3 Traits ALL Great Singers Share
One of my favorite things about teaching a lot of singing students in Austin, Texas is recognizing the patterns that make great singers in my studio.
While it’s true that my voice studio is a judgement-free zone (and always will be), I learn so much from every student that walks through the door.
Something that I’ve been watching for a while are the traits of my students that experience the most success in their voice lessons with me.
I think it’s incredibly important that every singer have these traits and I would go so far as to say that ALL amazing vocalists share these 3 traits.
The good news? You can acquire every one of them.
This also means there are no natural born amazing singers out there, because every great singer has worked to achieve these 3 things.
1. Great Singers are Musicians
This may seem like a no-brainer, but let’s take a closer look.
Some vocalists find it easy to sing in a mix between their chest voice and head voice. Or it’s easy for them to imitate Adele’s flip or Freddie Mercury’s edge.
This doesn’t necessarily make them a good musician.
How long does it take them to memorize a simple pop song? If it takes several weeks, this could mean they don’t understand the genre as well as someone with songwriting experience would.
If I put a piece of sheet music in front of them, are they able to follow the notes, or do they give up and just depend on their ear to ride it out?
In either case, the singer could benefit from improving their musicianship.
So what are some things you can do to work on your musicianship?
First, a great singer is rarely only a singer. Often, they play an instrument or have some working music theory as well.
You can also listen to new music every day. Learn to sight-read music. Take some lessons in another instrument. Jam and perform with other musicians. Listen to great singers, but ALSO listen to their bands.
2. Great Singers are Self-Aware
People talk about self-awareness all the time, usually in terms of how well a person understands themselves.
But what does this mean when it comes to vocals?
Say I have an 11-year-old boy that wants to sing Tom Waits.
Tom Waits has an incredibly gruff and damaged bass voice. If Tom’s voice was a drum, it would be the rusty kick drum that got lost in the flood last year.
Is that an appropriate choice for an 11-year old boy who breaks into falsetto on every high note?
Not only will those low notes be a stretch for the young man, but even if we transpose the song to a better key for his voice, he still won’t be able to imitate the growl or drama necessary for a Waits song.
The same applies to the 7-year-old girl who wants to sing Adele.
Adele’s melodramatic mezzo soprano voice is so large and cavernous, she sounds like a woman much older than she is. A 7 year old’s voice won’t be able to take that amount of pressure; even Adele can’t sustain it.
So, how do you become more self-aware as a singer?
Take some voice lessons. Learn where your bridges are and what voice type you are. It will go a long way in helping you find repertoire that is suitable and healthy for your voice.
3. Great Singers are Hard Workers
Some may say that this is a given.
You might say “Of course all the successful great singers are hard workers. They have to be.”
But I guarantee those same singers (the Adeles and Sam Smiths and John Legends out there) were hard workers before they got famous, and now they work even harder.
So, why should it be any different for you?
If they are at the level where they are making tons of money and touring constantly to support their critically acclaimed album, it’s because they worked to get there. They didn’t just become hard workers because they started making money at it.
At the same time, there are people who think that you can’t become a hard worker. That you are born that way.
But I truly believe that work-ethic is acquired. If the motivation is right, then the priorities and work ethic will follow.
So how do you build work ethic with singing?
Make it a priority. Set goals and find teachers that will help you achieve them, no matter how lofty they seem at first.
Finally, remember that each one of these traits is acquired over time. So don’t feel like you have to be an amazing musician, become enlightened or a workaholic overnight. These things take time and the more you make them a priority to develop, the more successful you’ll be.