10 Rules for Expressive Singing

These are 10 rules that were demonstrated and explained at a music educator’s conference I attended recently. Most of these are things that choral people should know, but perhaps have forgotten and need to be reminded of. If you follow these rules, most intonation issues will be fixed. Presented by director Marshaun Hymon.

10 Rules for Singing

  1. The Rule of “long and pucker”
    • Keep the mouth tall, for longer vowels, and slightly pucker the lips.
  2. The Rule of Vowel Modification
    • Certain vowels will need to be changed, like “me” turns into “mih”.
  3. The Rule of the Tapered Slur
    • When slurring notes (two notes on one word), the second not should be slightly softer. A mini-decrescendo.
  4. The Rule of Word Stress
    • Speech has natural accents and stresses. Certain words in phrases should be stronger. “NEVer saw the sun, SHINing so bright.”
  5. The Rule of Dissonance
    • Emphasize those “crunchy” dissonant notes, and back off on the consonance. Tension and release.
  6. The Rule of the Steady Beat
    • If your note is longer than the beat, it has to go somewhere! Crescendo or decrescendo!
  7. The Rule of Using Rubato
    • You can slow down or speed up slightly within the tempo of a song, to make it more interesting.
  8. The Rule of the Diphthong
    • When a word has a vowel with two parts (like “shine” or “joy”), the first vowel is our friend, second is short.
  9. The Rule of the Phrase.
    • Every phrase must crescendo and decrescendo; it has to go somewhere, it cannot lie flat.
  10. The Rule of Articulation
    • You must honor every articulation mark. The composer put it in there, so it should be heard.

My additional rule:

  1. It’s All About That Face
    • How you look will help determine how you sound. If you look bored and dull, the sound will be boring and lackluster. If you look cheerful (smiling from the eyes up), the soft palate will be raised and the tone will be better and more in-tune. Think of the face you make when trying not to laugh, or when your mom puts on mascara and makes that face. Raising eyebrows can help as well. There are excellent articles about the soft palate out there. Here is one: http://vocalprocess.co.uk/nasality-in-singing/

About Lady Fair

Lady is a musician with a bachelor's degree in music education. She plays multiple instruments and has participated in numerous musical ensembles, giving her a wide variety of experiences and knowledge to use in her teaching career. Of her ensemble participation, she has fifteen years of band experience, nine years choral, and four years in orchestra. Éowyn's primary instrument is clarinet, with voice and piano being close secondary instruments. Throughout her musical education career she studied voice and clarinet simultaneously. In addition to clarinet, piano, and voice, she has also studied violin and oboe at the college level, and also plays recorder, tin whistle, and other instruments in the woodwind family. If you ask her, she will say, "I chose to major in music education because I have a desire to use my knowledge and experience in music to share its beauty and foster a love of music in the hearts of my students. I hope to encourage my students to try their hardest, feel like they have accomplished something, and give them a life long passion for music." Lady currently teaches private lessons on clarinet, sax, flute, oboe, piano, and voice, and recently gained a position teaching orchestra and chorus at a local middle school. She is also a member of the Once Upon a Dream woodwind ensembles.
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