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Singing with Emphasis

As a singer, we’re always striving to effectively communicate our message. Basically, we must be believable. There are many ways that we can do this, but one is through vocal inflection.

You see, emphasis is a tremendously important part of communication. Matter of fact, by simply changing which word you emphasize in a phrase, you can change the meaning of that phrase entirely.

To illustrate this, I’m going to borrow something I heard I believe from Zig Ziglar. Take the following phrase…

I didn’t say he beat his wife.

A simple 7 word phrase, right? Well, we can get 7 different meanings from this one phrase simply by altering which word we we emphasize. Check this out. I’m going to underline the word I’m emphasizing, then write what the statement means with that emphasis afterward.

I didn’t say he beat his wife… someone else said it

I didn’t say he beat his wife… I absolutely did not!

I didn’t say he beat his wife… I only implied it, or perhaps wrote it down.

I didn’t say he beat his wife… It was her son that beat her.

I didn’t say he beat his wife… He just roughed her up a little bit.

I didn’t say he beat his wife… It was the neighbor’s wife.

I didn’t say he beat his wife…. He beat the dog.

Ok, I hope this helps get across what I’m wanting to say. Choosing which words to emphasize can completely change the meaning of a song. This shows the importance of emphasis, but do we show emphasis while singing?

There are a handful of different ways to do this… dynamics and punching the words are the most common. However, these can be a too extreme, and almost make a song sound cheesy if done improperly.

A more eloquent, subtle way is to either elongate consonants or put a small break before the emphasized word. Matter of fact, all singers on the radio have mastered this one technique, and that’s probably why I’m not going to divulge too much information about it without us being in a lesson. Think about it… if everyone knows the technique, then it’s not as effective anymore (that and it’s nearly impossible to explain without you being able to hear my voice).

If you’re interested in scheduling a lesson and working on making this subtle diction trick a regular part of your singing, you can contact us about singing lessons here. Otherwise, listen to the radio with this in mind and see if you can’t figure out what I’m talking about and then adopt it yourself.

Happy Singing!
Vocal Coach Ken Taylor