Here's a typical question someone emailed me last week:
...I was thrown a little this morning when I got a letter from someone close to me who said they had heard my songwriting demo and didn't like my singing, saying it was too 'formal' It's not the first time this has been said, and these were my songs (modern piano ballads) not musical theatre classics (Rogers and Hammerstein era) which I normally sing. I guess singing that way has gotten a little ingrained in me (formal baritone) and I don't have a 'modern era' voice if you will. Any thoughts about this? I don't suppose I'm the only one, and maybe others have something to say.I understand the problem...I've had to change vocal styles throughout my whole professional singing career. As a jingle singer I frequently had to stifle my tendency towards slurs and vocal licks. As a background singer I had to exactly trace the style of different genres of artists. Earlier in my career, as a club singer in Memphis, I had to learn pop, r&b and jazz. Then I got my record deal and had to find my own style! Let me share from my experience, some tips for learning a new style:
- LISTEN, listen, listen! ... to vocal artists that have mastered the style in which you're interested. Immerse yourself in the rhythms, melodies, phrasing, vocal embellishments (licks), articulation that the they are using.
- DISSECT the performances - Where do the lyrics fall compared to the beat? Do they sing perfectly with the beat or do they lay back or are they "on top" of it? How often do they do vocal licks and what are typical licks they use? For instance, notice that pop & rock is often sung straighter than country or r&b.
- MIME! Go through the physical motions of singing with the master artist, but don't make a sound. It's important that you do this physically yet inaudibly. If your audience was deaf, let them see the words and the melody in your body language and face.
- SING WITH the artist (audibly). Try to make sure you are tracing them exactly.
- SING WITHOUT the artist...with only tracks if you can find them.
- RECORD yourself singing. Play it back, and ask yourself if you believe it.
- PERFORM ORIGINAL SONGS - get or write original material that is in that genre. This is where you will develop your inner connection with the style and can begin to truly deliver authentic performance.