Vocal Fringe Techniques: Sliding

Underwood Performing at the 2013 CMA Music Festival, by Larry Darling, under CC BY 2.0

Sliding is one of those techniques voice teachers use as a crutch for beginning vocal students–usually to help them learn to match pitch or to connect registers. After a student learns the basics, a singing teacher will usually do everything in her power to eradicate the bad habit. But before you rip sliding out of your mental lexicon of useable vocal techniques, you should know that it has its benefits. You’ll hear it in a variety of genres, but country music in particular.

Listening For a Slide

Listen to Carrie Underwood sing “Before He Cheats.” She slides on a number of the words, but you can really hear it on the word seat in the chorus. Listen to how she starts just below the pitch and then slides into it. Besides the fact that sliding is kind of a staple in much of country music singing, what effect does it have on a word, and why might a singer choose to use it? There’s no single right answer, but in my opinion, it gives the word some grit and attitude.

Sliding Technique

Imitate a Siren

On the scale of vocal techniques, sliding isn’t one of the harder ones to master. Try imitating a siren, moving up and down from the bottom to the top of your range and back down. Notice how you’re no longer breaking your pitches up into distinct notes, but are instead including the micropitches in between notes.

Slide Between Octaves

Once you have the siren sound down, pick two distinct notes, maybe an octave apart, and slide from one note to the other. Feel what it’s like to land on that top note after sliding up there from the bottom note.

Slide Up to a Note in a Song

When you’re actually singing a song, you won’t be sliding up an octave. Try picking a word in a song you want to slide up to, starting a few pitches below the note you want to land on, and sliding up to the word. You should be able to slide fast enough that the rhythm of the song isn’t altered, at least very much. Make sure you don’t overdo it, and remember to still put the most acoustic energy into the note you land on and not the notes in the slide.

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