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The Dynamics of a Song (Guitar Lesson)

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Mark Lincoln

The Dynamics of a Song

In this lesson, Mark teaches all of the diverse parts to a song with regards to dynamics including the intro, verse, chorus, lead breaks, and instrumental sections. Mark explains the emotions that correspond to each part of the song.

Taught by Mark Lincoln in Guitar Performance seriesLength: 20:17Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (05:26) Intensity in Ten Cities Warm-up Time
Please take a few minutes to review and warm-up with the following:
1. Warm-up the body.
2. Single note hum.
3. Three note hum.
4. Hum "me-me-me-me" to "mah-mah-mah-mah" to "me-ma-me-ma" to "mo-mo-mo-mo."
5. Wake up the breath with "sah-sah-sah" long and sustained then five times staccato.
6. "Sah" in five note descending scales then five note ascending scales.
7. Start softly with each then gradually get louder and louder, faster and faster until you reach the volume and speed that you feel you will be using during the performance.
8. Practice singing along with guitar rhythms that you’ve been using in the last few lessons or with material that you’ve discovered on your own and apply the steps listed above to your playing.
9. Relax and enjoy!
As a stern reminder, as we progress into this series, it is of the utmost importance that you make sure that you warm-up completely so that you do not harm your vocal chords. The techniques that we will discuss in the lessons to come are specific to actual performance and hence are reflective of the intensity and strain that are characteristic of a live performance. Please make sure to take your time and warm your voice gradually and thoroughly to avoid any undo harm to your voice. With that said, let's rock!

Intensity in Ten Cities
As a performer who has put on hundreds of shows, I have come to recognize each song as a performance in and of itself. Each song has a pulse of its own and a life of its own and needs to have nourishment and attention like any life form. The nourishment, in this case, is an attention to detail and qualifications that are specific to each song in the performance. Some of the most important details in a song are its flow, its structure, and subsequently its commensurate level of intensity as the song ebbs and flows. Structurally speaking, many songs are similar if not identical in form. Many songs have an introduction, a series of verses and choruses, possibly a bridge or two, and an inevitable end or coda. But how is emotion dispersed throughout the song? Many songs start out very mellow by easing in gradually. They continue to build, peak, and then gradually fade out (literally in some cases). The vocals often dictate where and when the emotion waxes and wanes! You can look at and graph the progress and intensity of the vocals like this:

Intro/Inaudible to quiet, Verse/Mellow/Audible, Chorus/Louder

2nd Verse/Mellow (but louder, more intense than 1st verse)

2nd Chorus/Louder (but maybe same as 1st Chorus), Bridge/Options (there may be no vocals at all during this part, or super quiet or super loud)

Lead break/ Instrumental, Chorus/Same Volume as last Choruses

Final Verse/Loudest or begin to soften, Coda (end)

*Please note that this is just one particular arrangement, and a song can take many different forms. The form may deviate from this particular structure completely or have some similarities. An asterix in this case marks points where vocals could become super intense or keep quiet and mellow. Obviously, this is a simplistic way of looking at a song, and the only reason why I am attempting to chart it out in this fashion is for application purposes. In this next section, I'll show you why...
Chapter 2: (05:27) The Boom Cry Like a Baby
In order to use the full potential of your voice and bring a song to its climax, it's important that you are able to "boom". What I mean by this is that you are able to raise your voice and express the full range of emotion that the song requires at a given moment(s). This expression could take the form of an anguished note, a scream, or just a louder note than previously expressed in the song. It is true that some songs do not have a particularly passionate and climactic point, but may be passionate consistently all the way through (opera) or may be fairly passive and calm throughout. It may not be a necessity to "boom" at all but, inevitably there is the necessity for an applicable technique in each of the scenarios listed above.

The ability to gather breath and sing at your maximum is essential to fully realize your potential as a singer. Proper breathing can be modeled by the smallest of children. Babies have the innate ability to gather their breath and expel the most phenomenal screams at perhaps the most inopportune times. Obviously, to them it is not an expression of artistic passion (at least I don't think so), but rather a response to adverse conditions in their environment like hunger, cold, fatigue, etc. Nevertheless, one can emulate their behavior and bring that innate and intense sense of expression to their own performances simply by filling their lungs at the appropriate moment and letting fly. There is, of course, a specific way to do this in order to get the best possible tone out of your voice, hold the note for as long as possible, and not cause strain and harm to your vocal chords in the process. We'll talk about this and work with the technique in the following section.

In the next series of exercises, we'll use the chords: D, D7, D6, A, C and G.

D major



These three chords are played simply by playing the D major in the "standard" way with your first finger on the G-string, 2nd fret, your second or middle finger on the high E-string, 2nd fret and your third or ring finger on the B-string, 3rd fret. Then, simply move your first finger from the G-string to the A-string on the 3rd fret and then to the second fret to play the other D chords.

A major

C major

G major

Please play all of the chords and get comfortable with the changes as I do them in the video, especially the changes with the three D chords. Watch how I bring the volume of the vocal up gradually throughout the verse and then "boom" in the chorus.
Chapter 3: (09:25) Breath Control Diaphragms
We talked earlier in this series about breath control and how to make sure that you are breathing properly and from your diaphragm. Breathing properly will help you to achieve the most you can from your voice while helping to avoid harm to the vocal chords. Please review the section on breathing from the diaphragm before continuing with this lesson. Also, it is important not to expel all of your breath at once. This will result in a wheezing effect at the end of your note. Breathing properly from the diaphragm will also help to avoid this unfortunate event and aid in the control and expenditure of breath evenly throughout your note. Also, remember to main proper posture. Keep your back straight and your head up!

Exercise 1
Play the three D chords using the strum down up up or "down up up" and hammering on the down stroke. Play the rhythm in a relaxed fashion and remember that we’re attempting to create a noticeable change in dynamics between this, the verse, and the upcoming chorus. Remember to relax your wrist and allow the pick (if you’re using one) to flow gently and smoothly over the strings.

Exercise 2
Play the D and A chords using the strum down downupdownupdown or "down down-up-down- up-down" and the strum down downupdownup or "down down-up-down-up" over the C and G chords. Keep in mind that this is the portion of this particular song where you are going to "boom," and hence, the strumming might be a little louder than the verse chords. Looking back at our diagram at the beginning of this lesson, this portion of the song might fall at any point where choruses are inserted. Hence, it will almost always be at least a little louder than the verse volume.

Exercise 3
Play the D chords again. This time, sing the vocals as I do in the video:

"Seagull you fly, across the horizon, into the misty morning sun

Nobody asks you where you are goin', nobody knows where you’re from"

Make sure that you are still strumming in a relaxed fashion and keeping time. Use a metronome or some sort of time-keeping device like a drum machine. If you find that this is too difficult for you at this juncture, then go back to Exercise 1. Practice getting that portion of the song down before you re-try this exercise.

Exercise 4
Play the D, A, C, and G chords using the strum indicated above and sing the vocals as I do in the video: "Now you fly, through the sky, never asking why; and you fly all around,'til somebody shoots you down." Watch how I gather my breath in preparation of the "boom" that I make in this section of the song and the timing involved. Do you notice how I'm preparing to "cry" before the chorus comes in and how I’m beginning to fill my lungs in preparation for the chorus?

*Please note: once again I can't stress enough the importance of not straining your voice. Make sure that you do proper warm-ups, properly hydrate yourself before doing so and any vocal exercise and avoid yelling and screaming. These techniques do take a certain amount of subtlety and practice to do correctly, so prepare properly.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Supplemental Learning Material



Member Comments about this Lesson

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Guitar Performance

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Performing live or in a studio situation is a goal of many aspiring guitarists. Vocal training and the ability to sing and play at the same time are skills that will help in this endeavor.

Introduction to SingingLesson 1

Introduction to Singing

Mark introduces you to the wonderful world of singing.

Length: 15:12 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Vocal ExercisesLesson 2

Vocal Exercises

Mark Lincoln guides you through stretches and vocal exercises to warm up the voice.

Length: 23:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Vocal VibratoLesson 3

Vocal Vibrato

Mark continues to discuss vocal warm-ups and exercises. Then, he moves on to explain vibrato.

Length: 23:42 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Warming the BreathLesson 4

Warming the Breath

Mark covers some singing terms and teaches an exercise that is used to "warm the breath."

Length: 19:10 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Singing and GuitarLesson 5

Singing and Guitar

Mark Lincoln talks more about vocal exercise and warm-up. Then, he moves on to discuss singing and playing at the same time.

Length: 26:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Singing ExercisesLesson 6

Singing Exercises

Mark Lincoln provides more singing exercises to practice while playing your guitar.

Length: 26:15 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Singing and Playing RevisitedLesson 7

Singing and Playing Revisited

Mark returns to singing and playing. Mark teaches proper form while singing and playing, cognitive exercises, and chord progression basics.

Length: 17:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Anatomy and DynamicsLesson 8

Anatomy and Dynamics

Mark Lincoln discusses song dynamics and the anatomy of songs. He also explains more about singing and playing.

Length: 23:19 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Rhythm in MusicLesson 9

Rhythm in Music

Mark Lincoln explains how rhythm is used in music.

Length: 15:16 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Technique AppliedLesson 10

Technique Applied

Mark Lincoln applies singing and playing techniques to the Doors song "Riders on the Storm."

Length: 17:19 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Palm Muting and SeparationLesson 11

Palm Muting and Separation

In lesson 11 of his performance series, Mark discusses the palm muting technique and how to separate your singing from your playing.

Length: 23:30 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Picking Vs. StrummingLesson 12

Picking Vs. Strumming

Mark discusses how alternating between arpeggios and strummed chords can add contrast and flair to your music.

Length: 15:02 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Silence Is GoldenLesson 13

Silence Is Golden

Mark discusses silence in music and how it can transform a piece. Additionally, he explains how to use silence effectively in your playing.

Length: 16:40 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Warm-up and PracticeLesson 14

Warm-up and Practice

In this lesson, Mark Lincoln talks more about warming up your voice and walks you through a few exercises that will aid this process.

Length: 16:14 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Preparations for Playing LiveLesson 15

Preparations for Playing Live

Mark provides a lecture on items you should do and think about to become a proficient live player.

Length: 20:57 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Voice and GuitarLesson 16

Voice and Guitar

In this lesson, Mark delves into the concept of combining both your voice and guitar into one neat little package you can deliver to your listener.

Length: 21:47 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
A Day in the LifeLesson 17

A Day in the Life

Mark Brings us Lesson 17 today to explain the preparation that goes into a performance. Mark tracks back up to 36 hours in advance, and shows us some routines to prepare for a great show.

Length: 19:09 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
The Dynamics of a SongLesson 18

The Dynamics of a Song

In this lesson, Mark teaches all of the diverse parts to a song with regards to dynamics.

Length: 20:17 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Proper Breathing RoutinesLesson 19

Proper Breathing Routines

In this episode, Mark talks about proper breathing techniques and routines. He gives us eight points to work off of when singing and playing together.

Length: 23:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Play Along with Mark LincolnLesson 20

Play Along with Mark Lincoln

Mark Lincoln brings us a great play along opportunity. Mark provides lyrics as well as the chord progression for this play along. He also breaks down key elements such as palm muting, hammer-ons, bending,...

Length: 24:06 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Palm Muting TechniqueLesson 21

Palm Muting Technique

Lesson 21 is a repeat of lesson 20's content only with a whole new set of chords and techniques. The"chords de jour" will be a little simpler than lesson 20's and will also include a much more in depth...

Length: 20:05 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Mark Lincoln

About Mark Lincoln View Full Biography Mark Lincoln was born in S. California but was raised near Portland Oregon in a town called Beaverton. When he was twelve years old, he began his journey into the realm of the creative by composing poetry and was later published in a journal called "In Dappled Sunlight." He wrote for four years until his older sister blessed him with his first guitar, an old beat-up nylon stringed classical guitar. Mark played that guitar for five years, continuing to compose his own lyrics and starting the process of matching his own words with chords that he was learning on the guitar. He learned to play chords from his friends and from music books that he both bought and borrowed. Mark cited his four biggest influences, at that point at least, as The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, The Rolling Stones.

Mark cites his most current influences as Radiohead, U2, older music by REM, and Peter Gabriel amongst others. He performs with two acoustic guitars, one being a six-string M-36 Martin with a three-pieced back for increased bass response, and a Guild Twelve-string which is his most recent acquisition. Mark is fond of saying that the twelve-string guitar is better because you get two guitars for the price of one, but he still plays his Martin equally as much and with the same passion.

Mark ended up in Fort Collins Colorado where he currently lives, works as a Marriage and Family Therapist, and continues to write, teach and perform music. He currently performs with a group called "Black Nelson" as well as with a number of other seasoned professional musicians including his cousin David, a virtuoso lead-guitar player. Mark has performed in many of the smaller venues in Denver and Boulder, as well as some of the larger ones including the Fox Theatre, The Boulder Theatre, Herman's Hideaway, and also at The Soiled Dove where he opened for Jefferson Starship as a soloist. Some of Mark's originals are also available for your listening pleasure on MySpace.

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