Vocal Coaching

Blues Techniques for Non-Blues Singers

This workshop outlines specific phrasing and expressive techniques used by Blues singers and then drops them into a song you already sing.

The virtuosity and vocal power of iconic black singers is undeniable.

From Bessie Smith to Aretha Franklin, from Son House to Otis Redding, black singers have consistently delivered powerful, emotional performances. In performances of Spirituals, Gospel, Blues, Jazz, R & B, Soul music audiences seem to be literally drawn into the songs. Listeners become incapable of being passive music consumers. They respond emotionally, and sometimes bodily.

In addition to whatever raw talent they bring to the table, black singers are culturally encouraged and trained to use the phrasing and expressive techniques customarily used in speech when they sing.

This is not ‘talent,’ but technique. And it can be learned.

This singing workshop will begin by lining out familiar techniques we commonly use for communicating emotion in speech. That done, we’ll look for places to use them in songs. Simple.

But, there is some alchemy to this. To do it effectively, we need both singer and audience.

In the spirit of play, we will rotate through singers one at a time. Participants will have the opportunity to sing a verse or two, and then at my suggestion, to try out small, specific changes in the delivery of a particular line. With the rest of the class as an audience, we will all get to feel how those small changes affect the emotional power of the song.

Over the course of the workshop, both the singer and audience will develop an appreciation for the emotive power of specific techniques, as small changes in phrasing/delivery affect how we hear the song.

As an object lesson in the use of the voice to deliver content in ways that are emotional, please have a look at Dame Helen Mirren doing a cold (unrehearsed) reading of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’ on Stephen Colbert’s show.

It pays to think about how we use our voices in speech and then allow that to influence how we use it in song: https://youtu.be/aJb_zJbJ7FI 

I have done this work with beginners, amateurs, and professional singers on both sides of the color line. The work is impactful and durable. It continues to inspire new ways of thinking about a song and about what it is we do when we present a song to an audience.

The voice is the most personal and tender instrument we have. Accordingly, I will be personally responsible for protecting the private, emotional safety of each singer.  I will be the only one coaching the singer. But, we will all be free to respond as listeners to the impact of the song and to make note of the effect of slight changes in its delivery.

And as singers and listeners, we will strive to extend our willingness to play and to experiment with phrasing techniques and the raw materials of singing.

– Scott Ainslie


Use the form below to contact Scott to arrange a private lesson or the booking form to arrange a workshop in your area when Scott is on tour.

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Form submissions will go to both Susan at Loyd Artists and Barb at Cattail Music.

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