James Brown, Sam Cooke, Al Greene, Aretha Franklin and many more soul singers have touched the lives of millions, so how did they learn to sing with soul? Is it something that just naturally comes to you or is it something you develop over time?
We tend to refer to internationally known soul singers when we say she’s got soul. But what of local soul singers? Do you have any local soul singers in your Town?
Here’s a story of a localised influential soul singer called Robert Moore of Jacksonville, Florida who has just passed away. Charlie Patton of the Florida Times-Union reports:
Jacksonville’s ‘Little James Brown’ dies
Robert Moore, who was lead singer for the Lemon Twisters, perhaps Jacksonville’s best-loved rhythm-and-blues band of the 1960s, died Thursday after a long struggle with diabetes and kidney problems. He was 68.
The diminutive singer was sometimes called “Little James Brown” because his style and look was reminiscent of the great soul singer.
You may or may not know Robert but this is what a local musician said of his soulful musical ability:
“He could sing any style,” said Ray Love, a saxophonist who played with Mr. Moore in several groups including the Lemon Twisters and All the People, a Miami-based jazz group that toured widely in the 1970s. “He was a heck of a soul singer.”
Love said there was a style of singing he called “soul scatting” that was a signature style in Jacksonville in the 1960s. “He was the master at it,” Love said.
So how did Robert’s career develop in his later years?
In 1979, Mr. Moore joined a group headed by Herb Reed, one of the original Platters. He stayed with Reed until 1993.
But after a bout of ill health and medical conditions Robert returned back to his home town of Jacksonville, bringing with him his soulfull style.
In recent years, he would sometimes perform with a group of jazz musicians who play with Love. His last gig was about three months ago.
In a 2009 interview, Tom Register, who managed the Lemon Twisters from 1962 to 1967, said the group “had the potential to be the biggest rock stars in the country.”
Robert may not of made it to the big time internationally or even nationally, but his soulful singing still remains as a fond and impactful memory on all those that knew him. As you can see his love of singing still had him performing gigs even up until his last few months of life.
So in the spirit of soul singing, here are just a few tips from Carl Hose on singing soul music.
Learn to sing with soul
1) Listen to as much music in the genre as you can to prepare yourself to sing soul. This musical genre not only requires singing talent, but emotion as well. Singing soul isn’t simply understanding the technical aspects of singing well. Singing soul requires the vocalist to bring the lyrics of a song out musically and deliver them with power. Listening to other soul singers is an excellent way to learn how to feel the music.
2) Practice singing scales to keep your voice in shape. Blues scales (minor pentatonic with a sharped fourth) are great for soul singers who sing blues-influenced music, which can be found in a lot of soul singing (see “Resources”).
3) Incorporate the call and response singing into your style. This is a method by which the soloist, or lead, singer answers a call sent out by the choir. Call and response could be a series of scale runs in response to a repeated chorus, or improvised vocal lines that answer the choir’s call and build until you are singing a full chorus again. The call and response is a strong feature of soul singing, particularly in the gospel
4) Practice controlling your voice and keeping the tension in it. Soul music sounds wild and untamed, but being a soul singer requires the ability to restrain your vocal chords and keep them taut. Practice hitting target notes and holding them for as long as you can. This is a good exercise for controlling the vocal chords.
See our article on Abdominal breathing as a vocal technique for singing.
So how to learn to sing with soul may at first appear to be surplus to requirements but a few tips and exercises along the way could impact more lives than you could imagine.
Here’s how you can help.
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