The Story of Your Song

“Learning how to make the delivery of every song full of detail and excitement is vital if you want to consistently capture your audience’s attention.”

Matthew Edwards

Welcome to a blog that is chock-full of practical ideas for you to test-drive in your mindful practice and performance spaces!

Whether you are singing pop, folk, country, jazz, blues, rock or indie….it can be easy to push the importance of storytelling to the side and focus on the way you sound.  But powerfully conveying a story is not solely the job of musical theatre performers.  It is the job of every singer to drill down into the lyrics of a song to understand the story and why it was written with that music so you can connect with an audience – an audience who is eager to hear your heart and soul coming through in your voice.

It is your job to:



The following ideas are drawn from the video and books in the Source list.  It is not necessary to complete every suggestion for every song you learn.  Read through them and try those that make sense to you.  If you’re curious about them all, try them over a period of time and throughout several songs.  You will start to notice that some processes resonate with you more than others.  And some will resonate with certain types of songs more than others.  At some point in your entire singing life, you may find them all useful.  And you will definitely add ideas of your own.

“The way a song is expressed depends on the composer’s intention, the character of the song and the way you choose to perform it.”

Daniel Zangger Borch

Before you start experimenting…it is recommended that you start with an A4 copy of the lyrics, sans musical notation.  See the tip sheet How to create a lyric sheet for ideas.  Do not copy and paste the text from a website.  At the very least, you should type out the lyrics yourself, including all punctuation, and clearly differentiating the song’s sections.  Writing it out by hand is even better – trust me and try it!

        1. Write an emotive word next to each section of the song.  Be sure not to repeat words…this is a journey.
        2. Sing the song through using only open vowels, no words.  Connect to the emotive words you’ve chosen.
        3. Handwrite a simple screenplay for a video clip, in between the lines.
        4. Sing the lyric of the song, eyes closed, imagining the video clip as you sing, using all of your emotions.  Notice where you felt connected and which ones where you didn’t.
        5. If necessary, rework the emotional narrative and subtext to achieve a more consistent connection.

“Text drives emotion.  Emotion drives performance.  If words don’t matter, your song would be an instrumental.”

Pat Wilson

“Every song has a beginning, a middle and an end.  It has a story; a plot which should engage my liveliest curiosity, tug at my emotions and have me intrigued, wondering “What will happen next?  How’s it going to finish?”…As story-teller, it’s your job to make me believe that story and care about its outcome…to communicate as best you can the nuances of both story and music which have been entrusted to you.  It’s sort of a contract.”

Pat Wilson


After you have discovered the story through the text, it is time to look at the effect the music has on that text.  Do any of the following considerations influence your conclusions?





The best way to ripen storytelling is to share it with others.  Big or small, face-to-face or online, learning to enter the world of the story through performance will get easier with frequent repetition.  Where possible, record and review these performances.


Review your performance video/audio files with as much of a growth mindset as possible.  You will always find things to improve.  But make it your objective to find things that you like and want to keep developing.  This is where the gold is.

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Edwards, M. (ed.)  (2018).  So You Want to Sing CCM (Contemporary Commercial Music): A Guide for Performers.   A project of NATS.  Rowman & Littlefield, Maryland

Edwards, M.  (2014).  So You Want to Sing Rock ‘n’ Roll: A Guide for Professionals.   A project of NATS.  Rowman & Littlefield, Maryland.

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Robinson, D. K. (2015).  How To Sing with More Emotion: Communicate the Subtext.  YouTube clip:

Wilson, P. H.  (2001).  The Singing Voice: An Owner’s Manual.  (2nd edition).  Lazy O’Rhinus Press, Sydney.

Zangger Borch, D.  (2005).  Ultimate Vocal Voyage.  Notfabriken Music Publishing, Sweden.

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