Singing popular cover songs can be a blast — it’s a great way to rev up your crowd, and gives you the opportunity to show off your skills and make the song your own! Here, online voice teacher Emmanuel M. shares his tips to keep in mind…
For those of us who love to sing, there are some songs that we just fall in love with and can’t stop singing. Sometimes, this passion inspires us to record popular cover songs and upload them online for others to adore. However, sometimes there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other covers of that same song. So what can you do to make yours stand out?
Most popular cover songs can be categorized into one of two methods: singing the song like the original singer (the most common method) or creating a more personal rendition of the song. Whichever you choose is up to you, but here are some tips to help you decide which one is best for you:
- For the first method, your voice must stand out. Because your cover song will sound like the many others that follow this method, uniqueness and originality will fall mostly on your voice (i.e. does your voice stand out?). Chances are you don’t sound like the singer, but what matters is whether or not your voice sounds good.
- For the second method, the style and the way you sing the song must stand out, as well as your voice. Singers using this method create their own melodies, runs, and riffs; they add layers, harmonies, background vocals, and high notes. The key here is to make the song your own – to give it your own twist.
To make your choice easier, just think: Does your voice stand out (e.g. great vocals, tonality, or timbre), or does your musicality stand out (e.g. original melodies, harmonies, runs, and riffs)?
Singing Cover Songs Using the First Method
If you decide to sing your cover song like the original singer, the bonus is that this method is relatively easy, since you just follow along with what the singer is doing. However, if you copy another artist, your voice must stand out in order to make it an original cover. If your voice sounds like most other people’s, then this might not be the best choice for you, as there is a ton of competition among singers using this method. My advice is this: Know your voice and be honest. Does your voice truly stand out in this song? By that I mean, do people get the chills when you sing this song? Each of our voices is “made” for certain songs, and while sometimes your voice may be perfect for one song, it may not work well with another.
Singing Cover Songs Using the Second Method
If you decide to sing your cover song using your own flare, then you have the opportunity to make it really stand out. Singers with musicality, this is your forte! It’s time to own that song and give it your own spin. Make a unique rendition that pays homage to the singer, but also showcases your talent. Use your skills to your advantage. If singing low notes is your strength, then sing the song in a lower key or add lower harmonies. If belting is your strength, then add extra belts or sustain some notes in the background. Basically, do what you do best! This truly is your time to shine and to blow people away. Singers who use this method can also find different instrumental or acoustic versions of the original song. Although this is much harder to do (because most songs don’t have these instrumentals online), if you can find one, then this can be a huge advantage for you.
Additional Tips For All Cover Singers
- Play the music with your own instrument of choice (guitar, piano, etc.).
- Sing an a cappella version of the song using your own voice as the various “instruments.”
- Add harmonies, background vocals, and anything else you can do with your voice.
- Record yourself with a good camera. Videos of popular cover songs that show the singer singing get more attention than videos with just the song and a picture.
Ready to improve your singing skills? Working with a qualified vocal coach can give you the boost you need. Find a singing teacher in your area!
Emmanuel M. teaches singing and songwriting exclusively online. A California State University, Fullerton graduate and native Spanish speaker, he also teaches essay writing, study skills, and Spanish. Learn more about Emmanuel here!
Photo by Ben K Adams