Rhythm and Lyrics

Lyrics and Rhythm 

Hey, singers, it's Jim Dix. Again, just coming at you with a quick tip for today. I want to talk about lyrics and rhythm and practicing songs in a way that you may not be used to doing but is really, really cool and really productive. And it's fun.  

So, very often, we'll, when we're learning a song, we'll sing with the original recording, and then maybe we'll get a karaoke track, and we'll sing along with that. And then if we’re in a band will sing with the band or you know, an open mic or whatever. And that's great and everything, but there's another way of doing it.  

Rhythm is, I think, one of the underrated parts of singing. And it's the singer, if you listen to a real pro singer, that is in a rhythmic environment, you could take away all the instruments and just listen to their vocal, and there's a groove. And that's really cool. So the singer can really meaningfully contribute to the groove of the music. They're not just floating around on top of it necessarily. Sometimes they are. But still, there's a difference between being rhythmically aware and just sort of not really participating in the rhythm.  

In terms of practicing a song, if you practice the lyrics singing the song, without any track without the original recording, you can do it two different ways and both are effective. One is to practice it with only yourself, just acapella (without instruments) in a room. And sometimes, when I'm working on something like this, I'll do a little beat boxing. It doesn't have to be like, you know, serious beat boxing, okay, it's just just to put you in the zone of being rhythmic. I would, I would call it rhythmic activism.  

Okay, so, I'm going to, I'm going to use the song Superstition as an example, because pretty much everybody knows it. And it's, it's quite rhythmic. So if I were to practice this by myself in a room, it's like, (beat boxing) “Very superstitious...”, maybe clap along, “writing’s on the wall...” But you know, you that kind of thing you get you get yourself dancing, if you can dance to your own groove that you're creating, you know you're in the pocket, okay? So that's the thing. If you can create that on your own, then when you go in to play with a band, do whatever, you're going to be creating that groove, and/or reinforcing the groove that the band's creating.  

So another way of doing this is to use a metronome. Metronome work is gold. So I highly encourage everybody to get a metronome app on your phone, there are a million of them out there. I actually dug out this really old school thing, I didn't even realize I still had it, but this is really valuable too. The thing is, the metronome holds you accountable. When you're on your own, it's great to be able to create that pocket and create that groove on your own. That's terrific. But there's really no accountability there. So when you have the metronome on, it is totally unforgiving, which, if you want to make your rhythmic activism more effective, then that's the kind of thing you want.  

The more that you can hold your own feet to the fire, the better you'll get. So I'm gonna dial this back a hair. Rushing tempos is a pet peeve of mine. It’s good to like, don't push things too hot in on tempos. The further back you can dial it within reason, the more you can really dig in and you get a pocket going. So it’s “Very superstitious… Writing’s on the wall...” So you get the idea.  

You can also play around with where to place the rhythm, because you can be right on top of the beat or you can lay back in the beat. You know if the beat is this wide, you know, you can lay back and you know... Listen to rap, you're gonna be hearing them sliding off almost into the next beat on the back at the beat.  

You listen to punk for instance or something like that you're going to be like hitting the just pushing, pushing, pushing the front of the beat all the time. So like laying back on the beat would be like, “Very superstitious... writing's on the wall…” Okay, that's really it's like almost stretching to be like a rubber band, you want to be like, kind of kicking into the deep pocket of it, you may be like, center, maybe slightly back of it, “Very superstitious… writing’s on the wall…”  

So that's a matter of personal preference. But again, we're into rhythmic activism, we're into singing with intent in terms of where you're placing things rhythmically in the kind of groove that you want to create.  

I want to push this and sing it in like more, give it a more frenetic feel, which would probably not be appropriate for this song, but “...Very superstitious... writing's on the wall…” really on top of it doesn't sound great for the song. Some things that's perfect, you want Push, push, push, push, push and make a really frenzied feel.  

But putting this kind of thing on your radar, and in your musical sensibility, is really powerful. And I think it's underrated by singers, but it's really cool. All that said, having that awareness does not require you to sing like (indication of regimentation). You know, like always, and you can still float around and be free with your phrasing, but there's a difference between being in the groove and feeling the groove and singing above it than just kind of floating around like, unanchored and not having a root in the basic feel and groove of the song.  

I hope that's been helpful to you. Again, I'm Jim Dix. And if I can be helpful to you in any way or if you are interested in private voice lessons in the Delray area, please feel free to give me a call or or contact me, just go to my website www.jimdixvoicestudio.com and see out there Enjoy your singing life and hope to run into out there. 

Jim Dix 


(561) 573-5719