Singing with intuition, skills, emotion, and thinking

📚TERM. Intuition

Intuition is the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning.

📚TERM. Rational

Something based on clear thought and reason.

Singing is something that can be approached in many ways. Most singers show a clear preference for either intuitive or a more rational approach to sing. The more intuitive singers are more on the emotional side, they reach their desired result by arousing the appropriate feeling in themselves. Then there are other singers that strive for a performance that is technically correct and beautiful, with less importance on emotions. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can only be one of these singer types. Being able to master both, singing intuitively and rationally, will make you less vulnerable. You will have more tools to choose from and can broaden your knowledge and skill set.

🧞‍♂️EXAMPLE. Imagine you are an intuitive singer, and you just can’t get into the vibe of singing a concert, because you are stressed, nervous, sick, or have problems with amplification. In 2 minutes you have to go on stage and slay this performance. If you are fond of the technical skills of singing, you have something to fall back on and might even be led to singing intuitively again! On the other hand, always wanting to sing beautifully and technically correctly sometimes takes away personality or might lead to a boring performance.

How thinking helps intuition and vice versa 

A singer that always works from intuition, can highly benefit from conscious training and use, of musical and technical vocal skills. The technical/musical foundation might create more possibilities in sound choice and expression of specific emotions and therefore make you a more flexible singer. For the more rational singers, emotion can add depth, personality, and meaning to the singing, which should not be underestimated (especially in the Pop world). 

How Intuition and rationalism can be applied to L-E-I

L-E-I was a topic of the previous article about „How to learn a song effectively“. It is a learning approach splitting the process of practicing a song into three phases: 

  1. Learning 
  2. Exploring
  3. Interpretation 

Following the steps mentioned in the article above will make it easier to effectively structure a practice session. 

Going forward, I will make use of information from the mentioned article.

Learning and Exploring

During the first two phases Learning and Exploring we mainly work on skills. This means you should consciously be using your vocal technique and musical skills to learn and explore a song properly. Thinking is also a big part of this because a couple of decisions just have to be made consciously: What key suits my voice? What tempo sounds best? What style do I want to choose? What kind of timing or phrasing can I explore? What’s my personal interpretation of the lyrics? Can the piece use dynamics? In what form do I want to sing it? 

After you have decided the above-mentioned, you start singing. Observe and analyze yourself while singing! What is your body doing?

📌TIP. Record yourself

The observation of your singing and (if recording a video) your movements, will bring faster progress into your practicing. You can listen to what you did and decide if you like it or not. 

Starting to explore the song you can work from different skills and emotions. Give yourself a clear vision, make a plan of what you want to try out, and consciously follow your plan.

I would recommend writing a list of emotions and skills and try to vocalize them. 

🧞‍♂️List Examples: 

Skills (something you can actively decide to do with your voice): short, long, fast, soft, loud, straight, vibrato, 

Emotions (something that changes your state of mind and with it your voice use):happy, sad, sentimental, cute, childish, angry, jealous, broken.

If possible, record yourself while experimenting with the list, and afterward listen back to what you sang. This way you can listen to yourself and judge the skills and emotions, from a different perspective. 

What happens with your voice? What do you change when you sing in a certain emotion and how do specific skills contribute?

During this process, you experience and discover how you can best use your vocal toolkit to arrive at your own personal interpretation.


The moment you are done with learning and exploring the piece, you can concentrate on the story you want to tell and the emotions you want to bring across. Give yourself and your intuition room to grow! By now, intuition is underpinned by skillful knowledge and experience. So, if you can’t let yourself go and dive into the emotion of the music and story, then you can let thinking to be your guide. 

Following the L-E-I phases when practicing a song, will give you more confidence and freedom in your performance. You know that. if something goes wrong you can either, fall back onto your intuition/emotion or onto your thinking/skills. 

☝🏼ADVICE. Learn how to connect thinking, intuition, skills, and emotions to their advantage. 

Practice mode vs Performance mode 

When practicing a song there are two ways of working: the practice mode and the performance mode, and both are equally important. 

Practice mode

The practice mode should be used in the first two phases. This mode is led by your thinking and you, consciously guiding yourself and constantly analyzing and reflecting on your singing. 

For example, you work on pronunciation, melodic or rhythmic phrasing, try out various keys, etc. Don´t always start at the beginning of the song, work on the weak parts and repeat them until they are at your will. Try singing it slower, with vowels, only the rhythm, only the pitches…Include movements into your learning process. Walk around, sit, and stand or clap, stamp along. During practice mode, you should have an open and analytical attitude.

Performance mode 

Now the third phase, interpretation, comes into the game. Practicing in performance mode should be treated like singing in front of an audience. When you practice in performance mode, make sure to always sing the whole piece, and even if you make a mistake, just keep going. Through performing the entire piece, you get used to it and create room for your intuition. Dive into the music and leave all analytical thoughts and critical evaluations aside.

Intuition and emotion play a big role in this phase, you want to tell the story and bring it across with as much depth as possible. You will realize what parts of the two previous phases sunk in, and might find out which parts still need a bit of attendance.  If you want to eventually perform with a microphone, this would be the moment to practice with it! Another thing that might help you is looking into a mirror, to see how you perform and realize that you look sad while performing, you move too much, or make weird faces. As soon as your intuition takes lead and your thinking moves to the background, people talk about „the flow“.

But „the flow“ is nothing you can really rely on, so now having the L-E-I knowledge and the different practice modes at hand, you have many possibilities to find a way out of uncertainty when practicing. 

Literature references:

5 thoughts on “Singing with intuition, skills, emotion, and thinking”

  1. This is genius. I am overly analytical in all my learning processes. As an Anesthesiologist, I suppose this is necessary, as there is little room for emotion to cloud analytical thinking and technical prowess. This is why I am drawn to learning music (Ukulele and singing) in my retirement.
    My practice tends to focus on technical expertise, at the same tempo as the piece I am trying to learn.
    I must say though that taking singing lessons (online courses) has opened my vistas to the emotionality of a song, and not just the notes, chords, lyrics and phrasing. Consciously differentiating between practice and performance is so obvious that I am at a loss trying to explain why I could not have made that statement.
    Being playful in the practice mode, with an open rather than analytical attitude, not only leads to insights and new approaches to the development of technique, but also opens one to the emotionality of the song. While I would only occasionally celebrate a reasonably good performance of a song, I now celebrate the expression of emotion with every “performance”. Technical glitches no longer have the same power to detract from my enjoyment of playing and singing with my Ukulele. Of course, it has some power, otherwise what would be the motivation for practicing, right.
    My resolution now is to focus more on an intuitive approach to learning. Really listening to a song prior to learning it, and playing and singing along by ear (intuitively) with less focus, at least initially, on the technical requirements of performance.
    Thanks for sharing your expertise with us.

  2. I have to say your lessons have helped me greatly. I always had a decent karaoke voice but the last three years I’ve been learning the guitar. It’s a struggle at times trying to learn an instrument, learn the songs and not make a mess of the vocals. Your lessons have not only improved my singing but lessons like this one carry over into being a better musician as well. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.

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