Acting Through Song

shutterstock_1974833678There is an obvious difference when watching someone sing if they are bringing the story to life or they are just singing a pretty song. Identifying what is different and how to achieve that is tricky. Our goal as performers is to present an honest and believable performance that engages the audience and allows them to live in the story with us. Here are the basic three questions that need to be answered when you are trying to bring your character to life within a song. Lessons In Your Home offers singing lessons in Seattle that include performance coaching.

Who Are You Talking/Singing To?

When singing a song it is important to identify whom you are singing to. This is often referred to as your “other”. Depending on the format of the performance (recital, concert, theater production) you need to make a choice. Not being clear on who you are singing to translates into the audience equally not understanding what’s really going on. Choosing what song to sing is important, too. When you are singing within the context of a musical or opera you are given more clarity on who you are singing to. If there is another character on stage with you or who just had a scene with you it could be them. When a character is alone on stage there are a few more options of whom they are singing to. It is less important that you make the exact right choice of your other and more important that you make a definitive choice.

Examples of “others”.

  • One part of themselves to another like head singing to the heart
  • Singing to a person who is not physically on stage with them
  • God or any entity that could grant them what they wish
  • Someone who is “naysaying” presenting an opposing view.

What Is Your Problem?

It is true in “real life” we do not usually break out into song. However, in theater we use songs as a means of expression. There has to be a reason that your character must use song to communicate. There is almost always an event that incites the character to be thrown off balance and to need to use a song to communicate or discover what to do next. The first step here is to review what the circumstances are of the scene, what is happening in the story and what happens just before the character begins to sing. When using a song outside the context of a specific show you get to make these choices. One thing to make sure you are looking at when analyzing the song is the lyrics. Do the lyrics support the circumstance you have created?

Examples of problems:

  • I am in love with someone who doesn’t love me back
  • I feel trapped in this situation and can’t find a way out
  • I am struggling to hold myself together in the midst of a tragedy
  • I feel misunderstood and judged
  • I am afraid I cannot do this task set before me

What Is Your Objective?

Having a clear idea of what your character wants and hopes to achieve by using the words of the song is crucial to presenting a focused and communicative performance. If you have clarity on this, the audience will understand as well. Sometimes it is more obvious that others what a character wants. Take time to analyze the situation, the lyrics, and human nature. Most people want to be seen, heard, understood, to survive and come out “on top”. Sometimes they are trying to convince and recruit others to believe as they do. Maybe they are simply sharing their revelation or epiphany or in the midst of figuring out the meaning of an event. Again, it is crucial that the lyrics in the song support the objective you choose.

Examples of objectives:

  • I want you to love me
  • I need a way out
  • I have to be strong and survive
  • I need help

Knowing the answers to these first three questions will give clarity and focus to your performance. This will translate to the audience and communicate to them what is going on in the story. It is this clarity that makes for an engaging performance. There are a plethora of Seattle voice teachers, acting classes, coaches, performance coaches, and acting programs you can go to take your craft to the next level. There are also many great books that can help guide you. One I highly recommend is Dramatic Circumstances: On Acting, Singing, and Living Inside the Stories We Tell by William Wesbrooks.
If you are interested in lessons that include performance coaching you can contact us at Lessons in Your Home to set up a lesson. All of our instructors are professional musicians and gifted instructors. They will come right to your home for every lesson, plus we offer virtual music lessons, too. Our online music lessons are being taught by local music teachers with live lessons tailored to you needs! Contact us today to learn more. Contact us today to find an instructor near you.
By Leigh Toltz

Acting Through Song

Leave a Reply