If you want to pursue a career as a jazz singer, established vocalist and pianist Wendy Kirkland has two pieces of advice.
The first tip is to listen
“If you want to be a jazz singer, start by listening to lots of jazz artists. Establish what you like and don’t like. You don’t want to imitate people but you can learn so much from listening to other artists.
“It sounds so obvious but so many people don’t do it. They’ll say to me that they love jazz and that they sing jazz but, when you ask them who they listen to, they fall silent and can’t really name any jazz artists. If you want to sing jazz, you need to understand what it is and what you want to do. Listening will also help you get the jazz idiom right.”
The second tip is to learn an instrument
This will help you get to grips with basic musicianship and enable you to explain to the musicians around you’re trying to do – and how they can help you sound even better.
Before pursuing a solo career, Kirkland worked as an accompanist. “One of my biggest bug bears was working with singers who couldn’t explain what they wanted,” she explains.
“Once a singer turned up, gave me a list of songs, and that was it. She didn’t know what key she wanted to sing in, or what version of the song the song she wanted me to play.
“If you don’t play an instrument, at least have a chart created in the right key for you that you can give to the pianist and musicians. But my key piece of advice to any singer is to learn an instrument. Even if you don’t want to be a musician. Learning an instrument will make you a better singer. You don’t need to know lots of theory or technique, just the basics. I think it really does take your singing to a different level.”
To read more about Kirkland’s latest project, a tour of her show Piano Divas, CLICK HERE.