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Pop

If music is food, then pop is candy. Its fun, but not necessarily funny. Romantic,
but not overly sentimental. With dance and rhythm at its heart, pop music has
dominated a lot of American music over the past 30 or so years, and many
singers have come and gone. But several have come to be considered the
greatest entertainers of all time: Whitney Houston, Madonna, Prince, and the
King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Pop Singers


Learn how to control your vibrato without tension.
Experiment with different vocal sounds, like short, popping sounds and fast runs.
Focus on improving your movement on stage and take dance lessons, if necessary.
Famous Pop Singers
Tori Kelly
Tori chose a really high key for this song. She also chose to accentuate the
lyrics of the song with a short, light texture in her voice. That kind of
texture makes everything easier to sing in your high register.

Whitney Houston

At 2:05 in this video, Whitney uses a fast run on the end of the word all.
Notice how she doesnt make it overly dramatic and uses those runs only a
few times in the song. Sometimes, too many runs can be distracting from
the songs message.

Bruno Mars
Bruno sings tenderly because its a tender song. His voice is so free of
tension that he seems to float up into his falsetto.

Rock
You might be surprised to learn that rock is a grandchild of the blues. After it
became heavier and more dance-ably rhythmic, the music began to rock and
rock and roll was born! It grew up to become rougher and edgier, and now, rock
vocal sounds are as diverse as in any other genre.

Today, rock singers include voices as different as Adam Lambert, Tom


Araya of Slayer, James Hetfield of Metallica, and Bono of U2. But that rougher
and edgier part of rock has to be, at least in some ways, a defining characteristic
of the rock voice. Otherwise, it might be confused with an adult contemporary or
pop voice.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Rock Singers


Try out different vocal flairs, like a little growling or vocal fry at the end of song
sections, but dont overdo it.
Get comfortable singing a huge range of dynamics, from whispers (used sparingly
for the health of your voice) to healthy, supported shouting.
Dont be afraid of your own vibrato.
Famous Rock Singers
Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury was known for quite a theatrical kind of rock. Notice
how easily he transitions from one dynamic to another, using subtlety
when its needed for effect, and rough growling when the lyrics call for it,
like at 2:20.

John Fogerty

In a great example of what I call a defiance rock song, John Fogerty of


Creedence Clearwater Revival sings this song with the emotional sense of
defiance. He clearly has a hold of being what we now call a singing
actor, though its doubtful that the vocals were planned as such.

Ann Wilson
In this video the lead singer of Heart, paying tribute to the legendary rock
band Led Zeppelin, keeps a true sense of her own voice, but doesnt
change the vocals so much that its disrespectful to the original. Shes
clearly not afraid of her own vibrato, using it as a tool to accentuate certain
lyrics, like at 4:24.
Opera/Classical
Often considered the most formal and restrictive of all genres of singing, classical
and opera singing actually require the greatest amount of freedom. Much of
its sung with uncontrolled vibrato and total emotional release. It is, however, the
least conversational of all genres. Because it lacks the intimacy of that
conversational quality with the audience (think folk music), it has the tendency to
give audiences the impression of admiring a beautiful painting from afar.

The classical genre includes secular arias and religious oratorios, as well as
motets. Opera singing is similar, but its part of a stage production, often involving
dancing and speaking parts. Think of opera as a musical with classical singing
instead of Broadway-style singing.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Opera Singers


Dont try to sound like how you think an opera singer sounds. Sing with an open
and free voice.
Vibrato sometimes develops over time as we let go of more and more tension.
Dont force it or try to create it.

Get a voice teacher. Soon. Opera singing can seldom be taught without a good
teacher.
Famous Opera and Classical Singers
Bryn Terfel

In this incredibly dramatic scene from Mozarts interpretation of the Don


Juan story, Bryn Terfel is the actor in the reddish-brown cloak. Watch how
intense and exaggerated his facial expressions are throughout the scene.

Kiri Te Kanawa
Singing one of the best-loved arias ever written is one of the best-loved
sopranos to have ever lived. Amazingly, this performance was given when
Dame Te Kanawa was 69 years old. She is an incredible example of how
you can sing beautifully through your entire life if you take good care of
your voice.

Marian Anderson
Marian Andersons distinguished career is marked not only by fantastic
singing, but also by courageous defiance in the face of racism. After being
rejected by the Daughters of the American Revolution for being a black
performer, she sang instead for a larger group of supporters, facing the
very building that she was banned from. Her voice is flawless, in spite of
the shortcomings of the old recordings, but more importantly, her heart can
be heard in everything she sings.
In the video above, she sang for a beautiful Christmas program. Notice her
alignment. It remains consistent throughout the changes in the song.

Country
An overly simple way to think of the country genre is fancy folk (read: glossy folk
pop). But its had quite a history through the years, having evolved from
Appalachian mountain music, southern blues, country-western and whats called
honky-tonk.

I recommending listening to many different country voices so that you dont get
into the trap of imitating only the big voices. Think about how different Carrie
Underwoods voice is from Miranda Lamberts. Check out the differences
between Hank Williams, Jr. and Luke Bryan. And listen to classic singers like
Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Country Singers


Dont force a country accent. If you listen to a lot of country music, then over
time, a natural twang will come when you sing.
Become familiar with great storytelling; thats where country comes from! Listen
to professional storytellers on YouTube.
Be willing to wear your heart on your sleeve. Audiences love when country
singers share their feelings, and your credibility is based on your ability to be genuine.
Famous Country Singers
George Jones
In one of the most famous country songs of all time, the irreplaceable
George Jones exemplifies the all-important skills of storytelling and a
down-to-earth singing style. Notice that there isnt a lot of vibrato here;
its almost as if Jones is too busy telling a story to hold out a note and
show off!

Carrie Underwood

Both this song and this video are great examples of country images and
talk of American home-grown families and open hearts. Carrie, season 4
winner of American Idol, knows just how to use her voice to a songs
advantage. She floats a note (sings it lightly) when its a tender moment
and then sings with a heavier tone when its a heavier moment.

Loretta Lynn
The ultimate story song, Coal Miners Daughter, was Loretta Lynns
biggest hit. Is it the personable nature of the lyrics? Maybe. Take note of
how similar her speaking voice (at the beginning of the video) is to her
singing voice. This can be achieved through the study of something called
speech level singing.

Blues/Jazz
The blues were born in the American south from the spirituals of slaves and the
call-and-response music of the Southern church. Think of jazz as its slightly more
sophisticated child who never forgot its roots. Jazz singing is characterized by
clear, speech level singing and distinct consonants, while blues singing has a
rough or rootsy edge to it, sometimes with a natural Southern accent.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Blues and Jazz Singers


You cant sing the blues and jazz right without knowing its history, in your mind
and in your heart. Watch Ken Burns Jazz documentary and the Thelonius Monk
documentary, Straight, No Chaser.
Experiment with different vocal sounds, like pitch slides and scatting.
Study up on your music theory, especially your chromatic scales.
Famous Blues and Jazz Singers
Cassandra Wilson

Though she may not be the best-selling jazz artist, Cassandra Wilson is
considered by many to be the best living jazz singer. Her voice is perfect
for it rich, thoughtful, and focused. Notice at around 3:05, she begins to
use pitch slides, perhaps to accentuate a
rather creepy part of a powerful jazz classic.

Sarah Vaughan
Once described as having one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th
century,
Grammy award-winning Sarah Vaughan was known for a sensitive but
easy tone. Notice how almost nonchalant she is throughout Someone to
Watch Over Me. At 2:15, Vaughan effortlessly shows off an
impressive vocal range and some great improvisation skills, simply
by jumping up to a random note while remaining in the songs key.

Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong is so important to jazz music that most experts agree that
it wouldnt have been developed, or even survived, without his
contributions. Now some voice scientists and physicians might point to a
few voice pathologies in Louis: that unusually rough voice. But here we
have a great example of a singer who loved what he did and knew how to
make people feel happy and entertained.

Hip Hop
Hip hop, the heavily rhythmic and rhyming singing that often accompanies
rapping and beatboxing, emerged in the 1970s, and has grown steadily in
popularity since then. In fact, that popularity has turned into tremendous influence
on other singing genres, including pop and country. Its origins are many, but the
most apparent are funk, disco, reggae, and the blues. Singers of hip hop are
diverse, but the singing generally takes on an edgy, sometimes nasal qualities.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Hip Hop Singers


Know hip hops musical ancestry. Listen to a lot of funk, disco, reggae, soul,
gospel, blues, and old-school hip hop.
You dont have to become a rapper, but get comfortable switching between
singing and speaking lyrics to help your versatility.
Dont be afraid to experiment with different vocal sounds, like nasality and
wordplay, to create your own signature style.
Famous Hip Hop Singers
Lauryn Hill

See if you can hear the songs Spanish and gospel influences. Despite
these varied sounds, Lauryn stays true to her own voice, which is
stunningly consistent in tone and texture. Its important to listen to
influences with respect, without allowing it to pressure you to imitate
anyone.

Beyonce
In this heart-stopping acoustic performance of her hit Halo, Beyonce has
full command of her voice. Its as if her voice is an arrow, she aims at the
bulls eye, and hits it every time. In other words, her pitch is always right
and her transition between thelower register in the verses and the upper
register in the chorus is seamless.

Cee Lo Green

Originally, the hit Crazy was created and released by Gnarls Barkley, a
musical duo consisting of rapper and hip hop singer Cee Lo Green and
producer Danger Mouse. In this video, Cee Lo sings the song at a much
slower tempo than the original, allowing for a lot of time for both the
performer and the listener to really think about the meaningful lyrics.
Green is a fabulous singer, and here is an excellent example of the courage
to reinvent a song, even your very own!

Adult Contemporary
Adult contemporary is such a unique genre, because singers from relatively
different genres often get put into this camp as well, or end up here at the height
of their career. Its essentially pop singing, but the lyrics are decidedly grown-up,
or adult. Think of it as the Mom and Dad of teenage bubblegum pop. Youre not
singing, for example, about that party in the U.S.A. Youre singing about lifes
experiences gone by in the U.S.A., what youve learned, and the plans for your
future.

Adult contemporary has been called vanilla, bland and boring, but often, the
most magnificent songs ever are forever embedded in its charts. This means
singing at your best.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Adult Contemporary Singers


Learn how to sing consistently with a well-supported sound and power will come
naturally.
Get into the habit of speaking the lyrics of the song out loud before singing them.
Dont add too many effects to your voice; singing with whatever you have, in its
truest form, is adult contemporary.
Famous Adult Contemporary Singers
Bruce Hornsby

This is a classic example of an adult contemporary theme the


songwriters here are reflecting on their own lives and on life in general.
Bruce Hornsbys easy, almost-nonchalant style comes across as utterly
conversational, perfect for singing about down-to-earth themes.

Amy Grant
Amy Grant successfully crossed over from contemporary Christian
music (which she practically created herself) to pop and adult
contemporary. All the while, she never really changed her vocal
sound. Throughout this video, she uses dynamics to her advantage
to highlight certain words in the lyrics, like at the very end, when
she gets tenderly quiet at the last I will remember you.

Final Words

Despite all of the ways that genres of music are different, one thing connects
them all. All singing, at its very base, is simply sustained speech. And while
practice are utterly essential to learning the different styles, just as important is
listening to plenty of music, both in that style and in others. And when you listen,
remember to keep not only your ears open, but also your heart. Thats what
makes us artists.

So there you have it, the ultimate guide to singing styles! There are a lot of styles
and genres that I havent covered in this guide, which means you can still find the
perfect fit for you. If you have additional questions, check in with
your singing teacher for help with finding your unique voice. Happy singing!

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