Vocal Defaults: What Makes You Sound Like You?

Posted on: April 19, 2020

The Singers You Listen To

Whether you’re aware of it or not, the singers you aspire to and have listened to a lot in the past or currently become part of how you sound. In the same way that we develop a local accent, you also mirror the signature attributes of your vocal idols, for better or for worse.

Training and Performance Experience

When you look back at your history as singer you might be surprised as you recount quite a diverse path peppered with various performance experiences and training methods. If you’re like me you started singing lessons with a classical vocal coach and wanted more than anything to become the lyric soprano your teacher truly believed you could be. Or maybe you were a stage school all-dancing, all-singing, all-acting show stopper or you sang in a killer Nirvana tribute band with your mates!? Even if they’re in the past these experience can still contribute to how we sound today.

How We Feel About Our Voice

It’s likely that you may hold some limiting beliefs about your voice and what’s possible for you as a singer and these beliefs can be buried in your subconscious without you knowing. We can take a passing comment someone else makes about our singing, be it negative or positive and allow it to become a limiting belief. I invite you to journal on what you really believe about your singing voice and see if these beliefs are in conflict with your singing and artistic goals and objectives.

Singing In Less than Optimal Environments

Habits take time to create. We know this because many of us struggle to create positive ones such as exercising, regulating our sleeping pattern, eating well and more. But the key to success in creating a good habit is consistency over time, however, this is also the key to creating those bad habits too. If you have sung in less than optimal environments consistently over a period of time such as busking with no amplification or singing with a band without good on-stage monitoring, it’s very likely that you may have developed some problematic vocal habits that may impede your technical development or worse, lead to a vocal injury. I would work with a student to identify and minimize these habits.

Psychology and Personality

Singing teachers are not qualified psychologists but we want you to make those breakthroughs with your voice so sometimes it’s necessary to shine a light on your personal behaviours that may be stifling your vocal progression. A good vocal coach will make the necessary recommendations if you require a different type of professional such as a therapist or a laryngologist. However, I do think singing teachers should fulfill one of their most important purposes as coaches and that is to help you become aware of some of your automatic behaviours especially the behaviours that are blocking your vocal progress such as clenching your jaw because you’re anxious, forcing too much air because you try too hard or fatiguing your voice because you talk too much!


Lastly, and maybe most importantly is accent. You probably use your voice to speak about 80% of the time so your accent will have the strongest grip on your progress when you’re wishing to create new sounds with your voice. It’s also very important to love and embrace your accent and capitalize on some of it’s positive attributes too but at the same time recognise some of the complexities in your accent that may contradict some of the optimal vocal tract shapings you wish to create.

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