Jul 15 2011

Speak like you sing, sing like you speak

Published by at 6:37 AM under Delivery


Years ago, I studied voice with Seth Riggs, a teacher who had a profound impact on my teaching.  He taught me that the voice is the same instrument whether you are singing or speaking.  Today, when I teach singing, I teach people to find their “speech level.”  When I work with speakers, I listen for dynamics, tone, and phrasing, just as I would if they were singing.: The same physiology with slightly different applications.

This is why I was fascinated to read about Brian Eno’s latest project.  The composer’s new album is poetry read and set to music. ” ‘We are all singing. We call it speech, but we’re singing to each other,” Eno said (sang?) from London .’I thought, as soon as you put spoken word onto music, you start to hear it like singing anyway. You start to develop musical value and musical weight, and you start to notice how this word falls on that beat, and so on.’ ”

About a year ago, this relationship between singing and speaking was discussed in an article in Scientific American.  There is evidence that humans learned to speak because of music, and that we love music because it reminds us of speech.  Or is it the other way around?  My own experience is that whichever it is,  music and speaking are connected.  Now, I ask you, my readers, how is your speaking voice like your singing voice and vice versa?  Have you ever thought of this?  If you have, I would love to hear from you.  If you haven’t, here are some ideas to start the exploration:

As a speaker, consider that your voice is a musical instrument.  As a musician, you can apply dynamics, tone, expression, phrasing, and pitch, volume, and many other aspects of sound production and expression to what you are doing.  If you play an instrument already, you are already trained to take this approach.  Try it.

As a singer, your speaking voice is a guide for your singing voice.  Try speaking phrases before singing them.  Notice how your production is similar and how it is different.  Strive to speak on pitch and to be aware of how you may be affecting the sound to create a pretty voice, or a pop voice, or a “legit” voice.  Style is closely related to registration.  Basic vocal production as a singer is akin to “Xtreme” speech.  If you want to know more about this, let me know.

To read more about Brian Eno’s project, Drum Between the Bells, please see this Los Angeles Times’ article .

And for more thoughts on this topic, please see The Eloquent Woman.  (Great minds think alike!)

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