When Identifying your Heroes is Helpful.

Ella Fitzgerald - Picture by Helmut Montag

Ella Fitzgerald - Picture by Helmut Montag

I wanted to write this post for a while because I think one of the most important things in the development of your voice is to be inspired by other artists. However, sometimes these artists have bad habits too, and it's important to distinguish between what we like about their voice and anything that might be unhelpful about it. Here's a worksheet of steps you might like to use.

STEP 1:
Listen to a WHOLE LOT of music. Listen to singers inside AND outside your genre. If you're used to singing pop, maybe listen to some jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. If you're used to rock music, then turn on the radio and listen to some Top 40 or see if you can find the soundtrack to a musical. It's important to start thinking about voices rather than just genres or styles.

STEP 2:
Remember that the aim of the exercise is not to sound like a carbon copy of that singer, but to identify exactly what it is that you like about this voice, so that you can use it in your own singing. Maybe it's their power, or their ease in reaching those high notes. Maybe it's their rich tone or vibrato? Maybe it's the conviction and authenticity with which they communicate their lyrics? Maybe it's the confidence that they're able to carry. See if you can figure out what it is that you like. Would you like to achieve these things in your voice too? You can bring this intention into your practise sessions and discuss it with your teacher. Also take a moment to think about any aspects of this voice that may be unhealthy. This won't apply to all voices, but if it sounds like the voice you're listening to is struggling or straining, it probably is. Take note that it's important to find a healthy and easy way to create the sound you want, and make a mental note of any things that you DON'T want to learn from this singer.

STEP 3:
Learn to imitate healthily. The first part of this is just to get into the mindset of the artist you're imitating. What do you think it would feel like to be them in a performance? Are you feeling relaxed and confident? Start cluing into what your body is doing and see if there's any anxiety you might be holding onto. Now you can sing along to a track, or sing a of a song of theirs in a different key. What are the things you're doing well, and what are the things that might sound easy but are actually really difficult? If this is all feeling way too difficult, don't be too hard on yourself! Sometimes it's helpful to take a step back and think how are they achieving that? Often it has a lot to do with the vowel sounds they're using, so you could even try to lip-sync along with the singer, trying to imitate their vowel sounds.

SOME IMPORTANT NOTES:
- If part of the thing you love about this singer involves and abrasive or strained sound, then hold your horses! It may be that you love the authenticity and power of this sound, rather than the actual abrasiveness. See if you can think about ways of showing this conviction WITHOUT straining yourself.
- Realise that even the stars can have bad habits and might injure themselves. Even if their voices seem flawless, every singer started off with their own crutches. Try to avoid imitating these.
- If you feel like your voice is getting tired, then take a break! There's no need to do this exercise for too long. Maybe you might need to listen to that singer a little more - find some more of their music and just listen to it in the car! Keep imagining yourself making the sounds that you want and think about the personality behind those sounds. Even just some simple reflection on this can encourage a marvellous change in your voice and the way you think about singing.