A vocal introduction (also known as a “vocal intro”) is the equivalent of a good handshake; it is a way for a singer to introduce themselves to their audience. And like a good handshake, a vocal intro shouldn’t be too limp or too hard, and should offer just the right amount of pressure for the correct length of time.
First, let’s be clear about what a vocal intro is. It is the early part of a song where a singer hits the audience with a few lines of something melodic, lyrical or percussive before the verse starts. It is an initial meet and greet with you, the singer, saying “hi my name is…” before you hit the audience with the first line of the first verse.
Here are a couple of good vocal introductions
FIELDS OF GOLD – EVA CASSIDY
LET ME LOVE YOU – MARIO
Tips for a good vocal introduction
- A vocal intro should reflect your personality: If you are an expressive person, your vocal intro should reflect this. If you are a cautious person, the choices that you make in the vocal intro should show who you are. Play around with ideas that suit your own personality and style.
- It should add value and meaning to the song: There’s no point singing a vocal intro that is out of character and distracts the listener from the intent of the song. Make sure that your vocal intro is in line with your song’s story. You can sing high or low or start with something spoken or percussive; it’s entirely up to you. But make sure that your vocal intro is adding value to the song before that first opening line.
- It should be well paced: Don’t rush. When you meet someone for the first time you don’t want to be completely in their face. A vocal intro should be well paced and well phrased. It can be lyrically led or more improvised; choose what suits the song and your personality but make sure it’s well thought out and well designed.
- It should be tasteful: Your vocal intro should not be over cooked or under cooked musically. It is not about flooding your intro with a million notes and seeing which ones stick, neither is it about using so many vocal tones that it sounds like you have multiple personalities. A vocal intro should be musically tasteful and give your listener a good impression of what they are seeing and hearing and prepare their minds for something interesting.
- Embrace technology: Think about being creative with your vocal intro. Can you make it more harmonic? Can you use a loop machine to introduce who you are as an artist? Is there a way to use technology to make your vocal intro enhance the song you are about to sing? With the range of technology available you can really think outside of the box.
Check out this interesting vocal intro by Bon Jovi, in which they use a talk box/vocoder sound.
IT’S MY LIFE – BON JOVI
The genre isn’t exclusive
I believe that regardless of the style of music, a vocal introduction can be incorporated. They key thing is to design something that is right for the song and for you. Vocal intros are not limited to any particular genre, although some styles of music such as R&B and gospel tend to utilise this form more than others. Always assess if it suits the song or what you are trying to achieve artistically.
There is always an exception to the rule
There is no rule stating that there must be a vocal intro; millions of songs do not incorporate one at all, like Drain You by Nirvana in which the first verse pretty much slaps you in the face – but that’s the intention.
DRAIN YOU – NIRVANA
I love a great vocal introduction. I find it enthralling and enlightening when a singer uses it to introduce their song because it sets the tone and fills the air with excitement, especially if it’s done creatively and has a sense of a thoughtful and careful design.
Here are some of my favourite vocal intro’s, listen and celebrate them with me.
VIDEO WINDS OF CHANGE – SCORPIONS
NOTHING EVEN MATTERS – LAUREN HILL AND D’ANGELO
RETROGRADE – JAMES BLAKE
RUN TO YOU – WHITNEY HOUSTON