Great technique, but no soul

Musical theatre performers with a strong musical or instrumental background tend to be guilty of this most often: you've mastered the fine details of every note, rhythm, lyric and breath mark, but you've forgotten that the people watching you don't really care about that stuff - they want to feel something while you sing. You're pleased with yourself for singing your piece so perfectly, but you're getting feedback that you're boring to watch.

Problem: you’re singing by rote

  • Your breathing is not connected to subtext
  • Your rhythm and melody are correct but boring
  • There is no sense of arc within the song (building toward a climax)

Exercises to get your head out of technique:

Speak the song

Remove the rhythm and melody from the song and simply speak it as a monologue. Without the rhythm and melody to take all of your attention, you’ll be forced to reconsider the message you’re trying to convey, who you’re speaking to, and what your goals are. Also, speaking it will probably show you how boring your piece is when you just spit the words out by rote!


Sometimes singing by rote happens simply because you’re not completely memorized yet and you’re too wrapped up in forgetting a lyric or note. Stop trying to “perform” the piece, spend some time fully memorizing it and then reconnect to your objectives, emotions and message when you are ready.

Breathe the song

If you’re breathing with the sole purpose of inhaling more oxygen to make it through your next phrase, you’re missing a huge opportunity to feel and convey emotion. Your breath sets the tone for your entire body, and then your body conveys a message to your audience, so the unique way you breathe is of utmost importance. In real life, if you were sad, how would you breathe? Angry? Happy, etc.? Listen to a recorded accompaniment of your piece and take all of your breath marks, but don’t sing. Just focus all your attention on how the inhales and exhales should feel.

Take acting techniques further

If you like what you read here, and want to go even deeper into acting techniques specifically for musical theatre, pick up our eBook, Sensational Scenes and Songs. This eBook includes 14 acting exercises to take your skills to the next level.

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