Setting goals to develop your vocal style

It’s resolution time again

It’s the beginning of a brand New Year, 2015 is behind us and we look forward to what 2016 will bring. Many of us are taking the time to take stock of our hopes and dreams, wiping the slate clean and hoping for a new start.

Many of us have also made New Year’s resolutions to be more of one thing and less of another. Sometimes our plans maybe too ambitious or lack real clarity and yet at other times we manage to create the right environment for long lasting success. One area of my life I like to plan is to do with my vocal development (I don’t leave it to chance.)

No matter what the previous year has been like for you, you can always motor on or begin again.As one calendar year has ended, we begin a new one. Most of us are hopeful on the first day of a new year, challenge yourself to start as you mean to go on and start with where you are right now.

2015 was a great year filled with triumphs and with losses, each with its own discoveries and lessons learned. But no matter where you are at in your vocal development or career at the end of the day you have to start with you. What do I mean? I mean connect with your voice however y
ou can, with your deepest and highest ambitions for your vocal development at this junction of your journey.

Set aside some time now or later today. Even if you are going hard towards a certain goal and have been for a long time, ask yourself if it is in alignment with the vision you have for your voice. Make sure it is. If something inside you says no, take time to look at that and ask why. Have the courage to change course if it no longer inspires you or sparks joy in you.

shutterstock_220375420The person who can decide what you really need in your vocal development is you and you can be fully responsible for building the right team of coaches and instructors to help you on your journey. There is so much content in this age of information that our own thoughts and voices can get lost in the noise.

When was the last time you centered yourself and got in touch with your own voice by taking a lesson or just singing for the fun of it or just exploring things you wouldn’t normally explore vocally? All these important activities enable us to get more intimately acquainted with our voices.

Maybe you are already great at all this but chances are that if you are like most of us, you don’t take the time to consistently check in with yourself and make sure that you are on track and before long a whole year has passed you by.

This is not about resolutions, it is about realisations, it is about you understanding, investing in and revealing the real you with your voice.

Be sure that this year, you are developing the voice you want to develop. Not the voice your parents or teacher told you to develop. This is your voice. George Elliot said “it’s never too late to be who you might have been”. Begin again and have a happy new year.

Six tips to plan to your vocal style

I want to share with you some tips on how I make my plans for my vocal style development with amazing results and I hope this approach helps you gain effective results too. This has worked for me for a few years now not just vocally but even musically and at the end of each year (and periodically throughout the year) I stop and take stock of my vocal and musical developments. My end goals may and should change as I progress on this journey but the method I use to get there stays pretty much the same.

1) Vision

Firstly, and in my opinion most importantly, get a clear picture of what you are aiming for with your vocal style. Consider things like: What do I want my voice to be able to do? How high do I want to be able to sing? What kind of stylistic nuances / sounds can I explore? Who are the kinds of artists that I like or even sound like? How can I develop more musicality or musical understanding to complement my technical ability? What styles of music can I draw inspiration from? What vocal nuances can I mimic or imitate for learning purposes, what kind of teacher do I need?

This list can be as extensive as you see fit but the main idea is to get a clear sense of direction about what you want to see and hear within your own voice and review it at least every six months if not quarterly. Remember that singing style is your own unique or personal signature and it takes time to develop. Everything in life started with an idea (vision) so the first thing that you should do is develop your vocal vision. Write it down so that it serves as a blueprint for your vocal development and can also help a singing teacher or vocal coach help you to get to where you want to be as a vocalist.

2) Listen

Singing style develops with time, experience and a whole lot of listening. Listen out for what type of vocal qualities define various types of vocal deliveries in various musical genres. In order to broaden your vocal style you have to broaden your listening skills too. Be curious about different types and genres of music and pay attention to the vocal delivery. Make mental/practical notes about what makes each vocal approach different. To broaden your intuitive vocal expression capabilities, you have to be open to the unusual, the weird, the strange and even the “wrong or bad” sounds that our voices can make. So my advice is to listen to the stuff that you would not normally listen to, as well as the kind of music that appeals to you.

3) Practice

This probably sounds really obvious because singing teachers or vocal coaches are always banging on about it from a technique point of view, but it is also worth while working on manufacturing your vocal nuances. I like to think of vocal nuances as the subtle shades of variation and expression that a voice can produce. Practice all the weird and wonderful “wrong and bad” sounds and vocal colours that you have been listening to. Spend time mimicking and imitating them for the purpose of learning. Embrace making mistakes as you explore and definitely work with a good vocal coach on developing this safely and with consistency. Once you have explored the various sounds, then progress to work on the aesthetic quality of the sounds that you are exploring. This is where you begin to develop stylistic skills and where you start to cross over into vocal mastery. Work on exercise routines that increase range, power and improvisational ability as well as exploring a plethora of vocal qualities that your voice can make.

4) Reinvent songs

This is where you can have fun with existing songs. Take a song and completely reinvent it. Modify the melody, throw in some studied improvisation, and a few licks or riffs and rougher nuances where it was perhaps smooth or smooth nuances where it was perhaps rough. Let your imagination run wild. Explore various onsets and offsets, phrasing, dynamics, improvisation, breath, diction, accents and more. Record these various vocal experiments and see what hits you as something to keep or place aside for another set of vocal ideas.

5) Perform

I think it’s important to set goals that involve you going out there and actually performing. This helps to build confidence in your work and to see how people react to what you do. It also gives you the opportunity to put into a real life context what you have been working so hard to achieve. Now people need to hear you and this is a great way to gain more experience and confidence as a singer. It maybe scary at first but becomes very enlightening and rewarding after some trial and error.

6) Assess and re-assess

Review your short, mid, and long term goals regularly. When considering all this information think about how you are going to apply it. Develop a good structure. Be accountable to someone. Find someone whom you trust and let them give you some advice on how things can improve or feedback on what they enjoyed from you performance.

To find out more about how you can set your vocal goals in place or to simply know more about developing vocal style as I have expressed, feel free to drop us a few questions:

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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).