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Out of Existence – 5. GRA – andanteHarry Josephine Giles & Vivien Holmes
00:00 / 02:44

Keeping a note held for long periods of time can be an expressive and impactful way of stressing lyrics, adding to texture, or driving the song to a climatic point. Important things to remember when singing long phrases are posture, breathing, and air flow, to make sure your voice and body aren’t working overtime to sustain the sound.


Here’s how to prepare for long phrases;


  1. If standing or sitting, place your feet a little bit more than shoulder width apart, feeling them connect with the ground below you.

  2. Take a deep breath through your mouth, imagining that the air is travelling down your spine, and expanding your abdomen outwards. Repeat this a few times, making sure your shoulders don’t rise and that your chin stays level.

  3. Sing a comfortable middle pitch, on either an ‘ah’ (as in ‘are’) or an ‘oh’ (as in ‘over’) sound. Aim the pitch forward, directly in front of you, keeping the flow of air steady and smooth. It might help to imagine a long string, that you are running through your hands, reaching the ends of it as you stop singing.


Developing long phrases


  1. Choose a two syllable word that you’d typically stress the second syllable of. Some examples you might want to try are ‘deserve’, ‘refer’, or ‘become’

  2. Using the start of the second syllable as a springboard into the vowel(s) of the second syllable (e.g. deServe, reFer, beCome), sing the word on a comfortable middle pitch (staying on the same pitch for both syllables).

  3. Gradually take the word up and/or down your register, experimenting with the smoothness of the air flow, and which pitches are the easiest/hardest to sustain.


Long phrases in Out of Existence


Viv sings some incredibly powerful notes on the word ‘invert’ in GRA. The growing intensity throughout this piece is driven by these phrases, paired with her drumming. Viv starts quietly, and gradually sings louder and higher, adding some grit and natural distortion into her phrases as they overlap. This effect ends the song on a gloriously stormy high!


Singing along


  1. When Viv starts singing ‘invert’, the first sounds on the track, find a comfortable middle-low note in your register, and use the ‘v’ of ‘invert’ to springboard into the long note along with her.

  2. Take note of where Viv breathes and repeats, especially where she stylistically stops the ‘-er-‘ sound before the ‘-t’. What does this add to the phrase? Does it change the meaning or tone of the word?

  3. Listen to when Viv starts amping up the intensity, and how she gradually rises in pitch as the track progresses. Match this change in your own register, moving from middle-low through middle, to middle-high.

  4. If you’re comfortable doing so, you can experiment with adding vocal fry (see Are we? resources) to distort the sound, and add the grit that Viv expertly handles as she gets louder.

INVERT [example one]Vivien Holmes
00:00 / 00:27
INVERT [example two]Vivien Holmes
00:00 / 00:23
A black and white line drawing of the bones of the spine and lips floating above
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