Using your voice

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Learn techniques to develop your vocal improvising skills.

This lesson includes:

  • a video to help you understand how to improvise with the voice

  • three practice activities

Learn

There are many ways to use the voice in music - singing, rapping, scatting or beatboxing are just a few.

A fun way to get started is improvising - making something up on the spot.

Improvising can lead to creating an original composition.

Watch how Ben, Dujon and Tara improvise with their voices to make up and perform a rap! Ben uses beatboxing and sets a beat running on a loop pedal, Tara sings some short tunes and Dujon raps.

Watch how Ben, Dujon and Tara beatbox, rap and sing to improvise a new version of their song The Sound Of Us.

Beatbox

Beatboxing is using sounds from your throat, lips and mouth to recreate a drum beat. The throat and lips combine to make the bass kick drum and the teeth are used for high sounds such as hi-hats.

Rap

Improvising in rap is often known as freestyle. This can happen with or without instrumental beats and the lyrics don’t have to start with a specific subject or structure.

Scat

In blues and jazz music, vocalists often use scat singing in their improvisations. Scat is when the singer improvises using nonsense syllables or no words at all, sometimes using the voice to mimic instruments.

Watch this film of a freestyle rap by Soweto Kinch to find out more about how rap can be performed.

Beatboxing champion Grace Savage gives some tips on how to beatbox.
Soweto Kinch performs a freestyle rap

Listen to these examples of improvising with the voice

Stormzy’s famous Shut Up freestyle went viral and gained him many new fans. This studio re-recording keeps in the introduction from the freestyle video and the original backing chants.
In Sassy's Blues, Sarah Vaughan improvises using random syllables and sounds, making up the rhythms and melodies over a chord sequence.
In Opportunity, Bobby McFerrin skilfully uses body percussion and vocal sounds to accompany his own singing. By using his voice in different ways, it sounds like there are several performers, even though it's just him.

Practise

Here are a few ways to practise using your voice:

Activity 1

Have a go at improvising.

Sing - choose a tune that you know well. Sing the tune normally first and then sing it again with some changes. Find a version of your song as a backing track - see if your new decorations work well as you sing along.

Rap - Think of a theme - such as being at home - and write down a few words and ideas that go with the theme. Find a beat that you like and try improvising your words and lines along with the beat.

Beatbox - Listen to a piece of Classical music from Ten Pieces and make a up a beatbox beat to go with it.

Activity 2

Activity 3

Explore more singing tips with Andy and the band.

In this film learn how to warm up your voice by making different sounds and noises.

How to get singing with Andy

Where next?

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

You can read these guides to learn more about vocal music and develop your vocal skills further:

KS3 Music - Performing with the voice

KS3 Music - Ten Pieces

National 5 Music - Scottish vocal music

KS3 Music
KS3 Music
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