How to Give Your Audience Goosebumps
Singing is not a paint-by-numbers kinda activity unfortunately. You can't sing softly here, add a stronger mix there, insert a breathy tone here and expect people to get goosebumps.
People get goosebumps when you are really THERE.
When you have dropped into an emotion and let it course through your veins.
When you allow that emotion to fly out of your mouth without worrying about the technical control.
When you throw caution to the wind and decide that authenticity is more important than perfection.
So how do we start to embrace the mess and truly connect with a song and our audience?
Okay, so it sounds really easy for me to tell you to let go of your perfectionism, but I know it's about as fun for some people as getting a root canal.
Perfectionists and high achievers have a very hard time giving themselves permission to make mistakes. They always assume the worst is going to happen.
Generally in my experience, the opposite can happen when they let go of the control they have over their voices and whatdya know - some serious magic emerges.
Trying to land every note perfectly can decrease your resonance by a heck of a lot. You hold your energy back and you tense muscles that are really hindering your ability to perform.
Music used to be a very natural, primal activity. Unfortunately now it's thought of as a talent that you either have or don't. A talent that you have to control at all times. But some of the best performances come out of losing control.
In order to build confidence in your voice and your ability, you still need to practice technique and learning how to control your instrument initially. But I find that if singers don't include some play in their practice routine fairly early on, it can be harder and harder to get them where they want to be.
I used to ask my students to practice singing badly. Most of them looked horrified but obliged.
If they didn't have any major issues identifying pitch, the sound was hugely better.
The odd iffy note was gone. The sound was amplifying in the best of ways. It felt easier. They enjoyed themselves (despite the shock of that realisation).
Sure, it's important to hone your technique and build trust in your voice that way; but you need to be able to let go in order to see what still might need work.
Another way I get my students to explore this idea of getting messy is to have them imagine that they are a 3 year old.
I ask them to visualise themselves in an art smock with bold gluggy paints in front of them. I tell them to put their hands in the paint, getting it all over themselves and to imagine finger painting with wild abandon.
They stare at me like I'm crazy.
BUT when they start singing while imagining this free, creative painting - they let go.
They stop overthinking their technique, they stop gripping unnecessarily and they surprise themselves with big, resonant, full notes they never believed they could do.
Fear is a funny thing and its impact on our voices is huge.
The second piece of the puzzle is singing with emotion.
Yeah yeah, you probably say I know I have to really mean the lyrics. When it says love I need to sing it warmer and when it says sorrow I need to add a little sob to the tone.
Nope, that's not what I mean buddy.
All of that is just acting. And not great acting mind you. Sorry.
You may think you can fool an audience with this paint-by-numbers strategy, but as soon as they see someone who is singing from a true, emotional experience and channeling that in their performance - there's no competition.
I suggest you play with this idea in the practice room because it can feel overwhelming depending on what memory or emotion you're tapping into.
Before you start your song, think about how the mood of the song or lyrics speak to you.
What is the emotion behind them? When have you felt that emotion before? You might have to get creative if your life experience in that field is limited.
Let yourself fully feel that emotion. Drop into it. Let it envelope you.
You will definitely hear that little voice in your head pop up at times reminding you about your tongue or your breathing or why aren't you mixing here, but try as best you can to shut it out.
Sure, initially some odd noises might fall out, but if you can use 60% of that raw emotion in a performance, that's what gives audiences goosebumps. Connection. Vulnerability. Authenticity.