Songwriting is the most fun and creative endeavor, I´m sure we all agree on this. As songwriters we get to tell stories, create moods and process human emotions. Is there a better job you could think of? Probably not.
And yet, once a song has been created, it needs to be shared. While some songwriters specifically write for other artists, a lot of you may also want to perform their own songs live or on a record. But not every songwriter is a great vocalist by their very nature.
The good news is, putting in the work and practicing regularly really does make a difference. Everyone can learn to sing. The question is, how much of a vocalist do you want to become and what styles suit your music?
Why it is crucial to examine your vocal capacities as a songwriter
Depending on the genre you are writing in, certain styles might fit your songs better than others, but apart from genre, you should really consider your vocal range, colour, texture etc. first and then write songs to suit your vocal type. This does not mean you should limit yourself in your songwriting. It´s more about being fair to your songs. There will be songs that might be better suited for another singer other than yourself. While some songs might be just right for you! It doesn´t mean you are not a good enough singer, if you have to outsource the vocal performance or adjust the song for it to be aligned with your vocal skills. It´s about honoring your personal style and working with what you´ve got instead of forcing things. Think of it like buying clothes. You might like a lot of different looks, but not all styles suit your personality, right? It´s the same thing with songs.
To make things a little easier, I recommend defining what kind of a vocalist you are or are working towards becoming. Do you like soft, intimate vocals, or do you love to belt and sing those big notes? Do you sing in a very talky voice, or do you love using vibrato and runs? Are you more drawn towards vocal acrobatics or rather very straight forward simple phrases? Are you all about performing and moving the crowds, or are you a ballad-y person? I´m not saying you shouldn´t experiment with all kinds of styles. Ultimately that´s what makes a good vocalist. Exploring and constantly building new skills, so you can mix all of those styles into a unique blend.
The key is to honor your physiology and natural voice before obsessing over a certain style that might not actually flatter your voice very much.
So here´s some tips for finding your voice!
Ask and you will find! The following questions should help you reflect on your voice and find some descriptions.
Try to find out what your range is and also your voice color. Are you gravitating more towards dark or light sounds? Would you naturally place your sounds very forward (singing into your mask) or more backwards in the throat and nasal cavities? How does your tone change if you broaden your mouth or when smiling slightly? Do you like those sounds?
What singers do you enjoy listening to and why?
Does your voice ever feel strained when singing high volume levels? That is a sure sign for unhealthy technique.
Here´s a great trick:
The best thing to be totally honest when determining your vocal DNA, is to lie flat on the floor and sing a couple of songs without effort and without trying to impress anyone. It will show you your current range and will also give you an idea of a volume that feels comfortable. Once you know these two factors, you can begin to experiment with excersises to build a tool repertoire. You can certainly also work on expanding your range with common vocal exercises (singing scales) and working on your breath support to be able to sing high notes with more ease.
However, keep in mind to honor your vocal type: If you have a very girly voice, do not try to sound like Miley Cyrus or Tina Turner (instead try some Jewel and mix in bits and pieces of Tina or Miley for more edge), or if you sing like Michael Jackson, don´t obsess over singing those full deep warm notes like Elvis Presley. Remember to look for artists that have a similar tone and vocal DNA and imitate them to learn more about your own voice and the capacities you might not even know you have. Then, write songs in whichever key feels good and keep an eye on your melody notes. Are they within your range? Or, if not, is there a way to hit higher or lower notes without sounding awkward or pitchy?
Ultimately, it´s a journey
There´s a lot to consider and singing is a very personal form of expression. It is not easy to come to terms with your voice, if you have specific goals in mind, that do not suit your vocal make-up. And yet, I am convinced you will find artists that sound similar to you that you will end up loving to imitate their style! Search for them and let them inspire your vocal artistry, so you can sing your songs with conviction and the perfect sounds to bring across each song´s core message. Remember to be kind to yourself and to take baby steps! Learning to sing and finding your unique voice as an artist is a journey. Enjoy it while you´re on it!
Good luck and remember to have fun!
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