To be successful in this business, you really have to be unique enough vocally to stand out from the millions of other singers wanting signed, but at the same time your style still has to be marketable. To develop your own unique style, its helpful to study and learn from other singers. Once you have studied several of your favorite singers obsessively, you’ll automatically incorporate many of their own style points into your own singing. This can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing. If you try to imitate their exact tone, this is going to be a bad thing; you will sound like your doing an impression of the singer. If however you take what they do, and do it your own way, with your own tone and vocal characteristics, your going to sound original believe it or not.
The most important tool to study another singer and to practice their songs is something by Tascam called the Vocal Trainer. Its a CD player that allows you to loop certain parts of songs, change the key and tempo of a song, and remove the vocals from a song. You can also plug a mic into it and sing along with the built in effects. Pick 5 different songs by 5 different artists and listen to each song 5 times in a row to start. Pay attention to absolutely everything; where does the singer take a breath? what register are they singing in? when do they switch from chest to head voice? are they modifying their vowels? when are they ad libbing? These are just some examples of what to listen for.
Once you know the song by heart, sing along with it while the vocal track is ON. This goes against what I said earlier, but imitate everything about the singer. Breath when he does, do riffs/runs exactly as he does, modify your vowels exactly where he does, etc. If your voice is somewhat similar to the singer on the CD, you can copy certain things about it. If the singer has a nasally voice, put some nasality into your tone. Sing through the song at least 10 times like this.
Now, were going to do this from memory. Turn off the CD and sing through the song a cappella. Try to keep it as true to the original as possible. Record yourself singing a cappella, even if its just on a cheap computer mic. Dissect every single note you sing; clean up any awkward phrasing, flat/sharp notes, sloppy riffs, etc.
Once you’ve got it sounding perfect a cappella, do it again with the music, but this time turn the vocal track off. If you don’t have the Tascam unit, download Audacity (its a free program) and you can do the same thing. Even better, by the karaoke track of the song off of Amazon or another music store. This time, just sing through it however you want. Ad lib wherever you want, change the phrasing and melody up, change the key if needed, just do your own thing. You’ve already got the basics of the song down in your muscle memory (the pitch and melody of the song), so now your good enough at the basics to change it up however you’d like.
You can do this with entire songs, or just certain trouble spots in songs. If your having trouble with a difficult R&B run, loop that particular part of the song, and slow it down as slow as possible. When you can do it slowly, keep going faster and faster until you reach the original speed, and it will feel easy to you. If your having trouble with a high note in a song, loop that part of the song. When it gets to the high note, either let it go into falsetto, or sing that entire line monotone on the note giving you trouble. A lot of times this will help because we get stressed out about the one particular note or interval even when its not that high or the interval isn’t that far apart.