How to Sing Like a Professional and Style Your Voice
What One Thing Do All Professional Singers Have In Common?
I've spent more than half of my life training singers to sing like a professional. Not all professional singers are trained, however, they all have one thing in common—they all sound different in terms of their vocal style. Having a unique sound when singing is one of the most important elements of success. Trying to sound exactly like another recording star is useless in this business and won't get you very far.
Singers such as Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Blake Shelton, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett (and the list goes on and on) are all famous professional singers with outstanding voices, and yet they sound completely different from one another.
So if it's a mistake to sound like your favorite recording or broadway star, who should you try to sound like?
Finding Your Own Individual, Unique Style of Singing
I teach my vocal students to "sparkle your own way." Be unique and dare to be different. Above all, be convincing. Find that beautiful truth deep inside and "sell it."
If you want to sing and develop your "signature style" try not to sing along with a recording. You'll be to tempted to try to imitate the singer. That's exactly what you don't want to do. You can also damage your voice as you try to reach notes outside of your natural range.
One way to develop your own singing style is to learn the blues scale. Locate the image of the blues scale as found on the piano using the photo to the right (above,)
Sing it repeatedly every day until you can sing it a capella. (Without the aid of the piano.) Try improvising with parts of the blues scale. An example of how to do this is presented below in the "Happy Birthday to You" section.
The blues scale can be applied to almost any melody and is a helpful teaching tool for establishing "licks" and "riffs." Riffs and licks are just short pieces of music that move quickly in a specific pattern, often made up or improvised and commonly found in pop songs.
Work you voice using scales. Working on agility gives you a chance to get your voice moving and exploring different patterns that are found in pop music. By practicing scales or patterns that move quickly, you can develop better agility.
Here's an Easy, Fun Way to Start Developing Your Singing Style
Here's an exercise from a college class I taught to singers which was instrumental in teaching them to create their own style. Follow these steps and you'll be on your way:
- Sing the first phrase of Happy Birthday To you. Sing only the first phrase.
- This time try changing the word "you." As an example, just before landing on the right pitch for "you," start with the pitch slightly above then land on the right pitch.
- Again, sing the phrase but this time do something different with the word "to."
- Continue experimenting with different words within the phrase. Then do the same with other phrases within the song.
- Also sing the song using different meters (rhythms). Think of the samba, waltz, blues, jazz, classical, show tunes and even rap (good practice for timing.)
- Experiment with different moods and feelings.
- Add a falsetto or head voice using a sliding sound.
- Vary your dynamics.
- When you tire of this song, go through these steps with another very easy song.
Tip - Always stay with the melody and avoid straying too far from it as you change a pitch here or there. The song must always retain the recognizable melody. Your goal is to "add to" the songs interpretation, not destroy it.
Avoid Throat Irritation
Every singer has a responsibility to learn what to do to avoid throat problems. The tips I'm going to talk to you about, have been tried and tested for years among singers from every genre. They have been proven to work.
A unique, recognizable voice.
Create an Image to Define Who You Are
Define your image and once you do, don't change it. Many "wanna be's" miss the boat completely with this important tip. To sing like a professional your personality must bloom through developing and knowing who you are.
To help you understand the importance of image, take a look at the list of singers below. While such a list is unlimited, I've tried to include just a few that are known for their striking personalities.
- What do you think of when you think about Madonna? What is it about her personality that puts her in a particular class? Her longevity proves that she knows exactly who she is and displays her image with confidence.
- Elvis Presley still remains "The King of Rock and Roll." He made simple songs "dance off the page." He made a success out of being a sexy singer. This was his image. He studied famous gospel and blues singers.
- Karen Carpenter illuminated the sweet all american girl. She is still my favorite female recording artist. With a tone that was rich, rounded and pitch perfect she could speak volumes about the text just with the inflection of her words.
- Luciano Pavarotti, the italian tenor with remarkable technique and beautiful tone can carry a full sound up to the highest notes with ease. His smile is infectious.
- One of the most successful R&B/Pop singers of his time is the tenor Luther Vandross. He moves easily throughout his range proving that good technique enhances a long singing career.
- LeAnn Rimes, a singer from the time she could walk has been showing off her vocal chops anywhere that she can perform. She has agility, flexibility, a high belt and intentionally flips registers on ascending intervals in her country songs.
- Garth Brooks is a handsome splash tenor who made it big in the country market. He has very good technique, solid and consistent which stays with him through each passing year. His biggest image other than his voice is his hat.
But this isn't the only requirement for singing like a pro.
A One-of-a-Kind Vocalist
Technique Will Set You Free
Make no mistake about it, you must learn, develop and sing with vocal technique if you really want to sing like a professional. Your technique must be flawless. It becomes you, your voice, your truth and your passion.
Your technique is so refined, so much a part of your singing that it becomes totally automatic. There is no other way to sing but with consistent and great technique. How do you know if you have it? You've practiced every single technical exercise you lack over and over again, day after day, week after week and month after month until the particular technique becomes automatic and easy.
You don't stop because it's difficult and you don't like it. You'll never become a pro with that attitude.
So, what is vocal technique and what will it do for me?
American Idol, Kristen McNamara, Learns to Style Her Voice
- Avoid ice or cold drinks before singing. Ice constricts the vocal cords.
- Avoid all dairy products. Dairy will cause phlegm in the voice.
- Never "clear your throat." Instead, swallow a few times.
- To bring saliva to the throat, gently bite the tip of the tongue.
- Avoid yelling or screaming and all shouting to keep from injuring the vocal bands.
- Anti-histamines will cause severe drying of the throat.
- Always bathe your throat with plenty of room temperature water.
The Powerhouse for the Voice Is the Belly Breath
17 Vocal Techniques for a Better Voice
Depending on where you are right now as a singer you may already sing with some of these techniques. Only a qualified vocal teacher can properly evaluate your voice and recommend some or all of the following:
- Projecting confidence through posture. Proper spine alignment also affect the singers tone.
- Releasing tension. Tension in the body creates tension in the tone.
- Breathing basics. Learn to sing by using the diaphragmatic muscle as well as the dorsal. This is the foundation to great singing.
- Measuring your air.
- Opening your ribs.
- Putting your larynx into position
- Matching pitch.
- Identifying your vocal range
- Acquiring a beautiful tone
- Lifting the soft palate.
- Developing and controlling vibrato
- Exploring Resonance.
- Eliminating nasality.
- Singing forward.
- Shaping your vowels for clarity.
- Back vowels/front vowels
- Consonant articulation.
Adding to all of this the singer needs to learn how to express himself through the lyric. Memorize your material as soon as possible. You will then be free to "live" the message of the song and bring life to each phrase. This is when using your own unique style and sound come into play.
Tips and Guidance For Singers
- Effective Vocal Warm-ups For Better Singing and a Bigger Range
Stop! Do not sing any song without first warming up your voice and here are some of the most Effective Vocal Warm-ups for Singers and Vocalists.
- How You Can Tell if You Have Vocal Cord Nodules, or Nodes
When you sing or speak, do you sound hoarse? If you keep "losing your voice" you may have vocal nodules. This hub will tell you all about vocal nodes or nodules. Learn what causes them and how to avoid them.
Know What Key You Sing In
You've found a song you just love. It's got your name on it. You believe every word and you can't wait to learn it and make it your own. Question. What key do you sing the song in?
This question always brings a blank stare from most any new student I coach. Yet, nothing is as important as singing a song in the right key. The key allows you to bring out your best voice. You won't have to strain for the high notes or eliminate the low ones because you can't quite reach them.
There is no single key that we sing in. Songs are written in different keys. You may sing three or four songs in the key of E flat major, and another six or seven in the key of C major. And if the composer writes the song in a minor key, you may be able to sing the song in the original key or you may need it transposed up or down into a different minor key.
I have to smile when a vocalist tells me they sing a song in the "original" key knowing they have never even heard the original key. The composer may need to transpose (change the key) to a comfortable range for the recording artist. Therefore, even the artist isn't singing it in the original key.
I highly recommend that you try to find a song that fits your singing key. If you do this all notes will be easy to sing. No more straining trying to reach those impossible high notes.
I appreciate the opportunity to write about this subject. I've spent my life as a professional singer and teacher of voice and love sharing this information. Review this often as there is so much to remember.
- In learning how to sing like a professional you must develop your own unique style. This "difference" in sound is what draws an audience to you and builds your fan base.
- Learn the blues scale and practice improvisation.
- The more scale work, the better your flexibility will be.
- Let your personality shine as you build your signature voice.
- Listen to a variety of recording artists and make a list of their defining qualities.
- Hire a vocal coach/teacher to receive feedback and learn new vocal techniques.
- Memorize your material asap.
- Know what key you sing every song in. Have your music transposed if needed
- Recording your voice and listening back helps you to identify your flaws as well as your strengths..
I also highly recommend learning how to read music. This will really put you in the driver's seat.
Never, ever give up. Listen to your heart. If singing is your passion and you're good at it share your voice with others. And never forget that "singing is your birthright."
“If I cannot fly, let me sing.”
― Stephen Sondheim
Do you sing?
© 2013 Audrey Hunt