Singing Like the Character You're Playing

Stefan Schick, Rob Schiffmann, Megan Reilly, Deb Rabbai, and Assaf Gleizner onstage, in character. Photo Credit: Jordan Beisel

I love to sing! I love to sound great while I’m singing. I love to hit every single note perfectly, place it correctly and have each note resonate as it’s most beautiful tone. Every singer feels this way too.

Here’s the thing, if every time we attempted to hit a note perfectly and we actually accomplished that goal, we’d probably all start to sound very much the same, like we’d been Auto-Tuned. In fact, if you listen to the radio and most of the pop songs today, it seems the trend is to sound like you’ve been Auto-Tuned and digitized.

Examples of Singing In Character

Keeping Up Your Character

Seeing live theatre and watching and listening to musical improvisation is nothing like listening to the radio. Whew! When we portray a character in an improv scene or a musical or a song, in essence, we are not ourselves in those moments. We are portraying a different person who moves, behaves, and sounds differently than we do, so why are we trying to sound so pretty and perfect all the time? I think we all want to sound “good” and be thought of as “good.” But what if the character you’re portraying has an accent, shouldn’t they still have remnants of that accent when they sing a song? The answer is, YES! What if that character has a gravelly voice? Shouldn’t their singing be a bit gravelly? YES!

When we play a character who sounds different from how we sound and then we launch into a song and sound totally perfect, there tends to be a disconnect. The sound can be incongruent to the listener.

It certainly doesn't mean that our voices should sound so altered that a listener couldn't understand what we’re singing. There's also the element of vocal health and singing in a way that doesn't destroy your voice or cause you to tighten your throat.

A Good Improviser vs A Great One

But with all that said, being able to sing like the character you’re portraying creates this beautiful, seamless moment that moves from speaking into singing a song and the characterization remains authentic and continued. To me, that’s where it’s at. That’s what separates a good improviser from a great one, a good improv actor from a great one.

Your Turn

Next time you find yourself playing a character onstage and it’s time to sing as that character focus on one vocal trait that the character seems to use and then fill the rest in with your physicality and command of the moments.

More From Deb Rabbai

Posted on July 25, 2017 and filed under We Work With the Best, How To Do Music Improv.