an amazing scat singer or have an unusual sound to develop a distinctive style and stand out from the crowd.  Of course, the most important thing is to sing authentically, expressing your own emotions through the lyrics and avoid imitating another artist’s interpretation.  (This subject will be covered in another blog).  But there are also some stylistic tweaks you can experiment with.  Don’t go overboard and feel that you need to use one of these on every line; using just a few of them can go a long way in making your interpretation unique.

1)   Change the arrangement.  Turn a rock song into a slow ballad or vice versa.  Take a swing song and make it sound more Latin.  Start a song rubato (free timing) and go into time after the first eight bars or so.

2)   Change the timing of the melody.  For example, if the melody starts on the downbeat of a particular measure, try starting on the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th beat.  (Back-phrasing) Conversely, try coming in early – on the end of the previous measure (Forward-phrasing).

3)   Change some of the melody notes.  An easy thing to do is to go up or down an octave, but you can try any note that will work with the harmony.  If you can play the chords on a piano, try singing each note of the chord with the lyric.  Or just experiment with an accompanist or backing track.

4)   Add ornamentation.  Passing tones are notes that fit between two notes in the melody.  Or try “bending” or scooping into a note.  Experiment with melisma – singing various notes on a single syllable or word.

5)   Change the Dynamics.  Use dynamics to build variation in a song.  You can vary it section by section, maybe starting the first verse soft, second a bit louder, building to a crescendo and then softening for the last verse…or vice versa! Or make a quick dynamic change to emphasize a particular word or phrase.  Make sure the dynamics fit organically with the lyrics and are not an arbitrary choice.

With all of these ideas, be sure to experiment.  You might go through a song many different times, for example, the first time focusing on changing the phrasing, the second time, the melody, etc.  Then pick two or three ideas that work and practice them so you can sing them when performing the song.  Soon you’ll find yourself improvising more confidently, and you’ll be on your way to developing your signature style!




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