If you wake up every morning with a calling in your heart to sing, dance, dream, make art, create, inspire, be inspired, or experience something bigger than yourself, it’s highly likely that you have an ‘artist’ within.
This artist is a living, breathing seed inside of you. It needs time and the right type of nurturing to lay roots, break ground, grow tall, and become something amazing.
The process of nurturing your artist and watching this seed come to fruition is also amazing. If you’re a singer who is an artist or is aspiring to be one, follow the 3 Artist Development Tips listed throughout this article to ensure that the process is fulfilling, fun, and inspiring. In this way, your artist seed will develop the type of roots that will eventually help you thrive throughout your artistic journey.
In order for your roots to take hold in the first place, you need to have a deep love for music, singing, performing, writing, or whatever it is that you do. That’s where it all starts. Love. And throughout the process of developing who you are as an artist, this love for what you do needs to be nurtured. When you feel overwhelmed, confused, plain exhausted or like you’re spinning your wheels, you need to get back to your roots.
Artist Development Tip #1: Tend to your artist roots
Set aside a minimum of one hour every week to do what you love, whatever that may be: listening to music just for the fun of it, playing and singing songs without worrying at all about technique, exploring new ways of using your voice, or singing along to your favourite tunes without having to make them sound better! Strong and healthy, your roots will form a stem and eventually break ground.
With the proper care your roots will turn into a stem and break ground. For an artist, this symbolizes all the things that come about from your love: songs, gigs, videos, inspiration to learn a new instrument, and all your improvements. At this stage, most people start imagining what they could ‘become’ as an artist. Like the stem that imagines the flower it hopes to grow before it even knows its own identity, many singers who are trying to develop themselves as artists focus too quickly on projected outcomes.
Artist Development Tip #2: Stay present and grounded by building a body of work
In this stage of development you need to focus on creating. Resist the urge to jump into the future and imagine what ‘could be’. Instead, spend your time building up a body of work. Follow this exercise if you’re not sure where to start: Choose 3 songs, either by other artists or your own originals if you like.
Exercise 1: Take a fast tune and make it slow and emotional.
Exercise 2: Take a song done by the opposite sex and find the key that works best for you. It will sound different automatically.
Exercise 3: Take any song you love and re-arrange the vocal line.
If you can’t find tracks in the right arrangement or key to accomplish these exercises, instead choose three covers with the goal of making one change unique to you in each song. This could be changing the melody, holding out a note, altering the phrasing, adding some decorations or riffs, etc.
Repeat this process until you have 10-15 tunes prepared.
This is an amazing way to stay present and grounded. It will also help you gain a better sense of who you are as an artist and what makes you unique. The fruits of your labour will result in the emergence of a bud.
Your first bud represents the beginnings of uncovering your own style, vibe, or direction. Here, you will continue to create, but this time you have a better foundation and direction. At the budding stage of development, you’ll likely also get more interested in fine-tuning your skill. It’s a perfect time to remember that the skill you build should support your unique voice and the demands of what you’re doing versus solely trying to build the biggest, strongest voice possible.
Artist Tip #3: Refine your body of work while keeping your artist roots intact
For your artist bud to fully bloom, you need to continually refine your body of work. Choose 3 songs from the 15 you did previously and take the time to re-work them into versions that are completely your own.
Exercise 1: Take the hook of the song and change it slightly so it fits your style. For example, try taking out some repeated words, hold a word or note out longer, or vary the rhythm just a bit. Some songs will work better than others with this one – try a few out and choose the best option.
Exercise 2: Mash-up a song. This involves taking two songs with similar chord structures and jumping back and forth between songs. Start by singing the verse of one song and then launch into the chorus of the other that fits. If you’re not sure where to start, try these two songs that work together: “Hey Soul Sista’” by Train and “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz.
Exercise 3: Take your favourite song and sing it to a completely different instrumental track.
Enlist the help of a musician or coach if you need someone to do parts of this equation for you.
To keep your roots intact throughout this process, think of these exercises as ‘studies’ and not final, finished works. Other things you can do to maintain your roots are to be playful when you’re doing these exercises, move around the room and have fun, and make sure your practice rotation includes at least two songs that have you working strictly on performance and not technique. All these things will help your artist seed bloom.
This process takes patience, skill, artistry, and a whole lot of love. Enjoy yourself. Try new things. Fight the temptation to market and brand yourself before you know your direction. And create and share freely until you do know. Whenever you feel lost, remember the seed and return to your roots. This will allow you to really bloom and develop your artist within.