Perhaps you’re a classically trained singer who wants to start singing commercial music, or maybe you’re a hobbyist who wants to impress the crowd at your next karaoke event. Whatever the reason may be, many singers want to learn techniques and singing styles unique to pop music.
If you want guidance from a singing teacher in NYC, please get in touch. For information about pop singing styles, specific techniques to practice, and more, keep reading.
Are Pop Singers Trained?
Yes, most popular music singers are trained in that specific discipline. Rock singers, jazz singers, pop stars and more take voice lessons and have vocal coaches. There are exceptions to this rule of course, and there are many popular musicians who sing with a personal technique and could be more accurately described as “storytellers through song.” These singers can perform their own music, but probably couldn’t sing “I Will Always Love You” or “Rehab” if you asked them to.
Learning The Fundamentals
Regardless of the genre you want to specialize in, you need to become well-versed in the fundamentals of singing technique. This includes good posture and a lack of tension, diction, and most importantly breath support.
Learning Genre-Specific Techniques
Eddie Vedder, for instance, cultivated the raspiness and graveliness in his singing voice (also his unique use of vowel sounds), and you’d better believe he spent hundreds of hours practicing. The same applies to the nasally sound of Gwen Stefani and other pop stars.
Whether you want to sing rapid scales and arpeggios like Mariah Carey and Beyonce, use falsetto like Ariana Grande, or perfect your chest voice and belting technique, you will need to spend time practicing.
How Long Does It Take To Learn To Sing Pop?
This depends on your genetics, natural talent, and previous singing experience. If you have no vocal experience, don’t have a good ear, and have little exposure to music, you can likely learn to perform pop songs within a year or two. You will need to practice and work with a teacher to make rapid progress, but unless you are tone deaf and need to build a baseline of musical understanding, you can build a list of songs fairly quickly.
If you are already a trained singer, you can most likely start incorporating popular music techniques within a month of beginning. Some take longer than others, but if you sing in choirs, sing classical music, or generally have a good technique and breath support, you can probably sing your first pop songs with some of the elements mentioned below after a month of practice.
Learn Pop Vocal Techniques
Firstly, please note that you are better off with an experienced voice teacher when exploring new singing techniques. You can damage your singing voice, introduce vocal nodes, and more if you “shoot from the hip” when learning new techniques.
That said, here are a few options when attempting to perform pop repertoire.
Introducing Edginess Into Your Singing
If you’ve listened to pop stars like Post Malone and Shawn Mendes, you’ve probably
Introducing an “edge” into your vocal technique describes two phenomena:
An attitude commonly present in pop tunes
The sound of your voice
Regarding the second point, pop singers often remove the roundness and fullness from their tones and instead use a more pointed vocal style that comes directly from their soft palate – you could describe this sound as nasal. Gwen Stefani is yet another wonderful example of the attitude and edge present in many pop songs.
If you wish to include some of this pointed tone into your singing, simply perform vocal exercises, like arpeggios, while using a nasally or edgy sound. You can start by connecting the notes in a legato style.
After you’ve found that range, break the notes up and use a staccato technique. You can then practice with staccato on scales, and even hum through a pop song that you love.
The final step would be lyrics. When you’ve gotten comfortable singing with an edgy sound, you’ll have to practice maintaining that tone while enunciating actual words, consonants, and vowels.
Breathy Tone (Or Whispery Singing)
Jazz vocalists have been introducing breathiness into their tone for decades, and once the Mariah Carey-driven pop craze ended, pop singers began to use it more often as well.
Breathy sounds can convey intimacy very effectively. Sometimes you’ll hear a great vocalist, like Ariana Grande, use a whispery sound for effect (either in her falsetto or lower in her vocal range). But you’ll often hear musicians who aren’t dynamic singers use it – these can be great songwriters or oral storytellers.
Using Vocal Fry in Pop Music
Vocal fry happens when the vocal cords are loose, and the air from your lungs loosely “trickles” through. It can add a laissez-faire, rugged, or sometimes sultry element to your songs. Truthfully, the emotions you can emphasize with vocal fry are unlimited.
Think of Britney Spears in Baby One Time, or most of Leonard Cohen’s songbook. Spears uses vocal fry consistently to create a certain mood, whereas Leonard Cohen creates an entirely different atmosphere with his use of the technique. You can practice vocal fry with your speaking voice and while singing – just remember that you will want to introduce this technique sparingly in your songbook.
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