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How to Get Started Singing Pop/Rock

audition songs auditioning learn to sing repertoire vocal technique Nov 17, 2022

Written By: Chelsea & Cynthia 

Classically trained? Here’s why singing pop music might feel challenging!

Did you know that 80% of all musicals are either written in a pop rock style, or ask for pop rock music to be used in the audition? If that percentage makes you want to crawl back into your golden age hidey-hole, you are not alone.

As classically trained singers in the face of a pop/rock song, it's natural to feel:

  1. Unequipped to master the lower register most pop songs live in
  2. Unsure how to access the breathiness many songs in this genre require
  3. The desire to over sing, rather than letting the mic do its job
  4. The inclination to over enunciate - a nuance of musical theatre that can alter the intended rhythm and rhyme of a pop song
  5. Drawn to sing legato, rather than embracing the staccato, or the rhythm and groove, that the pop song calls for 
  6. Stuck when orchestrating how to act or perform for the piece 

All of the experiences articulated above are common frustrations that musical theater or classically trained folks face when trying to sing pop music for the first time. So if you were reading those and thinking "Wow - this is ME!", you are not alone!

So, where should we even start improving these skills and learning how to do this in a more effective way?

First, listen to the song with an analytical ear!

Rather than just letting the music sort of wash over you while you're at the gym or in the shower - pay attention. Where are they scooping? What kind of tone of voice are they using? Is it breathy, clear or does it have a little gravel in it? What are those rhymes that we talked about sounding like? Pay attention to the different vocal effects that you can hear and take note of the ones you want to employ in your presentation.

Second, listen to multiple artists covering the same song.

Challenge yourself to listen to seven people perform the song, whether it's a cover on their album or an audition for American Idol or simply a popular YouTube cover. By listening to various artists, you can become inspired by the artistic choices they chose and feel less intimidated by the song in question. 

Third, practice with an emulation exercise! 

Head back over to YouTube and pull up a rendition you like of the song and listen to just one phrase. So for example, if we're back to our Ed Sheeran song, "I found a love for me", you're going listen to just that one little phrase, pause the video, and sing it back exactly like the artist did. If they were breathy, you're going to be breathy. If they did a scoop, you're going to scoop. If they had a little fry, you're going to explore a little fry. Repeat this process throughout the song with more phrases until you feel comfortable with the rendition you have created. 

It's important to recognize the difference between emulating and copying. It's not about copying, but rather exploring how many colors and stylings you can make in your own voice, and paying attention to what are things that feel familiar and also what feels new, so that you can begin to expand your repertoire.

Finally, work with someone familiar with this realm! 

Identify a voice teacher, vocal coach or someone else in the field who has the tools to help you discover that desired sound you are working towards and can guide you in reaching it in a sustainable, healthy way. It can be frustrating to work with someone who only offers the generic advice of "loosen up" or "just feel it". Instead, challenge yourself and work with someone who can be really specific so that you have something actionable to implement into your singing. 

Above all, keep in mind that there are so many different styles of pop rock singers. You don't have to riff like Christina Aguilera or can sing a beautiful long line like Barry Manilow. We promise, there's material that will fit YOU and play to YOUR strengths. 

If you're interested in receiving expert mentorship and ongoing training, especially with some pop/rock material, then you are invited to join us inside the BVC Membership!

Book a free consult with us. We can't wait to hear your story and help you take the next step in your career!

Looking to learn more about this topic or interested in exploring some of our best advice for navigating the theatre world? Check out our new Broadway Vocal Coach podcast using this link or search for us on your favorite listening platform!

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