Vocal Tags

Developing Your Signature Sound

The best singers are the ones you can hear a few notes from and know exactly who they are. Millions of people all over the world want to be professional vocalists, but only a small percentage of them actually get to live out that dream. What separates those who make it from those who remain stuck in the local club and karaoke scene? Although many factors have to be considered in the answer to that question, one of the biggest reasons would be a unique signature sound.

Open any Spotify playlist, set it on shuffle, and listen to the different singers that come up. What about them is unique? Is it the way they pronounce their words? A certain riff they seem to incorporate in every song? The way they phrase their lines? Is it their tonality? Write down the artist's name, song title, and any notes on what you notice about their sound.

After listening to a dozen songs, you’ll start to hear major differences between each and every singer. The fact that they sound different from everyone else is one of the biggest reasons they're successful. They have the ability to stand out from the crowd no matter what genre or song they're singing.

Now that you’ve heard several different artists sing, I want you to look back to the first artist on your list. Go to their discography and listen to 3 random songs. Pay attention and see if you can hear the things you wrote as their vocal quirks coming up time and time again in each song. Are they doing a certain riff each time? Varying their tone the same way throughout each song? These are their vocal tags/signatures, and its what you need to develop if you want to be a successful singer.  Do this with everyone on the list and you’ll start to see the same things repeated for each artist.

Now, listen to random unsigned artists on Youtube, Facebook, whatever. Pay attention to them just like you did with the well known artists on Spotify. Can you hear anything unique about them? Have they developed any truly unique vocal tags, or do they sound like they are trying to copy someone else? 99% of the time, singers try their best to copy their influences. Its alright to do that while you're developing your own sound, but you’ve got to let go and try different things yourself at some point. Imitation is one of the biggest reasons people don't get signed, can't sell any of their records independently, can't get people to come to their shows, etc.

If you are just copying someone else, you automatically become a second rate act. Why would I want to hear someone imitate Sia when I could just listen to Sia herself? Why would I want to hear someone try to copy Stevie Wonder’s riffing style when I can hear him do it much better? See what i’m getting at? Find what makes you unique, cultivate it, and sing everything from your own point of view. It's ok to use your influences as a foundation to build upon but, at the end of the day, you need to be authentic in order to truly connect with an audience.