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Tips for Singers:
Being Capt. Kirk - Finding The Best Singer Inside
by Tom Patrick McAuliffe - source Singer Magazine

Singer MagazineGrowing up as a wannabe singer, I developed my voice by imitating those I heard on the TV, Radio, and records (remember them?).

I remember listening to Motown and Beatles 45’s and playing them over and over until I felt I had mastered every note, riff or lick they sang (or close enough). Singing along with songs and mimicking the phrasing and style of today’s singers is a great start.

Effectively emulating other artists really is a sure way to developing your voice, and as they say... it's only the long term mission that’s worthwhile. But finding your own voice and a style that works best for you and constantly “working on your chops” is the key that leads to success.

As we progress it's important to realize that there's no other singer out there who sounds just like you--and that's a groovy thing. It’s a large class “M” planet with lots of talented humans but we all have our own individual sound and style. Discovering your ‘inner singer’ gives you warp drive to start truly developing as a singer, KJ or entertainer - be it just for fun, part time or perhaps someday as a full time career.

Finding the best singer inside yourself is a journey of discovery. Those who are born with “the voice” come by it more easily, and the characteristics that set singers apart from one another may have more to do with style than vocal power. For example, Mariah Carey’s high notes are a trademark for her, whereas soulful Lou Rawls' smooth deep voice is one of a kind. But it goes way beyond just the sound. Some singers who may not have great vocal ability have developed an unmistakable style that’s easily identifiable. James Brown, Tracy Chapman, Mick Jagger are good examples.

When singing at your next Karaoke gig the tendency is to imitate the artist and for the most part, that's what the audience wants to hear. But I’ve always found that those who put their own personality and interpretation into a song are the ones who really get the most sincere and enthusiastic responses. Even if hitting the right notes seems like an afterthought... other folks will believe what you do, so find a way to deliver the piece that speaks in your own "voice." With the music mechanics down you can begin to express yourself through the lyrics.

Doing a Whitney Houston tune can at best be challenging, given her vocal calisthenics. And some Karaoke arrangements limit the way you can “interpret” a song, but don't feel like you need to match her, because you most likely never will. The best you can do is nail the pitch and deliver the song with conviction. That’s why it's important that in addition to finding a song in your vocal range, you find one that speaks to you.

Everyone is born with a specific "tone" to their voice. Maybe you’re down and gritty, so singing the blues or rock might be a better mission than trying to be a convincing Broadway show singer. The key is to use all of what you have.

Aside from the certain must-do’s of music (fussy stuff like key and tempo...), style is the single most important weapon in being the best Karaoke singer or entertainer you can be. Your own style is special because no one else in the galaxy has your way of delivering a song. And there's a great deal of self-discovery as you plot a course to the planet of song. Are you trying to wail like Luther Vandross or Barbara Streisand when your music and voice sound like Tom Petty or LL Cool J?

As an entertainer, what story are you trying to tell with the song you're singing? Is your vocal delivery telling the story or conveying the feeling in the most effective way? What can you add visually? Putting a Show Biz shine on a song can make the difference between an “also sang” and a “brought the house down” performance. Then again, think of Roy Orbison who just stood there and sang... all in black with those big black shades... unmistakable.

And if you aspire to greater things as a performer, Karaoke is great for finding where you shine as well as for keeping your “chops” up to performance level. New singers need to try a bunch of different styles and listen to an endless variety of music before being able to totally unleash the best singer they have inside. Being honest with yourself is the #1 key to improving. If you aren't any good at singing a specific style like country or R&B, forget it and move on, concentrating on those songs you do well. Don't try to be, or sing like, someone you're not. Always give it your best and sell it in your own way by being the real you, vocally.

Aside from professional vocal lessons it’s always helpful to record yourself as often as possible as the tape record doesn’t lie. Once you find the really good stuff and the areas where you’re most comfortable, build on that. “Which songs, what style or emotion is needed, what’s the vocal range?,” are all questions you should be asking yourself.

But not only should we constantly work to improve our singing versatility and ability, we must also work to find our own unique style via songs that speak to us. While it may sound like a great idea to just get up and “sing anything”... the more you identify your “best singer” via songs you feel strongly about... the more people will see you as a true performer and if you work hard enough, perhaps someday as a real musician. Never give up or limit yourself and always make the most of what you have. Karaoke is a world of fun and in some cases with some raw talent and lots of hard work, it can become more if you fully apply yourself. Remember someone with a little something who uses all of it will always be ahead of someone loaded with talent who’s too lazy to do anything with it. And remember... if Capt. Kirk can sing on TV... so can you!

(reprinted with the kind permission of Singer Magazine)

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