How to Do Riffs and Runs With Your Voice – Felicia Ricci


Hey friends, today we’re going to be talking about riffs and runs. (vocalizes) And I’m going to give you three strategies to ensure that your riffs are clean, supported, and just sound really cool. Now admittedly, I’m not the best riffer in the world but through my struggles I come up with some really, I think succint and helpful approaches that are gonna get you to break through some of those technical walls. So quick intro, my name is Felicia. You can call me Fel. I’m a professional voice finder, I help you find your voice. By linking your mind to your body and giving you the simplest and most potent cues that are gonna give you real results for your voice– fast. Reusing the imaginary riff that I made up, it goes like this: (riff sound) Okay? So… (riff sound) Okay? That’s just whatever. I’m just basically breaking down the principles of riffing that make it successful and how you can sort of achieve them yourself. So the first principle that makes riffing possible is that when you’re riffing, you’re using a very small amount of vocal chords. It’s a very small feeling and it’s basically if you, the way your voice works if your folds come together like this when you sing (both pink fingers closing and opening as example). And when you riff, you use the inner most part of your chords and that’s really the most agile part of your voice and that sort of allows you to kinda dance along the tops of the notes. (riffing sound) It’s like very light versus (riffing sound) versus a sound that’s very big and uses a lot of chords. So in order to make that focused feeling of using a smaller amount of chord easier for you, it actually helps to practice your riffing on narrow vowels. A narrow vowel would be like an ‘e’ or an ‘ohh’ versus something like an ‘ah’ or an ‘uh’. If you try your favorite riff on an ‘ah’ (riffing sound) Now that’s achievable. But it’s a lot harder to start there, so I suggest you take your favorite riff and you create an ‘ohh’ sound. Now as you do that ‘ohh’, make sure you’re kinda laughing or yawning on the back of your throat but you’re funneling it forward and what it helps to do is just reinforce that feeling of a narrow-focused sound, and then on top of that, I want you to keep it very small and soft. (riffing sound) It’s just a lot more achievable. So what’s the baseline? Now, when you’re using the small amount of chord what’s also happening in a successful riff is that you’re creating a seal between your breath and basically your vocal folds. And it’s sort of a technical concept. But basically what you don’t want on your riff is you don’t want flimsy chords that are breathy or leaky like: (riffing sound) And that just makes it really hard to get that kind of dance-y sound that’s really compelling. The best riffers have a really efficient seal and the way that you can create a seal when you’re practicing is to use the consonant g or b. So you could go ( gu-gugugu-gugugugu) or (bu-bububu-bubububu). So once you get the hang of that you can decrease the number of gs or bs that you use in your practice round. So it’s not every single note but maybe every couple of notes throughout the run. (riffing sound) something like that so it makes it a little easier but you’re still reinforcing that feeling of it being sealed. Now, the second thing that’s really important when you’re riffing or running is to have an EVEN EXHALE OF BREATH as you’re doing this. Now the cue I’d really like to give to singers is that as you inhale, you think down and fill up your tank underneath your rib cage. And then as you sing there’s an elevator shaft that goes from under your rib cage down to your butt. So as you’re riffing, after you got to get the hang of the melody, you want to put your mental focus down here and think of it as one exhale. So it’ll be something like… (riffing sound) Then finally… (riffing sound) The two final, kinda magic cues that are gonna help you with your riffing are something called fish lips. And fish lips are basically going to help to neutralize jaw and larynx tension. As you’re riffing its really helpful if you keep your voice box neutral and that’s sort of easier said than done because a lot of times it’s subconscious when your larynx starts to rise. However, if you’re doing steady even breathing below and you create these fish lips, it’s gonna help to create a nice even relaxed feeling and it’s gonna really help your riffing. (riffing sound) Now as you’re using the fish lips you might feel there’s a little bit of movement in the jaw and I’m not really a purist I think that’s okay if there’s slight movement but really this fish lips sensation kind of being like “Hey, what’s up?” really helps to keep it kinda relaxed as you riff. So, this final cue is a little weird and it’s called the opposite cue. And it basically has to do with riffing down versus riffing up. How many of you feel like riffing up (riffing sound) is easier than riffing down? (riffing sound) Right? It’s kinda like harder to do that and for a lot of reasons what happens is when we sing notes that go down a lot of times what will happen is for some reason mentally we think of it as a decrease in energy and what’ll happen is your breath stops engaging and also a lot of times the support structure in your face when you’re singing you’re supposed to create space. A lot of times it’ll start to sag or kind of clench if you go down in pitch. So what the opposite cue does is it encourages you to think up as you go down. So for our riff, our made up riff (riffing sound) even though I’m breathing down I’m sort of thinking up to help maintain that energy and maintain that space in the back. (riffing sound) It just helps to keep it lifted and supported and also energized. So it’s not like (riffing sound)

100 comments

I'm sure you're not going to read this but I have to tell you anyway I've been looking for you! You are wonderful teacher I love your quirkiness I love your metaphors I love your lessons I love your homework I love your visualizations your stuff for really works I'm so happy that I found you and it's the right time for me thank you so much! I'm sure you have lessons that are for sale I'm going to look for those your faithful disciple Rachel

i’ve been singing for a while now, but i don’t even know if i’m riffing/running or not. like what’s supposed to happen? are you supposed to use your jaw? what does it feel like when you riff? also i find rifffing down so much easier than riffing up, is there a way to make it both equally as easy? thanks!☺️

Here because everybody’s talking about the TNT Boys’ riffs and runs. Dont know what they are talking about. 😊

Not sure if it’s a trill or controlled vibrato, but I’m trying to figure out how to sing Regina Spektor’s “Us” specifically the line, “we’re living in a den of thieves.” Does anyone have any suggestions for how to sing this?

Hmmm Hi your so beautiful😍 i want to be graceful in Singing but i have disability in tongue (small tongue)😢 and i didn't sing properly because of my disability but i want to learn singing because i know to myself that if i sing maybe i can boost my confident😌 can you suggest me on how can i sing even if i have disability? please reply i need it😔🙏

-Please no hate just love❤ thank you😊

Hi readers of the comment section! Check out Daryl Ong, he's a filipino and we consider him our King of Runs since he's sooo good at it. Listen to his covers!

I can't do riffs or runs. But I can sing .. I have a good ear for tones, I can't do runs and it drives me nuts

Yeah,im soooo happy i got this video,i searched for this video but i didn't know what to call it,my goodness i got it,thanx fel

If I sing raspy rock music already and can do small small riffs being three or 4 note riffs. But anything after doesn't sound connected. Should I take all the goo goo and put them in there place of the notes then take one at a time out?

i had been followed ariana's jaw movement when doing run and riff .. n its sounds good ! i know that style didnt health , but thats my habit

"Its like dancing along the tops of the notes like – go-o-o-o-o – its like very light versus hAaaAa-Aaah-HaAha-hhhhaaaa 😮" 1:25 😂😂😂

I used to to really fast riffs and runs. However, I can't do it as fast as before- I have slowed down. I can do it but just not at the speed I want it to be)

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