How to become a Vocal Style Trailblazer

One of the biggest misconceptions about vocal style, I believe, is the belief that what you did yesterday is what you must always do; because that is what everyone (including the singer) gets used to. We only have to look at Madonna for example, the queen of reinvention. Every new album had a fresh, new sound or even an old sound given the Madonna twist to know this misconception is not true. Rather with vocal style, constant reinvention and innovation are key to being a Vocal Style Trailblazer. Being able to express yourself effectively as trends come and go is important if you want to remain relevant, fresh and unique in the market place. To stay at the top of your game vocally, you need to keep reinventing yourself.

To be a trail blazing vocalist, you have to keep learning, thinking, questioning, exploring, experimenting, associating and connecting ideas.

I have listed some of the key habits a singer needs to develop in order to become a Vocal Style Trailblazer:

1. Make connections

Great Vocal Style Trailblazers develop the habit of constantly contemplating and observing different sounds and the artists around them in order to connect seemingly unrelated musical ideas. When you connect the dots, you gain new insight and see relationships between what you feel and how you want to express that feeling with your voice.

2. Ask questions

Great Vocal Style Trailblazers develop the habit of curiosity. Constantly ask questions – even about things you think you know. By asking new questions you challenge the knowledge you already have and gain new perspective on a song, sound, story or feeling. The most difficult part of forming this habit is not in the search for answers, but rather in coming up with simple questions (the greatest questions are often the simplest ones) that lead you to creative answers.

3. Actively try vocalising new ideas

Great Vocal Style Trailblazers develop the habit of actively trying out new vocal ideas by creating melodic movements or sound palettes and beta testing those musical ideas and vocal nuances to see how they work. Think of Thomas Edison, who said “I haven’t failed. I’ve simply found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. The real process and journey of blazing a vocal style trail is not in necessarily seeking “new” ideas but seeing the same ideas like expressing love, pain, hope, delight and sexiness in a new light.

4. Find points of reference with others

Great Vocal Style Trailblazers develop the habit of finding and testing new ideas through a network of trusted people and experts: innovation is what happens when we join forces with others. For ideas to germinate and for innovation to happen, a diverse set of perspectives, thinkers, questioners, and doers can help you determine the direction you want to blaze a trail in. Those perspectives can also help you understand how to make others “get” what you are doing, but be aware, sometimes those other people might NOT get it.

5. Have a sense of purpose

Great Vocal Style Trailblazers develop the habit of being powered by their own convictions and passions and use it to develop their sense of purpose; which is to make an impact and a positive difference on people. So they are not satisfied with what is, and they don’t ask permission to change the status quo. They are driven by their sense of purpose. Be driven by yours.

6. Mix up your ideas

Great Vocal Style Trailblazers develop the habit of combining surprising things: creativity happens when two things collide to create a whole new idea. One way this can happen is when you combine vocal stylistic ideas and even genres of music that are neither completely the same, nor completely different and create something unique.  As the Seriously, Science? blog explains:“These results are consistent with both centuries of philosophical thought and more recent psychological studies on the importance of ‘the middle way’ when it comes to fashion (or pop music).

The Goldilocks Principle may also be able to explain aesthetic judgments beyond tastes in music and fashion, reflecting a basic principle of human preference that seeks to balance simplicity and complexity, order and disorder.”

7. Make innovation a daily routine

Great Vocal Style Trailblazers develop the habit of learning and innovating. It’s not something they do by accident, but through a daily ritual of exploration and trying different things. If we want to become a master of anything, it takes discipline and commitment. Innovators make growth and learning part of their work, rather than rely on it to come to them. This is something I bang on about all day long.

Developing these seven habits will make learning and making mistakes a very exciting and rewarding process, one which leads to accelerated and substantial creativity, which in turn leads to innovation and change, which in turn leads to – you becoming a great Vocal Style Trailblazer.

Every innovator, creator, leader and artist wants to know that they are creating an impact and are challenging the status quo to either make things better or more interesting.

Where can your innovative trail blazing spirit take you?

Here is a list of some really awesome Vocal Style Trailblazers. They set a particular vocal trend that became so popular that singers all over the world not only emulated them but were also inspired their unique
trailblazing sound.

Madonna – Frozen 

Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good 

Adele – Rolling in the Deep 

Luther VanDross – A House is not a Home 

Elvis Presley – Return To Sender 

Axl Rose’s Best Live High Notes 

Jackie Wilson – Lonely teardrops 

Tina Turner – What’s Love Got To Do With It 

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Joshua Alamu is a professional voice coach with over 15 years experience as a singing teacher in the music and television industry. He has been a voice coach for the TV talent show The Voice UK and is currently vocal coach stars such as Fleur East, Little Mix and JP Cooper. Joshua’s video-enhanced vocal style course Mad About Vocal Style part 1 was launched in 2014 to rave reviews. Joshua is also the co-founder of Ultimate Artists, the UK’s most in-demand artist development camp (eight days of music industry mentorship and artist development).