As singers, there is a massive library of songs to choose from. Taking the time to learn a song accurately, and with care, will help you enjoy the process of learning songs. This process is also great for songs you already know. It will refine your pitches, and help you to discover unique, personal ways of expressing the melody. This process will also tune your ears - a skill that will make learning other songs easier.
1. Listen to recordings of your song.
Try to find as many versions as possible, including instrumental versions. As you listen: Pay attention to the tempo choices different musicians make, Is it swinging or Latin infused? Is it slow and rubato, or uptempo and metronomic? Are there a combination of tempos?; Notice the timbre of the singer in different parts, is the vocalist choosing to sound rich and deep, or delicate and thin?; Listen carefully to the chord progression the band is playing. Is it the same for each recording that you listen to? Do the chords sound “jazzy” and complex? Do they sound folky? Blues-ey? Rockin’? Form your own opinions about what you like and what you don’t like about the different versions
2. Tap the rhythm of the melody to a metronome.
Start slowly so that you will be accurate, then work up to the tempo you want to perform the song in. Be rigid, at this point, with the rhythm. Things will loosen up once all the components are put together.
3. Play the melody only on piano or guitar
in the register that you will be singing it. Slowly, work through the phrases one at a time on “AH.”
4. Practice speaking the lyrics as though they were a poem.
Pay attention to the natural cadences of the phrases. Where do you elongate vowels? What words do you put an accent on? Let the structure of your communication evolve organically.
, speak the lyrics to the correct rhythm. This is where you will find your lyrical expression.
5. Put the lyrics, rhythm and melody together.
Go slowly, working phrase by phrase, paying close attention to precision. Use a recording device to test your accuracy of pitch, rhythm and to be sure you are pronouncing words the way you want to. It’s shocking how much our own ears can mislead us. Depend upon a recording device for this stage. As you notice things you aren’t happy with, mark the adjustments in your score so that you will remember them the next time you sing that passage/note/etc. As you go through this process, work your tempo up to the speed you want.
6. Memorize your song.
7. Do complete run-throughs of the song
with accompaniment, either a recorded track or a band. Continue to record yourself, evaluate, and adjust as necessary. Then, forget everything you’ve been working on and sing the song as though it were the very first time. Reconnect with the emotional aspects of the song that drew you to it initially.
8. Perform the song.
After performance, reflect. Don’t be too hard on yourself and start with things you liked and were proud of. Nobody gives themselves a perfect 10 after performing, but make a list of things you would like to work on or improve and then come up with an action plan. Go over this with your voice teacher.
Next steps: repeat steps 1-8 ad nauseum!