How to Sing With Expression | 8 Singers Who Sing With Emotion 

Posted on

Would you like to get better at showing heart and feeling when on stage? Perhaps you’re unsure how to portray the story, or message, of your songs.   

You can identify how to sing with expression by watching the famous singers who sing with emotion. Making a connection with the audience is paramount for artists and it changes your creative process for the better. This is how you create a bond with fans. 

If you need to inject some passion into your performance and build your following, read this article for tips and advice.  

How to sing with expression 

Facial expressions are a great way to help sing with emotions to your audience. When singing with emotion, your facial expressions will enhance the particular mood of the song, which will also add dynamics and further help the audience connect with your performance. 

It is important that your facial expression matches the feeling of the song. It’s no good having a frown on your face if the song is upbeat. If your expressions aren’t matching the feeling of the song your audience will not connect to it. 

The most common cause of not matching facial expressions to songs is not focusing on the words or timing. A good way to combat this is to practise your song in front of a mirror and/or film yourself to find an expression that looks genuine. And use eye contact to connect with your audience.  

Sing with more emotion

Sing with more emotion

How do you add emotions to singing?  

If you are performing a song where you can’t make use of the stage as easily, it’s even more important that you don’t forget hand gestures and facial expressions which can help to enhance performance and emotion. It’s important to have a presence on stage which lets the audience know that you are confident in your singing abilities.  

Convey the energy and emotion of a song to the audience with your body language. This is just as important as the ability to sing with emotion. Imagine watching a musician singing on stage and they just stared at their feet as they sing without moving; it would be a horrific performance. 

Always remember when singing on stage, energy and body language is important. However, it has to be fitting to the performance: don’t move just for the sake of it.

How to add emotion to your voice 

Singing with vibrato is an incredibly effective and soulful technique to add more emotion and expression to your voice. This is where you are slightly altering, or vibrating, the pitch of a sustained note. 

It actually happens naturally to ease tension on vocal cords but can be masterfully controlled when you train yourself to sing from your diaphragm. You want to use it sparingly because if you do it on every note then it will lose its ability to stir up feelings. 

8 Singers who sing with emotion  

There are some singers who are renowned for the ability to sing with emotion. Have a look at our list of the most heartbreaking vocalists who are renowned for filling their songs with emotion. 

1. Adele 

After her debut album, 19, Adele went on to become a global superstar. She is now regarded as one of the most soulful singers of all time and with her next album, 21, she became one of the biggest selling artists of her generation. Her ability to express heart-wrenching emotion through her singing, as well as writing brilliant songs that can cater to her abilities has been a massive part of this. It’s totally genuine – check out her tears at the end of this live show.  


2. Lewis Capaldi 

He may have a cheeky chappie comic personality, but the musician pours emotion into his love songs. Not only does he express this is his face, but his husky, raspy tones makes it sound like his heart is breaking at times.  


 3. Amy Winehouse 

Amy Winehouse was a brilliant singer whose life ended far too soon. Her distinct jazz-inspired style and retro style were unparalleled amongst British soul singers at the time. With her success and idolisation, she opened up a whole new market for a generation of singers, including Adele. 


4. Jeff Buckley 

Jeff Buckley will always be remembered for his incredibly emotional album, Grace. It features a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah that brought the song to a wider audience and showed how emotional a singer with their guitar can be.  


5. Birdy 

Birdy was the first winner of Open Mic UK and displayed an unprecedented amount of emotion for a 12-year-old. She has gone on to release albums with one of the biggest record labels in the world, Atlantic Records. She is adept at using soft and gentle sound to convey powerful emotion.  

6. Sam Smith 

After a great feature on a Disclosure track, Sam Smith went on to receive 6 Grammy nominations for his debut album, In the Lonely Hour. One of the most acclaimed aspects of the album was his singing, especially the emotion he puts into his voice. Sam is an emotional guy and brings his own experiences into his music to great effect.  


7. Pink 

You don’t have to be soft and teary to express emotion, however. Pink has a great line in heated, angry politically charged songs. If this is more your style, play up to it with bags of energy and sass. 


8. Paloma Faith 

You don’t have to be sad or angry to be expressing emotion in your song. Here’s a very versatile performer singing her heart out and uplifting her audience. Here’s Paloma Faith being creative and larger than life at the Belladrum. 


How can I sing with emotions and passion? 

Have a balance of dynamics to effective express the emotion of a song. Vocalising loudly throughout a song won’t have the same trajectory as going from quiet to loud. Try singing quietly but with the same level of emotion. Sometimes you don’t need to be belting at the top of your lungs to express emotion. Some successful singers, such as Billie Eilish,  sing very quietly but manage to pack their performances with emotion. 

This can be a harder skill to acquire as we tend to associate adding emotion to adding more to our voice. However, you can add more emotion by taking away the frills and power. Leaving your voice raw and bare will still show the emotion but without distracting the audience with fancy techniques. 

Using appropriate vocal techniques for controlling dynamics will help you sing with emotion and build an emotional connection with the audience. In particular, by varying the volume and tone of your voice in your performance, you can draw people in and lock in their attention. 

Different feelings have different sounds and tones. For instance, anger could be expressed with much louder dynamics, whereas a more peaceful and relaxed song needs a quieter dynamic to reflect that. 

How to sing passionately 

Photo: Justin Higuchi

Use different singing voices to express different emotions. The chest voice results in a thicker tone as it tends to be used for lower notes and dynamics. When you sing at this range you should be able to feel the vibrations in your chest. Falsetto uses a lot more air and is solely produced from your head, thereby completely eliminating your chest voice. It is more commonly used by male singers. 

Learn how to control these voices and use them appropriately for different feelings. Your chest voice will be more appropriate for quieter and more sombre expressions, whereas your mixed head voice should be used for powerful high notes. Falsetto is a lot thinner than your head voice so it is good for high notes that don’t need power. 

A vocal cry is a useful method of singing and can be incredibly powerful for expressing emotion. If you can command and control this vocal cry reflex, your voice will be configured for expressing emotion, as well as be more stable for singing high notes with power and emotion. When you are about to cry, you can feel your larynx shift and you feel a lump in your throat. This is because crying and wailing can be very loud and your body instinctively adjusts to protect your voice.  

Singing from your heart 

It’s worth considering acting or drama lessons to help build your stage presence and learn to act and sing with heart. Many singers have experience acting as well as singing and it can only help you become a better performer. Song choice is also so important if you want to sing with emotion so make sure you choose a song that you can relate to as well as sing. Read the feelings of the audience and engage with them. It’s not just about singing but your stage presence too. Make eye contact and reflect the way everyone is feeling. 

Singing from the heart lyrics 

Look at the lyrics and find feelings and emotions that you can put into your singing. Caring about the meaning of the song you are singing instantly improves your performance as connecting with it will enable you to sing with emotion. Capture the emotions, feel them and express them through your singing and performance. Before you start, make sure you understand the lyrics and sing them like you’re telling your story.  

If you can connect your feelings to a song then you’re likely to sing emotionally. This will make you more believable to the audience. Choose the right song and make sure it means something to you – it’s hard to be sincere about songs you don’t care about. 

How to sing with soul 

Many soul singers are renowned for their riffing ability. Their technique enables incredibly complicated runs across octaves. Practice riffs and runs to help add emotion and improve your technique. They can really impress an audience but make sure you use them sparingly and in the most emotional moments of a song. 

Vocal riffs are an ornamental technique where you go on a ‘run’ of notes across the scale. This is commonly referred to as vocal gymnastics. The added notes, demonstration of controlled technique and spontaneous expression of how you are feeling can add a lot of emotion to a performance. 

Learning how to sing with expression is just as important as your vocal technique. Singers who sing with emotion stir feelings and inspire an emotional response to the song. So use your voice, your eyes and body language. The techniques covered here will stop you from losing control of your vocals when doing this and help you to become a more emotive and passionate performer. For some, creating an emotional connection will come naturally, for others it will take time to develop. The more you perform, practise and analyse your performances the better you will become at expressing emotion. 

Related Questions 

  • How do you sing a sad song without crying? 

When you practice, don’t hold back and just let it out. The more you do this, the more you’ll be able to hold it in for the future whilst still expressing the pain of the song. Seeing a singer cry can melt an audience but you don’t want it to affect your ability to sing the song. 

  • Why do I get emotional when I sing? 

It can be overwhelming when you’re singing sad songs and really connecting with the underlying meaning. The vibrations from singing can also make you more likely to tear up so try singing at a lower dynamic. The song might be reminding you of something too. Music evokes memories. 

  • What is good for your voice before singing? 

Warmups ready your vocal cords for the strain of singing emotionally. Vibrato, riffs and runs and using powerful dynamics all require significantly more effort from your voice than if you were to just sing normally. Spend 20 -30 minutes warming up to prepare for an intense session.  

Which techniques do you use to sing with expression? Who is your favourite singer who sings with emotion? Let us know in the comments below.