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Why Taking Voice Lessons from Christina Aguilera is a Bad Idea

christina-aguilera

Can you learn to sing through videos, like the ones advertised with Christina Aguilera? Read on for voice teacher Elaina R.‘s thoughts… 

 

Have you seen the online ads offering a voice lesson course taught by Christina Aguilera? Promos for the course have inundated many Facebook feeds, and since I know many professional singers and voice teachers, I’ve been able to watch them react to the ads. Most voice teachers have been amused, terrified, or both by the prospect of people learning how to sing from Ms. Aguilera.

Why are the degree-holding vocalists of the world not on board with Christina Aguilera teaching voice? She is, after all, a six-time Grammy Award winner with an estimated net worth of $130 million. Are we just jealous? The short answer is no! We are truly concerned for voice students who turn to Christina Aguilera for advice, and here’s why.

Talent Does Not a Teacher Make

You are likely an expert chewer. You chew food many times a day, and you have done so for your entire life. One could argue that you are a talented chewer, even. But what if someone who didn’t know how to chew asked you to teach them to chew? You would likely have to think long and hard about your process. In the end, the best answer many people would be able to come up with is, “You just do it.”

Christina Aguilera is a gifted singer. She has a good voice and natural musicality, and her performances often reflect that. However, her innate ability to sing and the fact that she was born with a good singing voice do not mean she knows how to teach singing. As any teacher will tell you, teaching is in and of itself a skill, and it isn’t one that Christina, with her flourishing artistic and television career on top of parental duties, has had any time to curate.

Modern Pop Technique

In addition, Christina Aguilera is a pop singer who specializes in belting (high chest voice). Belting is an extremely taxing form of singing that, when done wrong, can produce disastrous results. Not only does bad belting sound horrible, but it can rapidly destroy your voice.

The vast majority of voice teachers are university trained, which almost always means they have a foundation in classical vocal technique. While classical singing sounds very different than belting, the same rules (breath support, throat relaxation, resonance) apply.

Learning proper vocal technique through classical pieces — or at least less taxing pop pieces — greatly reduces the chance of vocal injury. If learning to sing with low-impact music is like light strength training, trying to skip to belting is like immediately attempting a 300-pound deadlift. It’s just plain unhealthy.

Knowledge is Power

Frankly, the most famous pop singers in the world today usually have no idea what they are doing. Christina Aguilera was blessed with a fair amount of natural ability, but as many of her performances exhibit, she falls prey to many of the same issues that beginning voice students have.

She often suffers from jaw, neck, and tongue tension, resulting in a pressed, flat, raspy sound (and sometimes cracking). Even pop singers who do not have these issues are just vastly talented people who can’t teach anyone how they do what they do.

Professional voice teachers, on the other hand, are a different breed. We may be talented, but we also dedicated ourselves to learning how singing works. We have studied anatomy and vocal technique in an academic setting and can describe exactly why specific faults, such as cracking and straining, occur. A good voice teacher is not just a good singer; she knows the specific details of what she is doing to sing well, and she can describe those details to her students. That’s something that even the most talented singer in the world can’t do.

Can I Learn to Sing With Other Online Videos?

Too busy for lessons, and want to just teach yourself to sing using YouTube videos or other programs? Here’s the thing — absolutely nothing can substitute the help that a private teacher can provide you.

While you can learn to sing songs and basic music theory with online resources, if you want to sing well, working with a vocal teacher is extremely important. Your teacher will be able to notice and correct bad habits that can lead to injuries or those that may be affecting your sound. Plus, the motivation and inspiration you can get from this type of guidance can make a huge difference!

Ready to find a teacher? Browse our teacher profiles here. Want to ease into learning? Check out our online group singing classes — free with your 30-day trial!

Post Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ypsilanti, MI, as well as through online lessons. She received her Master of Music from the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!

Photo by D.S.B

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Taylor Swift

5 Talented Singers You Can Learn From in 2016

How to become a famous singer - Taylor Swift

Ready to make 2016 your best year yet? Many vocalists stood out last year, and looking at their strategies and success stories can be a great source of inspiration — especially if you want to be famous someday! Read on as voice teacher Molly R. shares her thoughts… 

 

2015 was a stellar year for lots of talented and famous singers. It seemed like you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about Taylor Swift and Adele, just to name two that stand out. Singers like those two generated a lot of buzz, and who wouldn’t want that?

As we dive into 2016, it’s a great time to reflect on your goals as a singer. Do you want to be a famous singer someday? Do you want to start small, and overcome your stage fright? Do you want to learn how to write a song? Whatever your goals may be, there’s a lot you can learn from the big artists of the past year. Here are some ways you can incorporate their major successes into your own New Year’s singer resolutions!

Artist: Hozier
What You Can Learn: Collaborate

Hozier

If you want to become a well-known singer within the music industry, your work is never done. Once you get yourself out there, you need to keep yourself out there!

To get extra buzz, many artists create more performance opportunities by collaborating with other singers — which can be especially effective if it’s unexpected pairing. You can learn a lot from Irish singer Hozier; check out his electrifying Grammy performance with Annie Lennox here:

On a smaller scale, you could ask another singer to be your duet partner for karaoke, or perhaps get a small group of singers together and put together a cabaret night!

Artist: Adele
What You Can Learn: Know when to rest

Adele

It’s tempting to say “yes” to everything, especially when you are just starting out. It’s great to be passionate about singing, but remember you’re human! You only get one voice, so be careful with it.

Just look at Adele, the hottest artist of the year: she underwent major vocal surgery a few years ago, yet didn’t jump back into performing right away because she wanted to take her time healing. Not only that— she has also become a proud mom and wanted to put family first!

Make it a goal to have balance in your life. Feeling worn out after a run of another musical, even though there’s another one holding auditions for vocalists next week? Ask yourself if you need a break, and really listen to your body.

Artist: Taylor Swift
What You Can Learn: Market yourself

Taylor Swift

You may have heard the advice “you gotta have a gimmick!” That’s originally from the musical “Gypsy”, and it’s often true!

Being a talented singer is one thing, but what makes you interesting to your audience? Singers need to be savvy about marketing themselves. Taylor Swift happens to be brilliant at this. We should all look to her as an expert on a variety of things! She has revamped her image completely (country to pop!), she’s always out and about with her huge fan base, and how about that “squad” of hers?

Ok, so a lot of that’s pretty hard to do if you’re… well… not Taylor. But here’s what you CAN do: get out there in your community! Offer to sing at fundraisers, nursing homes, and so on. Show that you’re a singer with character who cares about a few causes. And yes, why not build up a “squad” of your own? Make this squad filled with trusted accompanists, like voice teachers, dancers, and other singers. Connecting with a group of like-minded artists is essential for your growth!

Artists: Tori Kelly and Shawn Mendes
What You Can Learn: Keep plugging away

Tori Kelly - Shawn Mendes

YouTube is where today’s singer hopes to be noticed. But you’ll want to have a strategy in mind. Are your videos high quality? Are you posting good content? How often? What are you doing to promote your music videos? How about your audience — what are you doing to grow them? Are you cross-promoting across other social media channels, like Twitter and Instagram? These are the important questions to ask.

To get inspired, take a look at the success story of Tori Kelly! She was eliminated from American Idol, but took matters into her own hands and built up a huge YouTube following. Shawn Mendes, another great artist to learn from, got his start on Vine and now has a top 10 hit and a recording contract.

Of course, you’re not restricted to finding an audience online, or with one of those platforms specifically. The key is to keep plugging away— in any medium! Whether it’s YouTube or a local coffee shop, keep giving your best to your audience.

Now… put your learning into practice!

No matter what your resolution is as a singer, remember to bring your best vocally every time. Look at what other successful and famous singers are doing, and find what you can learn from them. Working with a great voice teacher is also key — he or she can help you become a better singer, and may even have insider advice or a network to connect you with.

Happy New Year, and happy singing!

mollyrPost Author: Molly R.
Molly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. Learn more about Molly here!

Photos by Austen Maddox, Karen BlueEva Rinaldi, Disney | ABC Television GroupJustin Higuchi

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The Ultimate Guide to Singing Styles and Genres

The Ultimate Guide to Singing Styles (Red)

There are so many different singing styles and genres out there — how do you keep track of them? What are the best vocal exercises for singers of each genre? Music teacher Heather L. answers these questions and more in this ultimate guide…

 

We, as human beings, have been singing since we discovered that we had voices. Of course, a lot about singing has changed since that time. Different cultures around the world through the centuries came up with their own scales and modes, and different types of music and singing emerged.

These styles, or genres of music, are just as diverse and varied as the cultures themselves. Each genre has its own special characteristics that make it different from others, and each genre presents unique challenges for singers. Here’s a list of the most common genres of music, and how to sing each one.

But first:  Take our quiz to find out what genre you’re destined to sing!

Pop

If music is food, then pop is candy. It’s fun, but not necessarily funny. Romantic, but not overly sentimental. With dance and rhythm at its heart, pop music has dominated a lot of American music over the past 30 or so years, and many singers have come and gone. But several have come to be considered the greatest entertainers of all time: Whitney Houston, Madonna, Prince, and the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Pop Singers

  • Learn how to control your vibrato without tension.
  • Experiment with different vocal sounds, like short, popping sounds and fast runs.
  • Focus on improving your movement on stage and take dance lessons, if necessary.

Famous Pop Singers

  • Tori Kelly

Tori chose a really high key for this song. She also chose to accentuate the lyrics of the song with a short, light texture in her voice. That kind of texture makes everything easier to sing in your high register.

  • Whitney Houston

At 2:05 in this video, Whitney uses a fast run on the end of the word “all.” Notice how she doesn’t make it overly dramatic and uses those runs only a few times in the song. Sometimes, too many runs can be distracting from the song’s message.

  • Bruno Mars

Bruno sings tenderly because it’s a tender song. His voice is so free of tension that he seems to float up into his falsetto.

 

Rock

You might be surprised to learn that rock is a grandchild of the blues. After it became heavier and more dance-ably rhythmic, the music began to “rock” — and rock and roll was born! It grew up to become rougher and edgier, and now, rock vocal sounds are as diverse as in any other genre.

Today, rock singers include voices as different as Adam Lambert, Tom Araya of Slayer, James Hetfield of Metallica, and Bono of U2. But that rougher and edgier part of rock has to be, at least in some ways, a defining characteristic of the rock voice. Otherwise, it might be confused with an adult contemporary or pop voice.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Rock Singers

  • Try out different vocal flairs, like a little growling or vocal fry at the end of song sections, but don’t overdo it.
  • Get comfortable singing a huge range of dynamics, from whispers (used sparingly for the health of your voice) to healthy, supported shouting.
  • Don’t be afraid of your own vibrato.

Famous Rock Singers

  • Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury was known for quite a theatrical kind of rock. Notice how easily he transitions from one dynamic to another, using subtlety when it’s needed for effect, and rough growling when the lyrics call for it, like at 2:20.

  • John Fogerty

In a great example of what I call a “defiance rock song,” John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival sings this song with the emotional sense of defiance. He clearly has a hold of being what we now call a “singing actor,” though it’s doubtful that the vocals were planned as such.

  • Ann Wilson

In this video the lead singer of Heart, paying tribute to the legendary rock band Led Zeppelin, keeps a true sense of her own voice, but doesn’t change the vocals so much that it’s disrespectful to the original. She’s clearly not afraid of her own vibrato, using it as a tool to accentuate certain lyrics, like at 4:24.

 

Opera/Classical

Often considered the most formal and restrictive of all genres of singing, classical and opera singing actually require the greatest amount of freedom. Much of it’s sung with uncontrolled vibrato and total emotional release. It is, however, the least conversational of all genres. Because it lacks the intimacy of that conversational quality with the audience (think folk music), it has the tendency to give audiences the impression of admiring a beautiful painting from afar.

The classical genre includes secular arias and religious oratorios, as well as motets. Opera singing is similar, but it’s part of a stage production, often involving dancing and speaking parts. Think of opera as a musical with classical singing instead of Broadway-style singing.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Opera Singers

  • Don’t try to sound like how you think an opera singer sounds. Sing with an open and free voice.
  • Vibrato sometimes develops over time as we let go of more and more tension. Don’t force it or try to create it.
  • Get a voice teacher. Soon. Opera singing can seldom be taught without a good teacher. 

Famous Opera and Classical Singers

  • Bryn Terfel

In this incredibly dramatic scene from Mozart’s interpretation of the Don Juan story, Bryn Terfel is the actor in the reddish-brown cloak. Watch how intense and exaggerated his facial expressions are throughout the scene.

  • Kiri Te Kanawa

Singing one of the best-loved arias ever written is one of the best-loved sopranos to have ever lived. Amazingly, this performance was given when Dame Te Kanawa was 69 years old. She is an incredible example of how you can sing beautifully through your entire life if you take good care of your voice.

  • Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson’s distinguished career is marked not only by fantastic singing, but also by courageous defiance in the face of racism. After being rejected by the Daughters of the American Revolution for being a black performer, she sang instead for a larger group of supporters, facing the very building that she was banned from. Her voice is flawless, in spite of the shortcomings of the old recordings, but more importantly, her heart can be heard in everything she sings.

In the video above, she sang for a beautiful Christmas program. Notice her alignment. It remains consistent throughout the changes in the song.

 

Country

An overly simple way to think of the country genre is fancy folk (read: glossy folk pop). But it’s had quite a history through the years, having evolved from Appalachian mountain music, southern blues, country-western and what’s called “honky-tonk.”

I recommending listening to many different country voices so that you don’t get into the trap of imitating only the big voices. Think about how different Carrie Underwood’s voice is from Miranda Lambert’s. Check out the differences between Hank Williams, Jr. and Luke Bryan. And listen to classic singers like Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Country Singers

  • Don’t force a “country” accent. If you listen to a lot of country music, then over time, a natural twang will come when you sing.
  • Become familiar with great storytelling; that’s where country comes from! Listen to professional storytellers on YouTube.
  • Be willing to wear your heart on your sleeve. Audiences love when country singers share their feelings, and your credibility is based on your ability to be genuine.

Famous Country Singers

  • George Jones

In one of the most famous country songs of all time, the irreplaceable George Jones exemplifies the all-important skills of storytelling and a down-to-earth singing style. Notice that there isn’t a lot of vibrato here; it’s almost as if Jones is too busy telling a story to hold out a note and show off!

  • Carrie Underwood

Both this song and this video are great examples of country – images and talk of American home-grown families and open hearts. Carrie, season 4 winner of American Idol, knows just how to use her voice to a song’s advantage. She floats a note (sings it lightly) when it’s a tender moment and then sings with a heavier tone when it’s a heavier moment.

  • Loretta Lynn

The ultimate story song, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” was Loretta Lynn’s biggest hit. Is it the personable nature of the lyrics? Maybe. Take note of how similar her speaking voice (at the beginning of the video) is to her singing voice. This can be achieved through the study of something called “speech level singing.”

 

Blues/Jazz

The blues were born in the American south from the spirituals of slaves and the call-and-response music of the Southern church. Think of jazz as its slightly more sophisticated child who never forgot its roots. Jazz singing is characterized by clear, “speech level” singing and distinct consonants, while blues singing has a rough or rootsy edge to it, sometimes with a natural Southern accent.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Blues and Jazz Singers

  • You can’t sing the blues and jazz right without knowing its history, in your mind and in your heart. Watch Ken Burns’ Jazz documentary and the Thelonius Monk documentary, “Straight, No Chaser.”
  • Experiment with different vocal sounds, like pitch slides and scatting.
  • Study up on your music theory, especially your chromatic scales.

Famous Blues and Jazz Singers

  • Cassandra Wilson

Though she may not be the best-selling jazz artist, Cassandra Wilson is considered by many to be the best living jazz singer. Her voice is perfect for it — rich, thoughtful, and focused. Notice at around 3:05, she begins to use pitch slides, perhaps to accentuate a
rather creepy part of a powerful jazz classic.

  • Sarah Vaughan

Once described as having “one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century,”
Grammy award-winning Sarah Vaughan was known for a sensitive but easy tone. Notice how almost nonchalant she is throughout “Someone to Watch Over Me.” At 2:15, Vaughan effortlessly shows off an impressive vocal range and some great improvisation skills, simply by jumping up to a random note while remaining in the song’s key.

  • Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong is so important to jazz music that most experts agree that it wouldn’t have been developed, or even survived, without his contributions. Now some voice scientists and physicians might point to a few voice pathologies in Louis: that unusually rough voice. But here we have a great example of a singer who loved what he did and knew how to make people feel happy and entertained.

 

Hip Hop

Hip hop, the heavily rhythmic and rhyming singing that often accompanies rapping and beatboxing, emerged in the 1970s, and has grown steadily in popularity since then. In fact, that popularity has turned into tremendous influence on other singing genres, including pop and country. Its origins are many, but the most apparent are funk, disco, reggae, and the blues. Singers of hip hop are diverse, but the singing generally takes on an edgy, sometimes nasal qualities.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Hip Hop Singers

  • Know hip hop’s musical ancestry. Listen to a lot of funk, disco, reggae, soul, gospel, blues, and old-school hip hop.
  • You don’t have to become a rapper, but get comfortable switching between singing and speaking lyrics to help your versatility.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with different vocal sounds, like nasality and wordplay, to create your own signature style.

Famous Hip Hop Singers

  • Lauryn Hill

See if you can hear the song’s Spanish and gospel influences. Despite these varied sounds, Lauryn stays true to her own voice, which is stunningly consistent in tone and texture. It’s important to listen to influences with respect, without allowing it to pressure you to imitate anyone.

  • Beyonce

In this heart-stopping acoustic performance of her hit “Halo,” Beyonce has full command of her voice. It’s as if her voice is an arrow, she aims at the bull’s eye, and hits it every time. In other words, her pitch is always right and her transition between the lower register in the verses and the upper register in the chorus is seamless.

  • Cee Lo Green

Originally, the hit “Crazy” was created and released by Gnarls Barkley, a musical duo consisting of rapper and hip hop singer Cee Lo Green and producer Danger Mouse. In this video, Cee Lo sings the song at a much slower tempo than the original, allowing for a lot of time for both the performer and the listener to really think about the meaningful lyrics. Green is a fabulous singer, and here is an excellent example of the courage to reinvent a song, even your very own!

Adult Contemporary

Adult contemporary is such a unique genre, because singers from relatively different genres often get put into this camp as well, or end up here at the height of their career. It’s essentially pop singing, but the lyrics are decidedly grown-up, or “adult.” Think of it as the Mom and Dad of teenage bubblegum pop. You’re not singing, for example, about that “party in the U.S.A.” You’re singing about life’s experiences gone by in the U.S.A., what you’ve learned, and the plans for your future.

Adult contemporary has been called “vanilla,” bland and boring, but often, the most magnificent songs ever are forever embedded in its charts. This means singing at your best.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Adult Contemporary Singers

  • Learn how to sing consistently with a well-supported sound and power will come naturally.
  • Get into the habit of speaking the lyrics of the song out loud before singing them.
  • Don’t add too many effects to your voice; singing with whatever you have, in its truest form, is adult contemporary.

Famous Adult Contemporary Singers

  • Bruce Hornsby

This is a classic example of an adult contemporary theme – the songwriters here are reflecting on their own lives and on life in general. Bruce Hornsby’s easy, almost-nonchalant style comes across as utterly conversational, perfect for singing about down-to-earth themes.

  • Amy Grant

Amy Grant successfully crossed over from contemporary Christian music (which she practically created herself) to pop and adult contemporary. All the while, she never really changed her vocal sound. Throughout this video, she uses dynamics to her advantage to highlight certain words in the lyrics, like at the very end, when she gets tenderly quiet at the last “I will remember you.”

 

The Ultimate Guide to Singing Styles and Genres

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Lists of Musical Genres

Of course, that’s not all! There are so many different styles of music to discover, as well as sub-genres within each category. For a comprehensive list of musical genres, AllMusic is a great resource. We also love this interactive genre map from Every Noise at Once.

Bonus: Take our quiz, What Genre Are You Destined to Sing? (and let us know your results in the comments!) 

Final Words…

Despite all of the ways that genres of music are different, one thing connects them all. All singing, at its very base, is simply sustained speech. And while practice are utterly essential to learning the different styles, just as important is listening to plenty of music, both in that style and in others. And when you listen, remember to keep not only your ears open, but also your heart. That’s what makes us artists.

So there you have it, the ultimate guide to singing styles! There are a lot of styles and genres that I haven’t covered in this guide, which means you can still find the perfect fit for you. If you have additional questions, check in with your singing teacher for help with finding your unique voice. Happy singing!

Readers, what are your favorite genres to sing? Let us know in the comments!

HeatherLPost Author: Heather L.
Heather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL. She is a graduate of Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

Photo by *Shantel*

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Turning Rejection Into Success: 5 Stories To Encourage You to Keep Singing

5 Famous Singers Who Failed Big Before They Made It

Dreaming about making it big as a singer? Developing a thick skin and learning how to persevere is key — the road ahead isn’t always easy! Even the most successful singers today had to start somewhere. In this guest post by Corona, CA teacher Milton J.learn how to become a famous singer by drawing inspiration from these success stories…

 

As a budding musician and singer myself, you and I have something in common – we both love to share our vocal gifts with those willing to listen. However, how do we feel when some people are just not willing to listen? How do we keep our confidence up and turn our audience into fans? We can draw our inspiration from some of the music industry’s most successful artists who, just like us, had similar setbacks on their road to stardom. Despite the setbacks, though, they all persevered to become the famous singers they are today!

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, was a child piano prodigy and began performing in New York jazz and supper clubs as a teenager. Initially signed by L.A. Reid for Def Jam, her subsequent demos from her debut album did not impress her new boss, who labeled her new music “disgusting.” Gaga spoke on this event, stating, “They would say, ‘This is too racy, too dance-oriented, too underground. It’s not marketable.’ And I would say, ‘My name is Lady Gaga, I’ve been on the music scene for years, and I’m telling you, this is what’s next.’ And look…I was right.” Lady Gaga clearly knew how to become a pop star, and after her prompt dismissal from the label, she lined up with Akon’s Konvict Music and had the freedom to write and perform to her heart’s content.

Madonna

Madonna

It seems as though Gaga is the apparent heir to Madonna’s pop trailblazing career, so it’s no coincidence that Madonna dealt with the same adversity decades earlier. After graduating from high school in Michigan, Madonna received a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. After convincing her father to allow her to take ballet lessons, she was persuaded by her ballet teacher to pursue a career in dance, dropped out of college in 1978, and relocated to New York City. She worked as a Dunkin’ Donuts waitress and danced with modern dance troupes, continuing to perfect her craft while trying to make ends meet. “It was the first time I’d ever taken a plane, the first time I’d ever gotten a taxi cab,” she once said of her move to New York. “I came here with $35 in my pocket. It was the bravest thing I’d ever done.”

After collaborating with bands The Breakfast Club and Emmy, she eventually decided to market herself as a solo act and recorded demos to send to record labels in New York City. Madonna was famously rejected by Millennium Records President Jeremy Ienner, known for productions of such hits as “Dirty Dancing” and “Sister Act.” He stated that while he enjoyed some of her music, she was “not ready yet” and he would “pass for now.” This rejection motivated Madonna to continue making music with club DJ Mark Kamins, who at the time was working with Seymour Stein of Sire Records. Kamins gave Stein a demo of Madonna’s work while Stein was in the hospital, and he insisted Madonna come to the hospital immediately so he could sign her to his label.

In an interview, Stein remembered what it was like to meet Madonna: “I always believed in her, because not only did she have talent, but she had a burning desire, drive, ambition, and a work ethic that is incredible. So, she had everything and I saw that in my hospital room.”

And a whole list of others…

Some of our best recent vocalists and bands come from the reality singing competition reject lines. “American Idol,” “X Factor,” and “The Voice” may rule the ratings on television, but they do not necessarily dictate talent and success.

Hillary Scott, of Lady Antebellum fame, did not make it to the judges’ round to see Randy, Paula, and Simon. Colbie Caillat met the same fate while singing her future lead single “Bubbly” for the judges. Later, she would state, “I was shy. I was nervous. I didn’t look the greatest. I wasn’t ready for it yet. I was glad, when I auditioned, that they said no.” Inevitably, she found success by channeling that rejection into a chance to get better and come into her own as an artist.

Jordin Sparks, winner of “American Idol’s” sixth season, was actually rejected in her first audition and won a radio station contest to re-audition in a different city. Additionally, just last year, she was dropped from her label RCA due to delays from the executive team and recently signed to Salaam Remi’s new label Louder Than Life, with her album coming in May 2015.

Even show winners have faced setbacks. “The Sing-Off” winners and reigning a cappella music leaders Pentatonix was dropped after Sony’s Epic Records folded and only came back to Sony – this time with Madison Gate, owned by Sony – after their covers began to go viral on YouTube. After their debut album, they would leave Madison Gate for RCA due to their desire to release more original music than merely covers.

 

This industry is indeed for the strong-willed and the bounce-back types, and these artists figured that out long before they were famous. What’s more, however, is learning from the sure-fire rejection that is bound to come. Not everyone will like your singing and your performance, but if you push forward and continue to work on getting better at singing every single day, you can turn your love for singing into a career. It is true our worst critics can be ourselves, but the right vocal teacher can help bring the absolute best out of you! With the right attitude, your potential is endless!

Readers, what other advice have you received about how to become a famous singer? Leave a comment below and share!

MiltonJMilton J. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice, and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!

 

 

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Photo by Luigi Orru

The Secret To Mariah Carey The Whistle Register

The Secret to Singing Like Mariah Carey: The Whistle Register

The Secret To Mariah Carey The Whistle RegisterWondering how singers like Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande hit all those high notes? Learn more about the whistle register in this guest post by online voice teacher Emmanuel N...

 

We all know (or at least should know) who Mariah Carey is and that her prominent feature is her extensive vocal range – especially her high notes. But did you know that anyone can sing these famous yet seemingly-elusive high notes? That’s right, anyone! However, the whistle register is not well understood by most professionals, and most vocal coaches know very little about this register. But don’t fret, because unlike most of them, I can actually sing these high notes and I will now teach you all how to hit that Mariah Carey whistle register!

But first, what exactly is the whistle register, and what are the precautions we must all take before making an attempt?

Explaining The Whistle Register

Sometimes referred to as the Super Head Voice, notes sung in this register occur because your vocal cords tighten up. Picture a small circle – make a fist and point the side of the thumb toward you, then make a small hole by slightly releasing your grasp. The hole the vocal cords make is about this size. The air that passes through the hole creates the whistle note. Because of this, it is very easy to damage your vocal cords if you do it incorrectly. Most scientists and experts know very little about this, but based on my personal experience, I can tell you the following:

  • If done right, singing in this register does not hurt.
  • Belting in this register requires little air and you don’t have to take a deep breath before sustaining a note. Mariah can hold a whistle note for up to 15 seconds with ease because of this.
  • Once you can control your whistle register, your other voices tend to strengthen as your vocal cords go through a change. It takes a lot of control to produce whistle notes,  and this control is what will strengthen your voice.
  • Your head voice tends to weaken as your whistle voice strengthens. This might be why Mariah seldom sings anything above above C6. In my personal experience, my head voice got noticeably weaker and my vocal range smaller. Think of Leona Lewis, as she’s someone who frequently hits upper head voice notes like these.

The Whistle Register Must Be Done Right

Unlike every other voice and register we have, the whistle register only has one correct technique. The whistle register is no joking matter and must be taken seriously. There’s always that chance that you will damage your vocal cords for an extended amount of time, or even permanently. I am telling you this before I teach you the technique because I cannot stress enough the fact that if done incorrectly, you can damage your vocal cords indefinitely.

Moment Of Truth: How To Sing Whistle Notes

Now, to teach you the proper technique of how to reach this elusive, Mariah Carey whistle register! Keep in mind, though, you should be working with a qualified voice teacher to truly learn the technique.

    1. Take a deep breath and stop mid breath – “close” your throat in middle of the inhale
    2. Keeping your throat “closed,” slowly try to push a bit of air through
      • You’re on the right track if you produce a whimpering or squeaking sound
      • If you produce weird sounds then you’re almost there, but the goal is to make whimpering/squeaky sounds
    3. Repeat this until you produce a whistle note
    4. Remember to never force the notes, or force the air to go through, or force yourself to try to produce the squeaky sounds
    5. Once you’re able to produce a whistle note and hold it for about three seconds, you have officially discovered your whistle register

Mastering The Whistle Voice

Now that you have discovered this register, the next question you may have is, “How long until I can sing just like Mariah Carey?” The answer ranges from months to years. Mastering the whistle register takes a long time because unlike every other voice, the whistle is more random. Some days you won’t be able to control the notes and some days you’ll be just like Mariah. The reason why Mariah sometimes lip syncs her high notes is because the golden rule of whistle register is that it orders you, you do not order it. If you feel strain or soreness, stop immediately and try again in a few hours or the next day. Now go sing along to Mariah Carey and hit those high notes!

Emmanuel Noriega

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!

 

 

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How to Sing Like Bruno Mars | Tips to Relieve Vocal Tension

5003880640_5fe1c2579b_oCan’t stop singing “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson? It’s been stuck in our heads for weeks! If you covet the amazing vocal skills of Bruno Mars, read on for helpful tips from Glendale, CA voice teacher Ben M

 

Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ killer new hit, “Uptown Funk”, is all over the airwaves this month. The production is lush and the instrumentation is a perfect mix between classic ’80s and the newer influences of pop music. But without a doubt, the standout instrument on the song belongs to Bruno Mars. His voice soars over the band, building energy throughout the song with effortless grit but smooth delivery.

When I ask my students whom they want to sound like, Bruno Mars is the one of the most common responses I receive. And I can’t argue with them. Besides being one of my own vocal inspirations, he exerts a masterful control over his voice that is undeniable and certainly enviable. And as I tell my students, it’s absolutely possible for any singer to gain that same sort of power and vocal control. You won’t necessarily end up with Bruno Mars’ sound, but you will develop your own polished voice that attracts an audience of its own.

Some say that learning to sing is a very complex process. And while there is much to consider when training your voice, almost every exercise and technique you learn will be in pursuit of one goal: relieving tension. It’s an ongoing battle for all singers, from beginners to seasoned professionals.

It breaks down like this: your upper body can be thought of as one large resonating chamber. Once air passes through your voice box, the tone you create is free to reverberate off anything it passes before it exiting your mouth.

The three primary resonators are:

  • Your throat – This is the first place your voice travels to. This is where that dopey, hollow quality of your voice lives. Imagine you’ve received a shot of Novocain to the jaw… the resulting tone would be complete relaxation and full utilization of this resonator, also called your pharynx.
  • Your nose – This is where the nasal quality of your voice comes from. Exclusive use of this resonator could put you in the running to be the sixth Backstreet Boy! If we were still living in 1999, that is.
  • Your mouth – The last stop before Voice Meets World. This is where your sound is shaped into vowels and consonants that will form the syllables and words you articulate.

Learning to shift between these three resonators is the holy grail for the master singer. A voice that has a measured combination of resonances is called a “mixed voice,” a frustrating term for many aspiring singers because the concept is somewhat abstract.. But the good news about “finding your mix” is that it will come to you all on its own. It’s as simple as allowing the voice to roam free by releasing the tension that exists all throughout your upper body.

So, how do we accomplish this? The first step is by manually relieving tension to prepare the body to sing. There are more than a few areas that need attention, but here are three of the prime suspects and the cues you can give them to relax.

  • Your shoulders – Tension here will cause you to breathe improperly. With the goal of keeping your shoulders relaxed at all times – even when breathing deeply – a helpful technique is to contract your shoulder muscles for five seconds, and then release. Repeat three times, and then roll your shoulders back a few times to remind them to stay relaxed.
  • Your neck – Not surprisingly, the more you use your neck muscles, the less space in your throat and the less resonance you will be able to produce there. A few simple neck rolls – slow, controlled, and gentle – will help prepare your neck for singing.
  • Your jaw – This is possibly the hardest place to relieve tension, as it is the most difficult to target. It’s typically one of the last spots singers learn to relax, but you can help it on its way by yawning, chewing, or manually massaging the joints.

Think of these techniques as the stretch before the workout. The next step is to work with a vocal coach who can teach you vocal exercises that – with time and repetition – will re-coordinate your muscles to relax and stay relaxed. Eventually, this relaxation becomes second nature, and you’ll be able to unlock that elusive “mixed voice” that will take your singing career to the next level! And who knows, you might have the next hit just like “Uptown Funk”!

Ben

Ben M. teaches music performance and singing in Glendale, CA. He attended Northeastern University and is currently studying voice at Brett Manning Studios. Learn more about Ben here!

 

 

 

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How to Transition from Classical Singing to Pop | Exploring Genres in Singing

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There are so many different styles and genres to learn to sing, from classical singing to jazz to Broadway-style. Read on for some tips from St. Augustine, FL Heather L. for exploring pop music, even if you started out with classical training…

 

This article, however instructional, is a very personal one for me to write. After studying opera and classical singing exclusively for 10 years, I finally admitted to myself that while I still loved to sing, I no longer loved to sing in that style. And while that part of my journey gave me the knowledge and confidence to find my life’s work, teaching music, I wanted to return to the kind of music that inspired me to start singing in the first place: pop.

As my longest and most impactful voice teacher once told me, the only real difference between classical music and pop is that in classical music, the music is more important than the words, and in pop, the words are more important than the music. Understanding this notion has helped me greatly in my own path from the world where the most gorgeous aria could be about a tree, to the world where a simple, unfulfilling melody is matched with profound lyrics about civil rights. This is an important principle that could begin your process of transition. Here are the rest of the steps.

• Start listening to a lot of (quality) pop

You’ve really got to feed yourself with pop music is order to familiarize yourself with the style. Many classical singers who’ve crossed over to pop are critiqued, as the results are sometimes unsuccessful. They sound silly because the singer, however fantastic and admired in his original genre, never really “got” the elements of the style — the dips, the scoops, the combination of straight tone and vibrato. These are best learned through lots of listening — but be careful not to mimic, and try out many different, quality pop singers, preferably recorded before auto-tuning took over pop. Try early Mariah Carey, early Whitney Houston, early Sinead O’Connor, Boyz II Men, former musical theater singer Adam Lambert, folk singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin, and maybe the finest example of a non-classical voice, Eva Cassidy. Perhaps the clearest way to hear a truly non-computerized voice is live, indie concerts or open mics, or indie folk albums. By listening to non-classical music sung without tons of filtering and mastering, you’ll get a sense of what a pure voice sounds like in a pop context.

• Loosen up

I mean this literally and figuratively. Classical singing may require the most free and unencumbered musculature and mentality, but pop music by its very nature will ask you to tighten up. Contrary to popular perception, classical singers are the most open and tension-less, and often pop is the most controlled and constructed, so to speak. That means that you should be prepared by being extra stretched and loose. Pop singing also calls for a loose approach to what voice teachers and classically trained singers call “placement.” How your registers feel and sound will change as you transition to pop, so be open.

• Get quick

As a classical singer, you may or may not have specialized in singing especially fast musical passages sung on a single syllable, known as melismatic singing. And you could very well sing pop music without learning it. But with it, you can gain so much more versatility as an artist. Often in pop music, we hear it in what are called “runs,” most often in descending scales and usually at the end of a line or major section. The best place to learn melismatic singing for pop is the gospel world. Listen to Mahalia Jackson and Yolanda Adams to get a feel for it.

• Learn about belting and floating

In pop singing, we often have a choice between belting our high notes, and floating them in what I call “faux falsetto,” an intentionally weak sound. This latter option is probably not how you are used to approaching high notes as a classical singer. We may be taught to “float” as a means to let go of tension, but in pop singing, I have long suspected that this light, weak, and feathery sound is used either to establish a sense of vulnerability or to create a sense that the note is so utterly high that the listener should be impressed. Either way, it’s an essential stylistic tool. Belting is another element altogether. It’s really a way to sing and yell at the same time. In my professional opinion, it should only be put into your regular bag of singing tricks under the guidance of a teacher who specializes in musical theater or Broadway singing. The bottom line is that singers aren’t forced to choose one over the other all the time. Belting can be used during heavily emotional and empowered moments, while floating, or the faux falsetto, can be used during a tender and brokenhearted moment.

• Start practicing your English

Okay, so for most of you, English is your first language. But for many of us, English was not the only, or even primary, language that we studied in our voice literature. I think English is a wondrous and fun language, but it’s not exactly the most conducive to classical singing. It’s cumbersome, feeling almost chunky in the mouth. Italian, on the other hand, is rolling and fluid as it falls out. Singing pop music in English is all about being a little conversational and a lot more intimate sounding. Conversational diction — and not “Mary Poppins diction” — is a major part of what makes a pop singer sound like a genuine pop singer.

My final suggestion is to have a lot of fun. This transition from classical singing to pop singing may get frustrating at times, but just remember that you already are a singer. You’re not starting from scratch. You’re simply taking a slight bend in a long and winding road.

Continue learning: Check out our Ultimate Guide to Singing Styles and Genres!

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

 

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