Remembering your own or other’s songs is as easy as 1-2-3 –says Rachel Lebon
I can’t believe that I’ve arrived at my final posting as VoiceCouncil’s Vocal Coach in Residence!
It’s been my pleasure to hear talented singers and read informative articles from my colleagues.
I want to leave you with a system of notation that you can use to remember that song idea that has popped into your head – or to think through the new lines to a cover you are working on.
From Notes to Numbers
When I was doing studio work in Nashville, I was exposed to The Nashville Number System (NNS), a music shorthand that was useful in coming up with spontaneous solo melodies, back-up vocals and quick notation for instrumentalists.
I’ve found it useful to adapt the NNS to
• Notate vocal exercises
• Learn melodies or recall catchy tunes running around in my head
• Quickly notate backup harmony lines to avoid singers “stepping on” each other’s parts.
Knowing Where Home (“do”) Is
Essentially, in the NNS, the Major Scale is reduced to numbers; Alterations are notated with a # (up a 1/2tep) and b (down a ½ step)
The scale, Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do becomes 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8
“Mary Had a Little Lamb” in numbers looks like this:
3212333 222 355 3212333 322321
The Natural Minor Scale becomes 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 8
For example 1 b3 1 b3 1
Wade in the Wa-ter
You can even use this system for spontaneous background vocals or chord sequences.
Presenting a new cover tune on short notice?
• Sketch the melody as numbers above the words on your Lyric Sheet to learn it quickly.
• Keep Lyric Sheets in your Songbook- easily retrieved and ready to perform even when time
elapses between performances.
Recording your original material?
• One sheet of paper outlining vocal lines is all you need so that even singers who can’t read can pick them up quickly.
• The same holds true for preparing background vocals to record as well as for a live performance
My Final Word
In the past, wonderfully talented singers went unheard by the public unless they caught the ears of influential people.
Now, artists can reach the ears of a worldwide audience via the internet, though fame is not the only barometer of “success.”
Remember: Taking that deep breath and singing aloud oxygenates the blood, excites the soul and enriches our lives beyond measure.
-Rachel L. Lebon
My Reactions to this Past Week’s Peer Review Vids…
Steve Poucher – Fulsom Prison Cover
Steve, this is a strong performance where solid guitar work is matched by a good voice. I want to encourage you to “stay in the moment” with your performance. Consider that you don’t always need to sustain the final word of a phrase. Present the words, at times, like speech… as if thoughts are occurring to you right then and there. Then, it’s less predictable for your listeners. That’s particularly important for such a famous cover, since the listeners will focus more on your presentation if they’re hearing something new. Also, avoid approaching your lowest notes by looking down, lowering your chin and trying to place the note. Instead, relax the throat and keep the tone forward. I see that you have quite a body of work and plan to check it out.
Louie Ongpauco – Fast Car Cover
Louie, you set a nice groove and feel on the intro with an assured sound on the guitar. Your vocal quality is pleasant and soothing. I did lose some words, particularly on the 2nd phrase of the bridge. Thus, you could be a bit crisper with the vocal delivery. You might consider “singing the commas” in phrases like “Be myself, I have nothing to prove.”, “See, my old man has a problem”, etc. Allowing a subtle stress on the word following the comma will bring each strong statement to the listener without breaking the “run -on” almost stream-of consciousness quality of the songwriting. Open your eyes occasionally and allow them to show your involvement. Even with your effective, understated approach, let us feel your connection with the words.
-Rachel L. Lebon, Phd
Rachel L. Lebon, Ph.D. has been a professional vocalist and studio singer in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Nashville and Miami. She was on the faculty at Belmont College and is currently at the University of Miami, has toured toured world-wide with “Tops in Blue” and on a State Department tour of the Soviet Union and Portugal. Rachel is the author of two published books and conducts lectures, symposia and adjudication worldwide on vocal pedagogy and voice disorders.