Are you a young or otherwise hopeful singer looking to make your mark in the music business?
You may well be a solo vocalist, or a member of your first band, just sing for fun, or just generally curious about how to start, so here is some of my own personal advice, that I hope you will find helpful.
Let’s begin with the main topic. To be a singer of longevity and substance, the way you sound far outweighs the way you look. Although these days, it may sound crazy, but it really is fundamentally true. Learn to relax into it.
Singing is an auditory skill, and your achievement as an artist will be reliant mostly on your ability to communicate with your listeners. The greatest staging or appearance in the industry is not going to help you in the long term, if the singing is dreadful. In other words, a blind person will not think you are a great singer no matter how well you are dressed!
Real power in the music business is achieved by likeability and longevity.
You have to work hard, be patient, be a good listener, have large curiosity, and genuine interest.
There are numerous amazing singers, who began there singing careers with just a simple, inexperienced vocal ability, longing and aspiration, with just enough confidence to sing a tune more or less. As time went by they learnt to develop and express the most favourable qualities combined with their personality, into their voice; to create a kind of vocal charisma, a unique musical identity that is instantly recognizable to the listener.
As a singer. Think of yourself as a MUSICIAN. The human voice is merely an instrument like many others and it takes dedication and skill to use it effectively. If you want the kind of voice that will stop traffic, the kind of vocal range that lets you sing in almost any key, the sort of voice that most people would die for then you have to build it yourself. Raw talent is not enough in most cases and it can sometimes be a disadvantage.
Why? Because it can make you a complacent low achiever and lead you to believe that the world revolves around you and the greatness you are destined to enjoy if only the world would listen. A great natural singing voice is one thing but it’s what you DO with it that counts.
As a singer you must develop your musical judgment. You will need to make good musical decisions every time you open your mouth to sing. Deciding how to sing a phrase, whether to build up a particular section or to lay back your timing into the bridge or if you should sing out the end chorus an octave higher with lots of licks all takes musical taste and judgment that nobody is born with. If you think of yourself as a musician first, then you will be able to recognize these judgment skills in other musicians and be able to learn from them.
Singers should always be looking to push themselves. Expand your horizons by learning other instruments like guitar and keyboards or bass, drums or saxophone. The mere act of learning to play a bit on another instrument will teach you much about singing. It will also help immensely with your song writing, but that is another rave.
Expand your horizons in other musical directions. If you sing Hip Hop then try singing a bit of country or jazz. Force yourself out of your comfort zone into areas you know nothing about. Throw yourself into the deep end of the pool until you feel the water flow over your head! Most musical styles borrow on the same vocal techniques but differ in how they are applied. For example, listening to how Michael Bublé sings can give you an insight into phrasing and how to create tension and release in a vocal performance. Your understanding of this can be applied to almost any contemporary musical style you wish.
Don’t fall for the old lazy argument that you are an original artist and you don’t want to dilute your ‘sound’ with outside influences. The truth is that influences are what make you the singer you are and the great singer you will become. You must absorb all the information you can, pick as many brains as you can find, listen to the old players and try to figure out how they did what they did. If you have a favourite singer, then learn everything you can from that person and then move on. Do not try to sound like them even if you can. You must learn to move beyond mere copying and into forming your own sound. Above all, make this journey your passion. Leave no stone unturned in your quest to be a better musician and a great singer.