According to Nashville live music producer Tom Jackson, communication is 15% what you say, 30% how you say it, and 55% how you look.
That’s very true, but you still can’t neglect the 15% of what you say and 30% how you say it. That’s half of your communication! And since a singer’s job is to communicate, half of your job is to make sure that what you say is actually understood.
The sound engineer can only do so much to help the audience hear you clearly. Garbage in, garbage out: if you’re not enunciating the words in your lyrics or stories to begin with, there’s not much the sound engineer can do to clear them up on the sound board.
So, if your lyrics are important… if you want people to laugh at your jokes between songs… if you want your story to get across…. then enunciate. That means:
- Don’t let your mouth and tongue be lazy; let them fully form your words.
- Open your mouth. Let your jaw actually move when you speak.
- When speaking, slow down. This is important for two reasons: First, we tend to speak faster when nervous. Second, the slower you speak the easier it is for the audience’s ears to distinguish your words in an acoustically muddy room.
To wrap these three ideas into one concept, imagine you are speaking or singing to the people in the back of the venue. These people can’t see your lips move, and they’re far away. Sing and speak clearly enough so that those people in the back can understand you.
When everyone in the venue understands what you’re saying and singing, you are doing your singer’s job as communicator twice as well as when you communicate only through visual communication such as attitude, emotion, movement, and expression.
Thanks to Jean-Baptiste Collinet for the idea and much of the content for this post.
(c) 2010 Adrienne Osborn