Modern Vocal Training

Vocal Tags - Your Signature Sound

The best singers are the ones you can hear a few notes from and know exactly who they are. Millions of people all over the world want to be professional vocalists, but only a small percentage of them actually get to live out that dream. What separates those who make it from those who remain stuck in the local club and karaoke scene? Although many factors have to be considered in the answer to that question, one of the biggest reasons would be a unique sound.

Pull out your iPod, set it on shuffle, and listen to the different singers that come up. What about them is unique? Is it the way they pronounce their words? A certain riff they seem to incorporate in every song? The way they phrase their lines? Is it their tonality? Write down the artists name, songtitle, and any notes on what you notice about their sound.

After listening to a dozen songs, you’ll start to hear major differences between each and every singer. The fact that they sound different from everyone else is the reason they are successful. They have the ability to stand out from the crowd no matter what genre or song they are singing.

Now that you’ve heard several different artists sing, I want you to look back to the first artist on your list. Go to their section on your iPod and listen to 3 random songs of theirs. Pay attention and see if you can hear the things you wrote as their vocal signatures/tags coming up time and time again in each song. Are they doing a certain riff each time? Varying their tone the same way throughout each song? These are their vocal tags or signatures, and its what you need to develop if you want to be a successful singer.  Do this with everyone on the list and you’ll start to see the same things repeated for each artist.

Now, listen to random unsigned artists on Youtube, Myspace, whatever. Pay attention to them just like you did with the well known artists on your iPod. Can you hear anything unique about them? Have they developed any UNIQUE vocal tags, or do they sound like they are trying to copy someone else? 99% of the time, singers try to copy other singers. Its alright to do while you are developing your own sound, but you’ve got to let go and try different things yourself at some point. Imitation is one of the huge reasons people cant get signed, cant sell any of their records independantly, cant get people to come to their shows, etc.

If you are just copying someone else, you automatically become a second rate act. Why would I want to hear someone imitate Seal when I could just listen to Seal himself? Why would I want to hear someone try to copy Stevie Wonder’s riffing style when I can hear him do it much better? See what i’m getting at?

So, listen to your favorite singers, and feel free to take some of their own signatures for the time being. However, you need to eventually let loose and try things your own way. A million people can hear the exact same instrumental, and you’ll get a million different vocal melodies to go on top of it. This is because when we hear a song or a chord structure, we all latch onto different things about it and come up with song ideas based on that.

Its the same thing with developing your own vocal tags;its fine to do cover songs, but make them your own. Sing along with the artist exactly how they sing the song if you need to in order to learn the song. But, you then need to move onto singing with an instrumental, and just singing it how YOU feel comfortable. If that means changing the melody, do it. If that means changing the phrasing, or adding a riff, or a scream, do it.

I want you to record yourself singing a series of 5 songs. They can be covers or original, but do it either a cappella or with a backing track with no vocals. Then, listen back and study it just like you did the other artists. What kinds of vocal tags do you notice in your singing?

Once you identify the unique things you do vocally, you can build on them and utilize them more to help you start on your way to a more unique sound.