Mimicry and Singing

imitationMany people try to imitate their favorite singers. This provides a great learning opportunity in the voice studio. Teachers can help students to clarify the differences between themselves and the artist they are emulating. Which differences are due to technique? Which are due to each singer’s individual timbre? What causes individual timbre? Which differences are because of electronics? These are engaging topics for the student, if the teacher uses terms that the student can understand.

Vocal stylings are like a language or dialect that has to be learned. During early learning stages, learners cannot be expected to know which things they are supposed to do like everyone else and which parts they are supposed to do differently. In learning new skills, mimicry is a healthy stage! In many (probably most) cases, imitation is a quicker way of beginning to experience a new way of doing things than lots of verbal or written instructions.

As skill and confidence grow, the singer can understand how to work within a “style” but still have a “sound” that is their own. The teacher can help students to understand this by exposing them to recordings and live performances in a given genre and discussing aspects that are the same or different among them.

Related to this idea of mimicry versus individuation, it is interesting to approach how artists change over time. Playing a recording of an artist as a child, at age 30, and at age 60 can be quite interesting for the young singer trying to sort this out. Many great artists didn’t “sound like themselves” when they were young.

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