I was recently introduced to London Grammar and instantly fell in love with the British trip-hop trio of Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major. The group’s sound is best described as “ambient, ethereal and classical.” Their debut album, If You Wait, was released September 9, 2013 going platinum in the UK. Since I’m a newbie fan of the trio, I thought it would be fun to delve in and unearth some of the vocal tactics employed by lead singer Hannah Reid to achieve her soothing, round, and powerful sound.
In her distinctive singing style, Reid emphasizes vowels over consonants. Allow me to demonstrate what I mean. Take the vowels, A-E-I-O-U and in your head, or out loud, pronounce them like a distinguished English gentleman. Be sure to drop your jaw as far as possible, rounding out the resonance chamber inside your mouth, and you’ll get something that sounds like “Ahh-Eh-EE-Oh-Oo.”
I wondered if Reid was simply singing as she spoke. The English accent, after all, has a naturally more distinguished and opened sound. So, I YouTubed interviews of the trio. Now having listened to her speak, I can confirm that Reid’s vocal performance is a product of careful study and intention.
The downside of this vocal style is that some lyrics are hard to make out, but it is more than compensated for with the rich quality that is achieved, matching perfectly with the trio’s musical vibe.
Below is a section from the group’s song Strong. I’ve broken it down a bit to illustrate what I mean:
If a lion, a lion
(She pronounces “lion” as Lah-ah-ah-ah-ay-n)
Roars would you not listen?
(“listen” is pronounced “Lih-suh-n”)
If a child, a child
(Child is pronounced: Cha-ah-ah-ah-ay-ld)
Cries, would you not give them?
(Cr-aye-s, W-oo-d Yoo N-ah-t G-ih-v Th-eh-m)
Consonants that fall at the start of the syllable are instantly opened into the vowels, and consonants that end the words are saved to the very last part of the note. Reid achieves a good balance of vowel emphasis. As a vocalist, manipulation of vowels and consonants are within the artistic realm of interpretation, a tool in the singer’s arsenal.
There are a couple ways you can achieve this type of sound with your own voice. As mentioned earlier, singing while dropping your jaw. It creates rounded sounds. If you’re more visual, you can try adding a silent “h” to vowels like I did above in the illustration, which makes the vowels seem longer and bigger.
Our voices are capable of producing a great range of emotions and sounds. Focus on discovering the great variety in your own. Happy humming!