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Fine-Tune the Way You Learn Music

May 13, 2016

Earlier this week, in honor of Presidents Day, we mentioned a few of our nation’s past leaders who had musical chops – and now, President Obama caught the media’s attention after singing a verse from “Sweet Home Chicago” at a White House event to celebrate blues and Black History Month.  PBS will air the event on Monday, February 27th, but you can also check out a video of the performance here. Not bad for a spur of the moment spotlight!

As most musicians know, truly learning a piece of music requires more than just recognizing the notes and lyrics on the page.  As a singer, your job is to know the phrasing and structure of the song inside and out, and also communicate the emotions to the audience using your attitude, expressions and movements.  This may be easy for a well-versed singer, but if you’re a beginner still learning proper breathing and posture, it can seem a bit overwhelming.  Don’t worry – here’s a great list of the 6 steps to learning a song, as originally posted on

1) Learning lyrics, melody, phrasing and structure
This means just knowing “when to sing” and “what to sing” to get through the song start to finish successfully, even if you have to think about it.

2) Internalizing lyrics, melody, phrasing and structure
Know how it all goes without even thinking about it.

3) Fine-tuning:  pitch, when to take a breath, enunciation, etc.
Most songs offer some kind of new challenge.  Even when you know how it goes, depending on where you are as a singer you may still need to fine-tune pitch entrances, runs, fast passages, enunciation, or where to take a breath.

4) Interpretation
Dynamics.  Attitude.  Vocal texture.  Emotional expression.  What are you going to do to make this song interesting and expressive?

5) Performance
Does the song merit movement?  Interaction with band members?  Emphasis of hits or breaks?  Is there a solo where you’ll step back as lead singer and let the focus be elsewhere?

6) Ownership
After you’ve performed a song live for a certain amount of time, it finally “gels.”  You figure out how to sing all of it in your style, you get inside of it, you relax into it, it becomes “yours.”  That takes time, and also requires the previous steps.

What other tips can you think of that have helped you master a song?  Leave a comment below and share with the community! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.

You might also like:

A Quick Way to Improve Your Next Vocal Performance
Can Yoga Help You Sing Better?
Simple Steps for Perfect Pitch


Photo by Acererak.


Suzy S.