Actor and Voice Teacher PSA: I was watching a YouTube video of one of my favorite songs being sung by a very talented and experienced Broadway performer and voice coach. While it was an amazing performance “technically” speaking, it got me thinking...
If you as a person say a word a certain way, you say it that way practically every time, right?
So wouldn’t your character?
This is important: If you modify a word once in a song to make it easier to sing on a high note, you MUST modify it to match that pronunciation every time you sing the word. That’s your character’s way of saying the word. They aren’t thinking of how to say the word to make the high note easier. They are just saying the word with heightened emotions or stakes. The high note happens because of what they are saying and why, not the other way of around.
Think of this as a magic trick. It’s misdirection. If you establish that baseline as your way of saying the word when you don’t need to modify it, no one will notice when you actually NEED to modify it.
Even more important: If you modify a word that is part of a rhyme, you MUST modify the rhyming word too. Otherwise you are drawing attention to it again. If you can’t modify the rhyme, you need to try a different tool in your vocal toolbox to solve the problem. Vowel modification can’t solve this one. You’d be showing your technique.
Songs with accents can be super helpful here. If the composer and lyricist knew the accent of the character, they probably planned for THAT vowel in how they wrote the piece (hence why Les Mis is so much easier to sing with the pseudo British Accent and sounds weird with American vowels... the rhymes are different.)
This sometimes means dropping an accent or a character voice to achieve a particular spot. If that happens, blend it in and modify earlier moments so it doesn’t stand out when you drop it.
Don’t show us your technique. Use it when you need to, but don’t show us you are doing it by drawing attention to it.
It’s extra prep and analysis work, but it will totally be worth it in the end. Remember: They cast actors, not singers.
Signed, Your Friendly Neighborhood Actor’s Coach