Performing with the voice

Home learning focus

Learn techniques to develop your vocal performance skills.

This lesson includes:

  • a video to help you understand how to perform a song

  • three practice activities to help with building performance skills

Learn

Performing with the voice requires accuracy of pitch and rhythm plus interpretation and expression.

When you perform with the voice, it's important to warm up so you don't strain your voice.

It's also important to control your breathing. You need to make sure you don't run out of breath in the wrong place.

If you are playing with an instrumentalist or a group, you need to make sure you communicate well with them while you perform.

Watch this sort film to see how Tara sings with her band. See how she:

  • warms up.
  • changes how she breathes when she sings.
  • adds expression to give meaning to the song.
  • communicates with her band.
Watch how Tara changes her breathing and vocal technique to perform with the band.

How can you get better at singing?

Here are some key skills to consider when you sing:

Technical skill

You need to show that you have mastered your song. When you choose your performance piece, make sure that it is comfortable for your ability.

If the song is too difficult you will not be able to spend time on important things like expression and style.

Expression

Expressive control is your ability to understand and communicate the music.

You will demonstrate this by shaping phrases and singing the dynamics, tempo and articulation indicated by the writer.

Stylistic awareness

It is important that you understand the style of your song and demonstrate this in the way you sing.

Your song could come from opera, a musical, jazz or popular music.

Good posture

When you are preparing to sing, an important starting point is a good posture.

Singers should stand with their feet shoulder width apart, in a relaxed, upright position with their shoulders back.

This helps to produce a stronger sound and avoids the singer becoming tired through standing with bad posture.

Examples of good and bad singing posture

Listen to these examples of performing with the voice

Listen to Plan B's Live Lounge cover of Tinie Tempah's Pass Out. It opens with a beatboxed introduction, with the vocalists making the sound of a drum kit as well as the synth hook from the original song.
Listen to Vince Staples rap in time to the beat in Big Fish. He varies his flow in this verse to add interest to the rap and rhymes at lots of different points.
Listen to Amahlati by the Soweto Gospel Choir. This is an African choir with a direct sound and blend. Notice how they sing in harmony.

Practise

Here are a few ways to practise using your voice:

Activity 1

Practise warming up your voice

Explore more vocal warm up tips with Ten Pieces.

Sing along as Carly Paoli demos vocal warm-ups.

Activity 2

Your turn

Here are some suggestions on how to start:

Pick a song you like. See if you can find different versions of the song. Find the lyrics and have a go at singing – it doesn’t have to be perfect!

Check where you will breath, usually at the end of a line.

Keep practising and try to copy the song style as best as you can.

Record yourself singing the song and listen back. See if you can take some of the tips from this guide to change or improve your performance.

Activity 2

Where next?

In this session you have learnt about how to perform with the voice.

You can read these following guides on how to develop your vocal performance skills:

AQA GCSE Music - Musical Performance

Edexcel GCSE Music - Musical Performance

Eduqas GCSE Music - Musical Performance

OCR GCSE Music - Musical Performance

National 5 Music - Scottish vocal music

There's more to learn

Have a look at these other resources around the BBC and the web.

Mouth and vocal music
GCSE Music
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