Developing a Unique Style

Weekly Teaching Tip – March 28, 2016
by Tricia Grey

Practicing singing in different vocal styles will help you to develop a unique style of your own and will widen your scope of potential paying gigs as a singer. Learn how to sing authentically in every style with advice from Sing Like a Star!

Listen to singers in various vocal styles:
R & B
Musical Theatre Belt
Classical or Musical Theatre Legit
For each of these styles, how does the singer’s vocal quality vary in terms of:
Brightness/darkness of tone quality
Breathiness/edginess (vocal fold compression – light, moderate, strong, pressed or over-compressed)
Laryngeal height
Phrasing – where the phrase starts, and rhythms used
Diction – how the vowels and consonants are pronounced
Riffs, runs and licks

Along with the ability to sing riffs and runs, the ability to sing in many different styles authentically will widen the scope of potential paying gigs for you as a singer. Of course, if your goal is to be a recording artist, you will want to develop a unique and iconic style that is different from anyone else. One way to develop your own unique style is to listen to and imitate other artists until you can sing convincingly in various genres.

A great deal of today’s music has a lot of crossover going on style-wise. Many country artists sound more pop today; pop artists need to be able to riff soulfully; and even musical theatre contains every element of style from Classical (legit) to Gospel and even Rock. Even if you are a purist, acquiring the elements of various styles of singing will enhance your own style and make you more versatile.

Vocal timbre can vary from one style to the next; the use of vocal colors can be a big factor in whether or not you sound authentic in a particular style. The deep and resonant sound of classical singing for example, although beautiful and impressive, is completely inappropriate for pop or rock singing which uses a much more conversational or speech-like quality.

The vertical positioning of the larynx affects vocal tone too: the very low laryngeal position of operatic singing creates a much darker vocal quality that you would want for the more conversational sound required for pop. While we don’t want to hike our larynx excessively, small adjustments in laryngeal height can make a huge difference in the authenticity of the tone.

Vocal embellishments or melismas also vary between styles. Of course, Gospel and R & B use a lot more flamboyant and challenging riffs than folk singing does. Make sure your choice of embellishments is appropriate for the style of music you are singing. And how would you know that? By listening to and imitating many different artists representative of each style.

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