By Steven Groth, Singing Popular Music
The Lesson Studio
One of the biggest reasons students take lessons is because they want to sing the music they hear on the radio, or music by their favorite singer or band. While this bring students and teachers together, a little caution must be employed to avoid bad habits and technique that can alter a person’s ability to sing for their entire lifetime. A lot of the music we consume today is so digitally altered that students can have unrealistic expectations of what they can or should be able to do. Students must have realistic expectations of their abilities, especially as they learn and perform popular music often originated by artists of vastly different ages, voice types, and abilities.
An extremely important thing every singer must consider is whether or not a piece is appropriate for their voice. This is not a judgement of a singer’s ability, rather of what is best suited to their voice. Singers need to know what they can sing now, what they can sing in the future as they develop, and what would be best to leave alone. No matter how much I may practice and aspire to sing like Adam Levine of Maroon 5, I am not a tenor. So while I can certainly can perform covers of his songs in alternate keys, I will never be able to sing his greatest hits as they were originally heard and intended. Most importantly, this is okay!
In a world where American Idol has shaped many people’s perception of what music can and should sound like, it is more important than ever to have a place to improve without having their internal Simon Cowell criticizing them along the way. Critiques have no place in a singer’s mind while they are singing. Instead, record yourself singing and listen to it later – or better yet, listen to your teacher. Remember to be kind to yourself as you are always your own worst critic. Pay attention to how it feels – feeling is always more reliable than listening. If it feels good, it probably sounds good! If it doesn’t feel good, something needs to change.
Remembering good vocal technique is required for success. If you don’t stand up with good posture, breathing is much more difficult. If you don’t breathe well, you won’t sing well. No microphone can make you sound better – only louder. Artists people idolize often fail to exemplify the things necessary to sing well. Just like certain sports athletes overcome bad technique, vocalists can (at least temporarily) sing with bad technique. They also often require surgery or therapy to fix the side effects of their harmful vocal technique. Surgery isn’t fun, and neither is therapy, so remember that good technique is rewarded with a lifetime of healthy singing and is always worth the effort.
But let’s cut to the chase. What is it that makes for a successful performance of a popular song for an amateur singer? Remember to be yourself. You do not need to sound like Adam Levine, or Adele, or anyone else for that matter. Furthermore, no matter how hard you try, you won’t sound like any of these artists. So be yourself! Remember what makes singing fun, and show that to the world. Unrealistic expectations make singing unnecessarily difficult. When you choose to enjoy singing with your voice, it shows. Your audience will have more fun, be more engaged, and be more forgiving. And who doesn’t want that?