We now come to that all-important skill of phrasing. Technically, singers
don’t sing isolated words; rather they sing in phrases. A phrase is like a sentence in speech in that the words that make up the phrase must say something that makes sense. Of course it’s not uncommon for a singer to deviate from this principle for artistic purposes and sing single words. And certain kinds of singers, such as jazz singers, take special delight in reconstructing, twisting, and fragmenting normal phasing to suit their own artistic tastes. But in these cases, the singer is following his own musical instincts and is responsible for the outcome, good or bad. Unfortunately, singers who break the phrasing principle frequently produce unfortunate singing.
In general terms, phrasing means integrating in an artistic fashion intonation, tone, power, range, flexibility, vibrato, rhythm, words, and emotional intensity. In short, phrasing is where a singer's true technical merits come to the fore. Unfortunately, it is also the place where most singers fail. It is common for most young singers to be greatly influenced by the phrasing of other singers. Many of us, indeed, first begin singing by imitating our favorite singers. Although there are obvious benefits in learning to sing this way (including the sheer pleasure of doing so), it is also dangerous from an artistic point of view. I have had a number of students over the years that built excellent voices, but were unable to break the habit of phrasing like their idols; imitation spells disaster for artistic singing. Phrasing requires a great deal of practice, practice at being yourself—an artistic singer! Listen to Sting’s highly personal phrasing for a good lesson in authenticity.
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