Acting 101 for Singers: Day 1, Topic 7
What is it that makes someone sound so expressive when they talk? What is it that makes someone sound so musical when they sing? It all comes down to natural accents and word stress. Here is how to make your vocal expression more dynamic and captivating.
What are natural accents?
The easiest way to identify which syllables and words should be stressed is to speak the text until it sounds like everyday conversation. If you are singing in a language that isn’t your native language, or even if it is, and you aren’t clear, then either consult a native speaker or more language savvy person if it is a sentence or a dictionary if it’s just a word.
Identifying word stress?
If a word or syllable gets spoken louder, longer, or higher pitched, it is a sign that you probably have a stressed word or syllable on your hands.
Lines – write down your accent and stress decisions.
Underline the stressed syllable(s) in multi-syllabic words. The key to singing these as stressed syllabi isn’t so much about making these syllables louder, as much as it is making the syllables around them softer. It is also about stealing a bit of time from words that are not underlined and giving it to the stressed syllables and important words.
X Marks the spot
Next, we will mark an “X” above the most important words in the phrase. These are words we would highlight in a sentence if we were only speaking the text as well. Often a good composer will make these words longer, louder, higher, or in some other way make them stand out from the words around them. If we choose the right words, then we should be able to read them in sequence and get the basic meaning of the song. When we mark the X, we are going to organize them in relative importance. The higher we place the X in the blank space above the work then the more important that word is. The word or syllable at the climax will get an X with a box around it. Doing this, we diagram the basic shape of each phrase and the overall flow and shape of the song. If you are confused, then check out the example and it should make more sense.
Here is an example of how it could look.
- Take the time to speak through the text until you get each phrase so it feels and sounds natural. Be deliberate about what words you are wanting to accent.
- It might be confusing and frustrating at the start. Be patient and get help. It gets easier the more you spend time doing it.
- Don’t skip this. You will be amazed at how much more expressive and clear you will be after taking the time to identify natural accents and word stress.
- Thinking there is only one right choice of which word is most important. One of the choices left to the performer that shows their artistry is which words they choose to stress and how they do it.
- Not taking the time to think it through. Think about it. Try each sentence by speaking it out loud until it feels right.
- Thinking of word stress like an on-off switch. Word stress isn’t a matter of a syllable or word being loud or soft. It is the rollercoaster type shape each sentence makes where no two syllables within a phrase are the same in duration or dynamic level.
- Disconnecting speech patterns from singing. If you want your singing to sound musical and expressive, then inform your singing with expressive speech.
Links to other articles in Acting 101 for Singers Day 1
Topic 10: Where does imagination come from?