Singing Lessons and Imitation
Many people take singing lessons because they are inspired by someone else. They want to be able to match Ella Fitzgerald, Mariah Carey or Beyonce, or whoever they aspire to be like. This enthusiasm, inspiration and motivation is absolutely wonderful and should never be discouraged. However, do they really want people to say “You almost sounded like the original singer there, it was really good”, or do they want an alternative perspective, “I loved your take on that song.”
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The answer probably lies between the two and a good singing teacher will both help a singer learn from their idols as well as establish their own style so that they can create their individual cover versions.
What can we learn from imitating in singing lessons?
Actually, we can learn a lot:
We can learn melodic embellishments such as runs and riffs.
We can use certain scales such as the pentatonic or blues scales to embellish our melodies.
We can analyse stylistic features such as how they ‘phrase’ a melody (where they get louder and softer, how they breathe).
We can listen out for tonal changes in the voice – where it’s more nasal or breathy or perhaps the singer belts.
Most importantly – singers vowels. Detailed listening reveals the difference between blues, gospel, RnB, pop etc.
Why shouldn’t we imitate from a singing lessons perspective?
Listening can go the other way sadly. Some singers, whilst being famous, have elements of technique that are not so good or are not appropriate for our voices for the stage of the development that we are at.
We don’t want to sound second best to another singer, but rather want to put our own stamp on the song.
We want our voices to sound the best that they can, so the right key (how high or low the song is) is crucial.
Mere copying limits improvisation and embellishment skills, which allow personalisation of a song.
Simply because you should be you!
So, it seems there isn’t a black and white answer. A good vocal coach will guide you well, helping your ‘ear develop’ so that you hear particular qualities within a given style or vocal technique and so that you learn what to assimilate into your own toolbox. Equally, a good vocal coach will help you develop your own sense of flair and style without telling you specifically what to do; now that is a tough teaching technique to master, but one that I love!
Dr Robin Harrison is an experienced singing teacher and vocal coach who has trained with Nashville Coaches, Sydney Opera House Soloists and others in all styles. His teaching is holistic.
Robin has given singing lessons to numerous professionals who have become vocal coaches themselves, have won national Pop Vocal Competitions, become singing soloists in West End Musical Theatre productions, taught at Musical Theatre Dance Schools and Classical Singing Soloist Diploma Students.
Singing Lessons to prepare singers for auditions and diplomas is a particular speciality.
Singing Lessons can be online or face-to-face in Yarm near Stockton, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Teesside, UK
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