The UK has gone mad for our number one star, Lewis Capaldi. Is it his hilarious Instagram videos? Vulnerable persona on stage? Or his raw sounding vocals that have us falling to his knees? Here I will explain how you can sing like Lewis Capaldi, as well as describing how he has us all crying all the time!
Emotion in Performance
When we see and hear a performance, we feel what the artist offers us. As primitive humans it is integral to our survival that we register emotion. If we hear another human crying out in pain, we need to be able to break down the emotional content in the sound in order to know how to act. We do this via our brains mirror neuron system. Mirror neurons are what makes us yawn when we see someone else yawn, and why we feel upset when we see someone cry. It is also what makes us understand emotion in voice and performance. The artist will deliver a representation of what they are feeling in their voice and physically. The audience then takes in the emotional content by re-playing what they’ve seen in their mind. This results in the audience feeling what the singer is feeling.
If we consider a distorted voice – where would we hear that primitively? It could be a cry of pain or extreme sadness. When we hear the distorted parts of Lewis Capaldi’s voice, our mirror neurons will start firing. This will cause us to feel a longing to help or make us feel upset (along with the heart wrenching music video for ‘someone you loved’). This is how we connect to his music and to his voice.
How does he do it?
In terms of how Lewis physiologically achieves that raw and distorted sound in his voice – it is a form of constriction. In singing lessons, you will be told that constriction is bad for your voice. It is correct that constriction can negatively impact your resonance, that’s if it isn’t intentional. It can interfere with tone and if overused in the incorrect way it can cause strain which will ultimately cause fatigue. However, if used in the correct way, constriction is the gateway to creating raspy and gritty sounds which can evoke extreme emotions in the listener. There are many types of vocal distortion which use different forms of constriction. In Lewis Capaldi’s case, he is constricting his aryepiglottic sphincter.
Stay with me..
The vocal tract provides a safety sphincter to the lungs. It will close in order to prevent any foreign bodies entering the lungs. We have three safety sphincters that do this: the vocal folds, the false folds (above) and the aryepiglottic sphincter (at the top). The structures above the vocal folds are not usually involved in the singing process. However, what Lewis is very cleverly doing, is singing as normal from his vocal folds but also slightly constricting his aryepiglottic sphincter and causing the cartilages around the area to vibrate. This means his vocal folds are vibrating as usual but also his aryepiglottic folds are causing a secondary vibration which causes a complex sound. This is a very clever co-ordination, which if not done correctly can cause fatigue. If done correctly, it certainly isn’t damaging to the vocal folds, however, can be hard to sustain the right co-ordination if you are singing for long periods of time.
How do you keep it ‘safe’?
For singers wanting to sing like Lewis Capaldi with grit in their voice, give it a try. However, you need to insure you are warming up and cooling down again in the right way to warm up and stretch down the right muscles. Without doing so you might find your voice fatigues quickly. Unfortunately for Lewis, this caught up with him recently when he had to cancel a show. To avoid this happening to you guys ensure you take care of your vocal health and ensure you are doing the right vocal exercises for YOUR voice.
We love you Lewis, keep up the good work!!