Confused about your singing style?
I'm excited to talk about this today because I really struggled hard with one central question - "Who am I as an Artist?". I had spent many years developing vocal skill in different directions so that I could work with absolutely anyone. But in the bargain, for a very long time, I forgot who I was. The doors have opened a little, and I want to talk about what I found while digging.
What are the things we really own as singers? Tone. Interpretation. And vocal delivery. Everything else is a brief. So the quest really is in how to find the components that shape these three things. Style converts a sound into a narrative.
The answer is many-layered, but it's also exceedingly simple.
Your vocal style basically means
a) your sonic aesthetic or 'what you like'
b) you emotional habits or 'how you engage with people'
c) your aspirations for people or 'your gift to the world'
Every genre accurately answers these questions. Some styles are big and bold. They are unapologetic. They help people shed inhibition and let out all kinds of emotion without shame. Other styles are very precise and measured. They focus on beauty, rules and gentleness. They give people a sense of order,symmetry and safety in a chaotic world. Within each genre, an Artist is a unique lens.
UTILIZE YOUR IDOLS TO STUDY YOURSELF.
Many singers grow up copying the voices they love. They learn to inflect and colour their voices like their favorite singers. Many also begin to physically behave like their idols. They want to "Be like them"
But here's the thing. You like them because they lit up something inside you. You like them because something resonated ! and where did it resonate? Within you. So actually your idol is a little bit like YOU. Everything you like about them gives you a map to yourself.
The issue is when we obsess over an artist, we go very specific. Because they have distilled their style already. For ourselves, we need to alter that route in order to find the real analogues.
GO GENERAL BEFORE YOU GO SPECIFIC
Take a paper and write down the name of a song that you could listen to on loop all day. What is it about the song that you like? The groove? The chords? The singing? The arrangement? What are the feelings you get that you cant get enough of? What makes you play it on loop and not get bored? What's the central aspect that totally consumes you?
Keeping the answer general will give you an idea about what you like about music. For me, it is groove and groove first. For some of my friends it's complex harmony. For my grand mum it's lyrical poetry.
When you've figured out a list of what you love the most, you can immerse yourself in that topic. You can stay in flow for hours. You'll find these hidden reservoirs of creativity within you. You'll stumble upon phrases that are really hip and are entirely your own.
Once you're on your way to working out your aesthetic, you will have to find the soul of your musical product. Style is Soul. To be an artist, we need to learn to see ourselves and others without prejudice. That's when our realities will shine out.
So.... whats your real agenda here? Why do you want people to see you sing? and why do you sing alone?
For me, singing was a way to seek acceptance. Alone, it was my one single escape. For my ego, it was the one thing thought I could do well. And for the needy and pained parts of me, it was a plea for people to accept me when I was struggling to accept myself fully.
For another very dear friend, music was the only place to display power. Life had crushed him in many ways, but he was a king when he stepped on stage. Skill and power seemed to nourish him and those who needed an idol would gravitate towards him. It's such a honest thing to be able to say "I'm in it for the power that I don't otherwise have".
DEVELOP YOUR GIFT
Every true artist is also motivated by an impulse to give. Why would she spend her whole life trying to give strangers something beautiful? Why would he practice like a maniac for 10 years to record 50 minutes of music in an album.?
When we are at our best, we give freely. Giving nourishes us. What's our style of giving? What is the feeling we want people to partake in? Whats the most amazing part of us that we want to share?
At my best, I can trust, be open and feel a sense of safety and freedom. The gift I give people is to see that they are loved. They are loved without reason. All I care to do on stage is to explore the vastness of love with people, through songs and through what I like to talk about in between songs.
Many artists help people navigate anger. Grief. Political unrest. Other help people find a way to celebrate and dance away their worries. Yet others help people look at life from a new perspective. They could even give them songs that are companions -- travel companions, wedding companions, companions in prayer.
What's your gift to the world? Who are you when you are at your best? What's your style of giving?
Today, already, you have an idea of who you are, what you need from music and the aesthetic you love. Delve deeper into all three aspects. Create your book or folder of amazing ideas. Spend time feeling inspired alone and by your own thoughts. You're already on your way.
Love Vasundhara Vee