How to Sing Better with One Simple Trick

Whether you’re a fan of American Idol or not, the show has become a large part of pop culture.  And if you’re able to ignore the gimmicks, you’ll find that shows like Idol do have some merit in exposing some amazing talent: grunge-loving Chris Daughtry, country crooner Carrie Underwood, and of course Kelly Clarkson – just to name a few.

There’s also a way these artists can help you improve your own voice.  Don’t believe us?  It’s as simple as… learning to listen more efficiently.  As you listen, train yourself to focus on the intricacies of the singer’s vocal style, and you’ll be able to pinpoint the areas that you need to work on yourself.  And don’t worry – if we catch you rocking out to “Since U Been Gone,” we won’t judge.

Here’s an excellent list of elements to listen for in other singers’ voices, courtesy of

1. Melisma (embellishments, riffs, trills, licks, runs) – how, when, and to what extent does the singer “decorate” the basic melody?
2. Texture – is the voice breathy, edgy, brassy, clear, gritty, etc?
3. Intonation (pitch) – is the singer on pitch? Do they use “blue” notes? Do they intentionally (or not) sing any notes slightly flat?
4. Emotional expression – what does the singer do to help you feel the lyrics emotionally?
5. Phrasing and space – what is the rhythm of the lyrics? Does the singer push or pull any lyrics ahead of or behind the beat? Where does the singer leave space?
6. Dynamics – how loud, how soft? How quickly or slowly do the singer’s dynamics change?
7. Mix – is the singer singing in chest voice, head voice, or a mix? If a mix, how heavy (chesty) or light (heady) a mix are they using? Do they use different approaches throughout the song?
8. Compression – how “compressed” is the voice? (High pop belting is often very compressed; breathy low-volume singing is not.)
9. Tension and release – how does the singer help you feel emotional tension and then release simply through the voice (and not the song structure or lyrics)?
10. Placement – is the voice “aimed” forward behind the nose? Or is it rounder and throatier? Is it more present in the mouth, or in the nose, or equally balanced?

Practicing better listening will also come in handy when listening to recordings of yourself.  With this one simple concept, you’ll be able to really feel the details in your singing, making it seamless.

How has the simple act of listening helped you sing better?  Leave a comment below!

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