How to Be a Great Singer Using Musical Phrasing

In today's video we'll explore the question:

What separates a good singer from a GREAT singer?

The answer, in my opinion, is musical phrasing. 

Good singers get the job done and not much more. They think about individual notes and whether or not they can hit them right, and then stop there.

Great singers think about how those notes relate to each other and how they can sculpt them into something memorable and moving.

This is musical phrasing. And it's tons of fun.

Phrasing can be altered by adjusting the following 4 components:
1. Dynamics (how loud or soft you get)
2. Rhythm (how fast or slow you sing the notes)
3. Onset (how you start the line)
4. Cut off (how you end the line)
(Admittedly, there are some more factors, but those are the broadest and most apparent.)

The easiest component for a singer to adjust and make their singing instantly better is the first one -- dynamics, or singing volume.

Watch in the video below as I explain how vocal dynamics have a huge effect on phrasing.


After that I'll demo a "good" version of "The Star Spangled Banner," followed by a "great" -- or at least better 🙂 -- version that has noticeable dynamic variation.

 

In this video I'll also teach you a simple vocal warmup that will help you rehearse dynamic range and learn to control your volume as you sing.

Please enjoy, and let me know your thoughts on phrasing in the comments below!

(And remember to share this with any singers you know hoping to take their voice to the next level!)

xo Fel

AUTHOR

Felicia Ricci

All stories by: Felicia Ricci
45 comments
  • Eda
    REPLY

    Hi Fel - Thank you for another awesome set of tips. I found how you explained volume especially helpful. The new studio looks great. IKEA lamp rocks!

  • Regent
    REPLY

    Hi there fel .miss you,miss your mail. Thanks for this video. It has been so helpful. I am into this for quite sometime.
    Thanks

    Regent

  • Royd Bwalya
    REPLY

    I am sure one of these days definitely i will be on board and learn those dynamics which adds color to a song. For sure it makes a big distinction between a good and an extraordinary singer . Thank you so much

  • Ioana
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    Hi Fel! Thank you for the warm up,I know that a lot of times I felt I was just a good singer,obsessed with my tehnique,but now I will try to incorporate this exercise before I sing any song.Any warm ups for rythm dynamics? I know it is one in the ST course that it s called "Fry-Eee-aaaa for vocal agility" ,does it help with the rythm? I like the colors you picked for the studio ,looks great! 🙂

  • randy
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    great spot on video fel . so how about a video a day in the life of fel. that would be a hoot. or working with other singers. because thats were the rubber really meets the road !!!. thanks fel.

  • Ann Perrigo
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    Thanks for the video, Fel! Loved the tour--so you've rented a whole building fit your business? How cool is that! Please tell me about the flooring your fil put down. Is it wood? Laminate?
    Always love hearing from you!

  • Cheri Seith
    REPLY

    Hey Fel,
    Thank you for another great lesson. I have taken ALL of your courses. I follow your tips on Twitter...it keeps me focused. I find that it takes me a long time to feel comfortable with a new song. Notes and words first, but then working on "selling" it. This tip is going to help me as I tend to over sing my dynamics and then some technic goes away. I am going to work on all the things you taught today and look forward to your next video.
    After taking all of your courses, people have told me that my voice has never been better. Thank you Fel. You're the greatest.

  • Jay G.
    REPLY

    So nice to see your latest in my inbox today. I always enjoy and appreciate your helpful sharing. And thanks for the video tour - a great reminder that heartfelt and authentic wins out over perfection any day.

  • william ouellette
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    Hi Felicia, I haven't written to you before cause I've listened to just another video and that's quite a while ago. But this particular video seems to hit me right on the head. I'm not a great singer nor am I a good singer. I have the feeling if I just apply myself a little more and keep on applying myself, l might end up not bad. I do enjoy singing but am awfully lazy to practise. My favorite singer of all my time is Celine Dion. Of course I don't expect to sing like her or slightly remotely, but I have been told that should I have started when I was a child, I could have amounted to the ranks of Paveratti. But be that as it may, it's more likely never going to happen. If I can only sing with good rhythm and manage to start and finish a phrase with the right dynamics, l'd be quite happy with that. I turned 60 April 1st so I don't plan on making a career out of singing. I've had my careers already, now it's time to relax and think about retirement. Didn't want to clog up your comments section, but I felt I had to share some of my thoughts. So if you read this, thanks for your energy and your generosity. Have a great Spring!!! I will write again but maybe not so long. Love Billy XOX Montreal, Canada

  • January
    REPLY

    Hi Fel,

    I am so delighted that you came back to the land of your faithful followers!

    Your latest video is timely for I am in a signing contest and was wondering why my recordings sounded robotic,
    and lacking emotion!!!! In fact, I got marked down for not conveying enough emo in my song!

    I hope that you continue on the topic of "phrasing" and make 3 more videos explaining the other components: Rhythm; Onset; & Cutoff!

    I loveeeeeeeeeeeeee your short hair style! It really suits your face shape and your bubbly personality!

    Lastly, include your husband (significant other) in one of your videos! We vieweres want to see who you are paired with!!!

  • Alne
    REPLY

    Thank you Fel!

    Appreciate your advice on my vocal journey!
    Always such fun to watch your vids.
    Looking forward to seeing more 😉

  • Dave
    REPLY

    Hi Felicia,

    New studio is going to be great for you. I like the purple wall....my favourite colour.

    Thanks for the video and lesson, I'm one of those that focuses on a song note by note so this should be good improvement for me, I'll give it a try and use the warm-up.

    I have mini existentialist crises from time to time, I can relate.

  • Rick Swanson
    REPLY

    I loved your video lesson and I really loved seeing you again my singing mentor.... They are all great ideas and techniques I will definitely be applying to my practice sessions and the dynamics definitely sound awesome, Thank You! That is one cool studio that you are creating, that had to be a large job in itself putting that floor in and removing all that mold but is t soooooo nice now!!!! Let me know for sure if you decide to do those continued video critiques, I think that is such an awesome idea. I reeeeeeeeally hope that you decide to, I love studying with you. I have a studio I made at my house and bought all the instruments and effects I could imagine it would to create the sounds I love from Roger McGuinns signature 12 String Rickenbacker to 3 controller keyboards with software from Vienna Symphony to the software for the Melatron from The Beatles engineer that they used for that keyboard flute sound in the beginning of "Strawberry Fields, and lots of other things to boot, I can even play backwards licks on the guitar like George Harrison did in I'm Only Sleeping... LOL I call it my electric playground, just a place to experiment and create and have fun. Sorry I talked so much, missed ya... : ) Thank you for coming back to share with us, I can't wait to hear from you again! Love Ya Fel!!! : )

  • Hermie Landas
    REPLY

    Hi Fel, Thank you for sending me some singing tips. I appreciate it. I thought you will not contact me anymore. Surely, Dynamics is a very important part of singing. Also, if you add vibrato and some flowery modifications, your audience will surely get touched and will become emotional. I learned this from experience. Fel, please don't stop sending me singing tips as I am not a great singer yet. I wish you success in your new office. Bye now. Hermie.

  • Kari
    REPLY

    Welcome back and Congratulations!!! Way to rock your new studio Fel!
    You continue to be to the moon and beyond!
    Thanks for the focus on dynamics! Can you make a series and cover all four of your "Great" points?
    I so value your teaching AND the very much fun!
    Blessings on your new space dear-heart! Stammi bene! ~k

  • Rosie
    REPLY

    Awww, Fel, you're always so nice! 🙂 I don't keep up with your videos much but you are such a warm hearted person and long distance hugs for the existential crisis, they are NOT fun! X

  • Rev
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    Yo Fel,

    This stuff is really helpful. Your singing warm-ups hugely help me.
    Nice place you have there. And hey, glad you're back!
    Hope to hear a lot from you soon.

  • Marilyn Haverly
    REPLY

    Hi, Fel,

    Thanks for the tour! Everything looks great and I bet it feels good to have such a nice dedicated space!

    I love all your videos and your constant encouragement to relax and have fun while singing is surprisingly helpful and needed!

    For the future, I don't know if my issue with excess phlegm is shared by other singers, but it is certainly an issue of mine. I sing for people in long term care and love the lack of pressure I feel in that environment, but the interruption to my singing caused by a throat that won't stay clear is frustrating. I may have missed some tips you've already posted about this and will look to see if you've already said something, but I will say that the most helpful thing I do so far, is to drink warm water. (Of course, then the air I swallow can be another distraction...) Lemon and honey seems to awaken the phlegm and doesn't ease the problem.

    Thank you!
    Marilyn

  • Laura Elaine
    REPLY

    Fel, you have been instrumental in my vocal progress! Your directives help me to identify where some of the pitfalls lie in my vocal expression and with your teachings, I have been able to make the needed corrections. Your expertise has put labels to my confusion as to how to make proper adjustments to improve, range, projection and tone. The "dynamics" video is a great tool to demonstrate how to add more dimension to a song.

    Many Thanks for sharing your talent,
    Laura

  • Lance
    REPLY

    I sing and play guitar on the street. To learn lyrics I read them aloud like reciting poetry. This helps me refuse to sing songs with inane lyrics, which is a lot of pop songs, unless they are amusing enough, (which means self-consciously inane), and helps change the words around to find phrasing variations, which can help keep it feeling at least a little fresh if you have to play it day after day. For example, from a Dylan song, 'he got in to dealing with slaves something inside of her died'. You can make a small change in how peoples emotions flow by drawing breath at different points. I'm not sure if that's such a clear example, but it is valid: Is she dead when she's with slaves? Most songs have this kind of thing in them: another from Dylan; 'just escaping on the run toward the sky there are no fences facing'. Who's running where?
    Pro-nouns can always indicate differrent he's and she's. I'm not sure if all that is on-theme, but phrasing, I agree, makes a critical difference. Also with guitar; playing slow is neccessary to cut through street noise: (only teenagers fresh in from the suburbs try to show off their extreme technical velocity), so phrasing is all you have. With guitar, there's the option of varying beats, 12/4 phrases over 4/4, or whatever.
    L

  • Dee M McSweeney
    REPLY

    Hi Fel! You are ALWAYS helpful. All your videos offer a little something extra. You have much to be proud of, and your video and VLOGGING personality is extraordinary. Keep it up! . I have made a good friend of mine aware of you, too. She is a professional singer. Years ago her father did the "Trident gum" tv commercials. She is currently singing in an opera called "The Delaware". Enjoy your weekend Fel. As I've said before, someday, just as a heart-felt thank you, I shall send you something very special. I can't do it right now because the economy for the last few years has drained my savings, but I'll give you a hint . . . one of the places I'm an alumni of is the GIA (Gemological Institute of America - it's like the Harvard or Yale of the jewelry industry). Thanks for all you post! 🙂

  • Evan Brown
    REPLY

    My Singing Starts to increase to go through High and Trying to expand I want to Sing like an Adam Levine and Sia also I like to Rap and Have a Booming Deep Voice what can I do for all these

  • Dana McKinney
    REPLY

    Hi, Fel!

    It was so great to get a new video from you! Yes, I think phrasing makes sense and the way you presented makes it easy to accomplish! I love your new space! Congratulations!

    Dana:)

  • Paola
    REPLY

    Thanks Fel, I love dynamic phrasing and I think it can be quite effective. Will you give us some tips soon around onset and cut off? Love your studio! Paola

  • Denise Zdunczyk
    REPLY

    Hi, Fel, You're wonderful! Thank you so much for your authenticity and amazing vocal tips. You seem like a fun, kind, and intelligent woman and I am so happy to have found your work. Best of luck to you 🙂

  • Alan
    REPLY

    Hello F

    I enjoyed your video and am putting into practice phrasing and loud and soft

    I finally joined a choir and found out what part I sing, it is 2nd Bass, this is an octave below the base line, std bass parts are just too high, using loud and soft and phrasing I am more comfortable about being so low where as before I was embarrassed as people wood look at me often and smile

    I have been asked to do Russian Bass song namely Starlovica which is pitched just above the pedals, using your control method I find it easy to sing, nerves can be troublesome

    Alan
    Australia

  • Shoshi
    REPLY

    Just getting back into my singing after being seriously ill again and being in hospital 3 months ago - I sang in church again this a.m. and funnily enough was very conscious today, and when practising beforehand, of the importance of phrasing and dynamics in the particular song I was singing. The whole song starts and finishes really quiet and in the second half really builds up, but there is plenty of opportunity for dynamic variation throughout the song. I like to go through a song and mark this, and also think about the best places to breathe, and which register to use. I had a cold this week and I think that, combined with not having sung much recently, has caused my middle register to become really weak, but I managed to sing through that by being really conscious of using adequate support. I am singing again next Sunday and this week, I shall be working on these areas. Catching up with my overflowing email inbox, it was great coming across your post about dynamics and phrasing just when I'd been thinking so much about it!

    I love your studio. Great space. The accoustics sound great too.

    Shoshi

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