“She’s such a talented singer!” they all say.
“I wish I could sing like that, but I can’t carry a tune to save my life.”
We’ve all heard comments like these a million times…
From those who want more than anything to become great singers themselves…
But are trapped by the all-too-common belief that:
It’s something you’re born with.
And you either have it, or you don’t.
The truth is though…that singing is a skill-set, just like any other. And it CAN be learned.
And while certain rare individuals might naturally sound amazing on their own…
And certain other rare individuals might always sound awful no matter what…
The vast majority of us will sing terribly when we first try…but then get better by practicing.
At least, that’s how it should work in theory.
Unfortunately, the reality is that many singers practice for years and years without ever-improving. What’s worse…many of them can’t even see it.
And this happens, not because those people just aren’t meant to sing. It happens because they don’t know HOW TO PRACTICE.
So for today’s post, my goal is to help you avoid this fate by sharing 16 simple strategies to build an effective practice routine that will vastly improve your singing in a very short time.
Now let’s begin…
Part I: Finding Your Style
The #1 reason mediocre singers stay mediocre is…
They never really develop their own sense of identity and style.
For example…think of the contestants on singing shows like American Idol or The Voice…
Towards the end of those competitions…
It’s fair to say that all finalists meet the standard minimum qualifications of “good singers”, right?
They hit their notes with power, precision, and finesse, and seem reasonably confident in themselves while doing so.
But let me ask you this…
How many of those names do you still remember…years after the show?
Perhaps one or two. Perhaps none.
Because the vast majority were easily forgettable, despite all the cheers of the crowd, and all the praise of the judges.
So what were they missing?
Well to find out, let’s compare them to the opposite extreme: Those musicians you’ve listened to and loved all your life, many of whom were quite terrible singers by all “technical” standards.
The reason we remember those select few names among the sea of others that have come and gone over the decades…is simply because they had their own unique style…
- that no one ever really had before
- and possibly no one will ever have again
…while all those cliche American Idol singers sounded more like clones produced in a factory.
So the REAL question here is…
How does one cultivate style?
And in this section of the post, that’s exactly what we’ll discuss.
Starting first with…
1. Develop a Badass Attitude
Unlike drummers, bassists, and guitarists…
When you as a singer…stand up on stage…and open your mouth…
There’s literally nothing for you to hide behind.
The audience will know exactly who you are, and how you are feeling at any given moment…
Because they will see it in your eyes, on your face, and in your body language…and most importantly, they will feel it in your voice.
So if you don’t honestly feel with 100% certainty (at least while you’re on-stage) that you are the saddest motherfucker on the planet…
It won’t matter how “technically perfect” your performance has been up to that point, because all they will remember is the smell of your fear and self-doubt.
And it will repel them.
So the next question then becomes:
How do you develop that confindence?
Well, while there are many ways to trick yourself into being delusionally self-confident…
As we all know from the first few episodes of every American Idol season…delusional self-confidence is even worse than uncertainty.
So the MUCH better option is to simply become objectively self-confident, by actually getting good at what you’re doing.
So for the remainder of this article, competence is what we will focus on.
Just remember to keep in mind though, that without confidence as well, everything else is worthless.
Got it? Up next…
2. Copy Your Favorite SINGERS, not SONGS
While it might seem strange to say you can develop your own unique style by copying others….
It’s absolutely true.
Almost every great singer (or any other kind of artist for that matter), found their style in the same way:
By copying their heroes.
Too often though, people misinterpret this advice, and aspiring singers practice any and all of their favorite SONGS…rather than restricting themselves to the songs of their favorite SINGERS.
And here’s why this is a mistake:
A huge portion of the best songs in music history is performed by one-hit-wonders with a level of talent that is not-at-all worth imitating.
Sure the songs might be catchy, but we’re not learning about songwriting, are we? We’re learning about singing.
And if you want to learn to sing, you need to copy good SINGERS, not good SONGS.
So here’s what you do:
Make a list of around 4-6 of your favorite singers of all-time. Not necessarily the ones you respect most. Choose the ones you wish to sound like.
So if you’re a man, the singers on your list should ideally be all male. Makes sense?
3. Recognize Who Can Be Copied, And Who CAN’T
While I’d like to tell you that you’ll eventually be able to imitate all the singers on your list…
Chances are that your vocal tendencies will only align with maybe half of them.
If you’re lucky.
But that’s to be expected, as certain voices are so unique that NOBODY can copy them.
Among male singers…the first name that comes to mind is Robert Plant. Every guy wants to sing Led Zeppelin covers, but they almost always end up sounding terrible.
Among female singers…Mariah Carey is a great example. Every girl tries to hit those absurdly high notes…but none of them ever actually do.
So every few months take a step back and evaluate which voices you resonate with, and which you don’t.
If one singer’s style doesn’t seem to align with your own, cross off that name and replace it with a new one.
After doing this a few times, you will eventually settle on a list with a good mix of voices that suit you well.
4. Develop Your Own Voices
Once you’ve built a solid list of legendary singers…
It’s time to start borrowing from each of them with the ultimate goal of eventually finding your OWN style.
Assuming you chose some truly legendary singers to learn from…
What you’ll notice after studying their tendencies is…
They’ll typically have a mix of about 5-6 different “voices” that they selectively use in different musical contexts (most singers have only 1-2).
Examples of such voices might include:
- a screaming metal voice
- a soft angelic voice
- a breathy “pillow-talk” voice
- a smokey sexy voice
…and the list goes on and on.
Once you’ve identified the various voices used by each of your favorite singers…
The next step is experimenting with each of those voices to find out which ones you identify with most.
And with 5-6 voices from 5-6 singers…that’s around 30 different voices in total you have to play around with.
Over time, you will notice yourself favoring some of those voices over others, and gradually you will start to amass more and more go-to weapons in your “singing arsenal”.
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