Choosing the correct vocal tutor is very important. Do some research before deciding on the best tutor for you. What style of music do you want to learn? What experience does the teacher have and so on. Although I also have a background in classical singing, I don’t teach this style – pop and classical are completely different languages and should be taught as such. Pop singing is my speciality and therefore, what I teach best.
If you aren’t sure what style you like don’t worry. A good vocal tutor should be able to introduce you to basic singing technique until you decide what you want to focus on. If you follow the advice of your vocal teacher and practice regularly, you should see results very quickly.
The ideas and tips I outline on this website are just a few ideas for you to think about. Make sure any exercises you do are supervised and guided by an experienced pop teacher.
Listen, listen, listen!
Imitation is a very useful tool to help you learn style. When working on a song, listen to as many songs by the performing singer as you can, find out who influenced that singer and then listen to them. This will really help you to become aware of their style. Now try to copy their licks and nuances exactly – this is a brilliant test of your musicianship – don’t just brush over some of the licks and sing in and around what they do – be able to copy it exactly – the amazing slow downer app is great to help break down licks. Be able to play the notes on the piano so that you know what notes you are singing and can practice without the track. Try to sing it backwards and even with different rhythms until you can sing it with ease every time. Once you can sing it exactly now try sing your own lick but in the same style!
Style, timing, feel, tonal variation, phrasing, onsets and correct use of vibrato are key ingredients for any pop singer so these are areas you need to pay attention to.
You can build up your bag of tricks by learning licks from loads of different singers, copying what they do and learning their style. You can then combine bits and pieces from each singer that you like and come up with your own very tasty, very musical and well informed licks!
Understanding harmony and developing your ear is crucial for a pop singer. When it comes to improvising, many singers who aren’t used to this find it daunting. It is scary to sing some random notes and licks and hope it will work over the chord changes! There are a few easy steps to get you started – check out my video Licks/Improvisation Part 2
Choosing suitable keys is very important. Sometimes singers feel that unless they sing a song in the original key that they are cheating or aren’t good enough – I have been there! For years I wanted to sing the most challenging songs possible and completely missed the point. A singer’s job is to tell a story and make the audience feel something, and engage them. And while vocal acrobatics are impressive, important for developing technique and giving your voice a good workout they should never come before emotional awareness and connecting with an audience.
Sometimes just by dropping the key by a tone can transform how you will feel singing it, if you feel and sound more comfortable it will really help you connect with your emotions and help you find your own voice. Remember – everybody has a different vocal make up with different size and shape larynx.
Don’t compare yourself too much to other singers and don’t put pressure on yourself to sound exactly like them. Sound like you and aim to improve and develop your voice. Practice should be fun and exciting – not you stressing out over certain notes. If you are happy, your voice will be happy, if you are down, stressed or upset, don’t practice – this will only lead to vocal tension. Set aims and goals for yourself and work hard to achieve them – but be realistic and true to yourself.
Belting – This is a word that scares some vocal coaches and singers. Belting, when taught correctly is perfectly safe. There are, however, specific exercises and ways to work towards this so be careful not to overdo it at home – make sure you have the guidance of an experienced teacher. Once the voice sounds comfortable, free of tension or strain, doesn’t get tired or sore after belting and you don’t need to do crazy things with your face or body to get the notes out then you are fine. Saying that, body movements can be very helpful – again – check with your teacher. If you feel any soreness or pain at any time stop immediately!
Remember – singing should always be fun and enjoyable.