One of my students, singer-songwriter Jaden Carlson, is playing at the Desert Rocks Music Festival this weekend. She's very comfortable on stage whether talking or singing, but she wanted her song introductions to connect with her audience more powerfully. So in our last couple of lessons we worked on her song introductions.
The things we worked on are helpful for anyone who introduces their songs with comments or stories, and they're easy concepts to understand. They are a little harder to actually execute, though.
Three Ways to Make Your Song Intros More Powerful
1) Plan what you're going to say.
Just as the way a joke is delivered makes all the difference as to whether or not it is funny, the way a story is delivered makes all the difference as to whether it's interesting and powerful.
If, like me, you're not a natural storyteller, tell your story to a friend and have them extract the relevant pieces of information from it. Have them write each element down so that you can put them in order.
First, figure out which element of the story should come last. It may be a piece of information that puts all the other elements in a new light, it may be a twist of events, it may be something that gives closure to the story.
Then, put the other elements in order. Number them! Omit elements that don't contribute to the arc of the story. You don't have to tell every single detail. On the other hand, if you have details that help flesh out the context and feeling of the story without taking too much time, they may help contribute to the story's power. You have to decide. Don't make your intro too long! Streamline.
Practice telling your story in order, over and over until you don't have to think about it.
2) Jump right in to the story.
Instead of starting your intro with "This next song is about...", just jump right into the story.
For example, instead of "This next song is about this one time that I found out that my friend's dog got run over by a car," say, "My friend called me one day. He told me his dog had been run over by a car."
3) Slow down. Give your story space.
I, for one, tend to speak quickly, so this is one I have to consciously think about.
If you talk quickly over a microphone, people are very unlikely to be able to understand what you say. In any venue you're likely to have people talking and/or sound bouncing around the room, which makes it harder for people to understand what you're saying, compared to when you talk one-on-one. Plus, if you're at all nervous on stage, your rate of speech is likely to increase.
Slooooow doooown your words so that the sound waves of your voice coming out the speakers are intelligible to people as they bounce around the room and mix with the sounds of the crowd.
Also, give your story some space. Say a sentence. Then pause, perhaps noodle on your instrument, and let a chord ring out. Say another sentence. Pause. Pausing allows the audience to digest what you're saying, and encourages people who aren't listening to start listening. It draws people in, teasing them, making them wait for the next step in the story.
Practice your song intros just like you practice the songs themselves. Talking slower than normal doesn't come naturally for most people. Leaving space between sentences doesn't come naturally either. And only the naturally talented storytellers among us have the intuitive sense of how to tell a story in a way that makes it most powerful.
(c) 2011 Adrienne Osborn