“You gotta have style” – a slogan popularized by celebrity fashionista Diana Vreeland, the editor of Harper’s Bazaar (1936-1962) and Vogue Magazines (1962-1971), may now have become trite; but, if we define it as “a characteristic or distinctive manner of expression,” it remains to this day as a keystone of every successful performer.
Some singers develop and hone their personal style naturally as they gain experience, while others never achieve that uniquely identifiable vocal sound and persona. Is there some way of choosing a style or of developing one so that your performance isn’t like a badly decorated room with conflicting designs and colors?
Aspects of Style
Learn – Don’t Clone
Being yourself is your style!
Mick Jagger once said, “It’s the singer, not the song.” Perhaps that sounds a bit arrogant, but coming from an icon of Rock music, perhaps there is some truth in it. Regardless of your vocal prowess or flamboyance, there just isn’t a substitute for comfortably being you on stage and delivering a genuine performance. The big question is, how do you arrive at that level of confidence? Certainly good vocal technique, performance skill and practice build confidence, but are they enough?
Your personality and how you normally express yourself are natural spring boards for your style. For example, a shy timid person is not likely to give a convincing Heavy Metal performance. A singer with a one octave range would not be convincing as an R&B performer. This is not to say people can’t change – they can. Range can be expanded with proper vocal development and there are ways of opening up a person emotionally. The more flexible you are emotionally and the more versatile you are vocally, the broader your choices of style.
Nonetheless, assessing yourself and your current attributes is a place to start, and as you develop, so will your choices. It is better to deliver a performance that is harmonious with your personality and current capabilities than to try to be someone you are not. One of the best ways to objectively determine if you are doing that is the response of your audience.
If your performance is genuine and well-rehearsed in a style compatible with your personality and skill, it will affect the audience emotionally and they will respond accordingly.
In subsequent blog posts we’ll see how you can use vocal technique to expand your choice of style and how you can learn from singers you admire without becoming a clone and losing your unique identity.