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If you watch a professional singer they are seldom standing still. Usually they are quite animated, using their face and body to express the song they are singing. In any event they don't behave like dummies. Their movements are more often than not determined by their interpretation of the song.
It is not easy for us amateur singers and karaokists to use our bodies for expression when performing because of the embarrassment we feel in front of people but we use it for expression all the time in everyday life. How many times have you spoken to someone, even on the phone, and found yourself using your arms and hands to make a point or for extra effect. We need to build this sort of expression into our songs in order to give a better performance. Singing involves amplifying and enhancing this natural body language.
Why do we stand in front of the screen, our eyes glued to the words thereon, like statues ? Is it because we don t know the words or is it because we believe the words are going to be different to the words we're expecting ? The truth is most of us know the words that we are about to sing. It is not very often that we get up to sing a song we do not know; we will have heard the tune and words at some time or another. Many people, particularly those of us who know the words, look at the screen for comfort, security, and to hide behind. Not literally hide behind of course - but to hide our embarrassment. It is a fact that even when we know the words we still look at the screen.
In order to improve our presentation the first thing we must do is dispense with the "eye-locked-to-the-screen" syndrome. There are at least two ways of doing this; one is to learn the words of the song before performing and the other is to look at the screen but not to let the audience see that you are looking at it. We will tackle the latter of these.
Barry suggests that the singer must overcome any embarrassment felt standing in front of the crowd and actually focus their attention on the audience. This has the effect of breaking down the hidden barrier between the singer and watcher by creating a more intimate relationship between both. Also, despite the fact the singer may have little confidence, it gives the audience the illusion of confidence and this is important. Some singers look at the spotlight whilst singing which can give the effect of looking at the audience. This is fine but to look at the audience directly is better and spotlights are not available in most venues anyway!
If we must look at the screen for the words do it discreetly. Periodically glance at the screen, read and remember the next line, then look elsewhere - preferably at the audience - returning to the screen briefly to read the next line or verse. It is possible to read the screen without the audience knowing. Try flicking just the eyes to the screen, not the head.
Understand the song and turn the words into gestures. E.g. When singing about rain, look up in the air occasionally or hold the hand out as if feeling for rain. If the song is about a person try catching the attention of a member of the audience to sing it to. Interpret the meaning of the song and build gestures around the lyrics. Don t turn your back on the audience, except when the song allows for it; such as the musical build-up at the beginning of a song.
If the song climaxes in a long single-note, try bringing the arms up into an outstretched position just as it finishes - great impact.
Try using a mike stand if one is available as this will leave both hands free. This is a big jump from holding the mike with one hand though. The mike is another form of security for the singer. "What ? not hold the mike. What am I going to do with my hands ?" - use the hands for emphasis or grab the mike stand now and again. Of course using the stand ties the singer to one position on the floor but it is a useful confidence-building experience. Conversely, with a hand-held mike it is possible to move closer to the audience - yes, closer, again creating a cabaret-style performance.
If the hand-held mike is a radio-mike bear in mind line of sight between the mike and the receiver needs to be maintained or the voice may suddenly disappear.
Pre-determined steps and actions are known as choreography. When an act is choreo d the effect can be absolutely stunning, especially if the act is two or more people moving in unison. Choreo can make an average performance brilliant. Watch S Club 7 for instance and notice their arms and legs are moved with precision, expertly choreographed.
Many a good singing duet has been spoilt because of each singer doing movements without reference to the other. Even the easiest of steps can reap benefits in presentation so keep it simple and time it to the rhythm of the song. If singing as a duet, practice together, copy movements from some TV act you may have seen, there's no harm in it.
When a song has a sudden finish consider timing your movements to finish at the same time. A sharp, staccato-type end, begs for applause. The sudden silence makes the audience pay attention and often results in applause. This event is often known as a clap-trap in the business because the audience clap their hands instinctively as they fall into the singers psychological trap .
If the choreo involves a lot of jumping about bear in mind that it will not be possible to sing well while doing this. Any smooth notes needed will be audibly tainted by jerks of the body. The best notes are sung when the body forms a stable, rigid structure, with both feet firmly on the ground. But, we are digressing toward the subject of singing, a subject on which others are better qualified to embellish and with whom lessons should be sought if serious about singing.
Some common tips though are: