Acting for Singers Day 1 Topic 2
In my experience, the process for most young singers, when they have a new song they want to learn, is to go about it learning it completely backward. Really! Read the following steps in reverse and you will not only get the learning process but also see the order of where they spend the majority of their time in the practice room. This leads to mistakes, vocal techniques issues, inefficient practicing, unengaged acting, and in general not so great performances. The following method may seem more time consuming and tedious at the start but in the long run, it will save you time and yield a much better final product. Give it a try!
Here is how to learn you music more effectively
1. Translate the language. Mark in breathing cues. Identify natural accents in the text.
2. Gather Dramatic information that is in the printed music (Musical form, expressive markings, dynamics, context indicators in language, action music & mood music, and other primary sources that give insight into the piece.)
3. Decide on the context for your piece ( The who, what, where, when, why of the piece). Not all pieces have a given context. If the context is not dictated then you get to choose one that you think fits the text, music, and you as an artist. Note: make a decision but do it knowing that you can change any part of it later on if you come up with something better. The more vivid, imaginative, and emotionally charged the easier it will be.
4. Storyboard your piece. Start with the big structural moments (beginning, end, new musical sections, climax, etc) and then work down to individual phrases. Memorize the pattern of actions (“I go here, then I do this, then I see that, and I show this feeling on my face “etc.). Be specific and talk in the first person when you are thinking about this character (Ex: “At mm. 25 beat 3 I see a candle in the distance and that gives me hope. I take a step towards the candle to try to see it better at the end of the next phrase. etc.”
6. Learn the diction correctly the first time by speaking it through until you speak it like you mean it and it feels fluid and natural on your tongue. GET HELP! IPA is great but a good coach or native speaker is even better.
7. Add in natural accents, dynamics, and phrasing required by the music while speaking.
8. Learn correct rhythms the first time. Take time to count it out with a metronome. Do it alone then add in previous steps.
9. Learn correct notes on a vowel or on all the vowels if you feel ambitious. Then add previous steps.
10. By this time you should have it pretty much memorized and so singing it over and over to learn it isn’t needed. You should sing through it deliberately choosing one or two things you need to fix, video yourself, review, and then choose new issues to focus on and adjust.
11. Listen to recordings of other artists performing it. By this point, you have already made all your decisions. You are now listening not to learn the song but to understand what other artists have done with it and learn from what they do well and what they don’t do well.
Is this the only right way to learn a song?
Nope. It is a great starting place though. Find the way that works best for you but be deliberate about it. Work smarter and harder. My suggestion would be to follow this method step by step for at least a few songs then when you got it down start to alter it to best suit you.