Covering many artists can mess you up

Heliconius_mimicry

Let’s say that you are a young singer in a good band. You start working, playing nightclubs, BBQ joints, any place that will pay you. You cover lots of songs and lots of bands.

You come for voice lessons and you start to describe your challenges. “When I sing Eleanor Rigby, I have trouble getting to McCartney’s high notes, and when I sing Bat Out of Hell I feel like I don’t have enough grit in my voice and when I sing Sam Cooke songs I feel like I don’t have the right old school feel.” I have to say “Whoa there! How many styles and bands are you covering?” The answer is usually between several and many.

Look, you have to remember this: Cyndi Lauper had to learn to do Cyndi and stick with that. She doesn’t do Cher and Beyonce and Pink. She works with her own real self. Elton John didn’t make a career out of doing Elvis impersonations, and if you do lots of covers, you eventually need to get past mimicry and make those songs your own, singing with your own best voice.

Many young people find singing their own material so liberating because it was born into their own voice. This is natural. But don’t be afraid to take someone else’s hit and re-work it, in YOUR most authentic voice.┬áThis goes for every genre from punk to classical to ska. You do you!

One thought to “Covering many artists can mess you up”

  1. This is for sure. Singing originals is often really liberating. Occasionally though, you get the flip side, where your originals hold you back from vocal development. When I had more of a light chest voice, I wrote all my songs to suit that voice, which was a difficult rut to get out of. Now my voice has grown a whole lot, so has my song-writing; it’s a lot more dynamic! And when I go back to old songs there’s something foreign about them. Sometimes I see my students have similar experiences.

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