Vocal Points: A Few Words Of Advice

Over the course of writing this column, I’ve come across some pretty sensational vocalists, and I had the chance to pick many of their brains about the most important aspects of being a professional singer. I’ve also observed many of the biggest voices in music, and the way that their voices have developed and changed over time. Getting up and singing for an audience, whether you’re a professional singer or just someone who loves to sing, is not easy. So, here is a list of some of the advice I’ve encountered while writing Vocal Points that may help the aspiring singers out there:

  1. Everyone can sing. This is probably the most important piece of advice I’ve encountered because so often we feel that only certain people are blessed with a beautiful voice. As vocal therapist Mark Baxter said in his OurStage interview, “Singing came before speech. Humans are instinctively wired to send and receive melodic passages of emotional statements.” So if you love to sing, don’t let anyone else stand in your way.
  2. Nobody is perfect. Its important to remember that our favorite vocalists got to be so good because of hard work and practice. As Kevin Devine explained to me, “I think I’ve embraced my limitations as a singer and tried to re-frame them as strengths. “
  3. Take Care of yourself. Your voice is a gift, and it is up to YOU to learn how to use it, and to protect it from any element that can damage it over time. As we learned from Adele and John Mayer‘s voice troubles late last year, the human voice can be fragile, so use caution and be aware that the way you treat your voice will affect your music career.
  4. There is no shame in asking for help. Baxter explained to me the way that he helps singers has to do mostly with unlocking their potential. “My job is to help singers build an instrument that is strong and reliable and reflective of their artistic whims” he explained.
  5. Embrace your uniqueness. Marie Hines taught me the importance of having many influences, but your own distinct style.  “I’ve never wanted to mimic anyone else.” she said. “But, even though I’ve never sought out any one particular vocalist for influence, I believe that we are all influenced by who we listen to, even if it’s a subconscious influence.”
  6. Your voice is always changing. No matter how long you’re in the biz, there is always room for improvement. As Austin Renfroe noted in our Q&A, “My voice has come a very, very long way. I didn’t know how to utilize the many tools that my voice was capable of until the last year and a half.” The longer you sing, the more you’ll learn about your voice and the better you’ll be.
  7. Sing for YOU. The singers who’ve proved they have staying power are artists who are passionate about their craft and passionate about the stories they tell. So, sing about the things that matter to you, not what you think others want you to be singing about.
  8. There is no voice mold. Look at Susan Boyle. She was a complete surprise, and a complete sensation. Look at Taylor Swift. Despite not being the world’s strongest singer, she found a place for herself in the music world. There are so many elements that determine whether a singer is a success or not, so give yourself the benefit of the doubt.

Best of luck to all you singers, professional or recreational! Got more tips? Share them here in the comments section.