October 15, 2010 by Tommy Link
This stemmed off of a conversation I had recently along with several times before with various people. So many music legends are reknown (for better or worse) for their style of singing. Whether its Elvis, Roy Orbison, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Rod Stewart, Joan Baez, etc… you can usually tell its them as soon as they start singing, whether you’re familiar with the song or not. For someone starting to do the “sing and play” thing, finding comfort in singing (especially in front of crowds) can be difficult. From my own experience and from what I’ve seen in others, the best advice I can give is simple: imitation.
The first songs I ever learned how to play were all Bob Dylan songs. Well before I learned to play them, I knew the lyrics backwards and forwards because I was the wonderfully obnoxious type of person who sang in cars, or wherever I was if I a song I knew came on the radio. So when I started playing, I simply tried to imitate the sound that was tatooed to my mind from hearing a song 100 times over. Sure enough, when I started playing for other people, I was told that I did infact sound like Bob Dylan when I was playing (still not sure how many people meant that as a compliment). From the third person prespective though, I’ve seen the exact same thing in people who’ve been playing much longer than I have. A good friend of mine starting off playing Neil Young and rightly, when he plays a Neil Young song, he sounds like Neil Young.
The point of it all is that this an excellent way to create your own unqiue voice style, even if seems like you’re just trying to copy someone elses. You start off playing and imitating one particular artist, but that doesn’t mean you’ll sound exactly like them. There’ll just be similar qualties. Naturally, you move on to playing other artists, only you stick with the voice you’re comfortable with. And so your voice tweaks to fit the new song you’re playing and before you know it, you’ve created your own voice. And once you’ve established in your mind what your sound is, all sorts of possibilities open up, whether its having the sound to use for songs that you write, or for taking covers and changing them to fit your style, instead of the other way around.
I can’t imagine there was a time when this didn’t go on. I know for me, being comfortable with singing and playing together (in front of people or not) was a huge hurdle to jump. It’s funny when you think about it, because if you’ve never sang before, how can you know what you’re stupposed to sound like? So start singing like someone else, and in the end, you’ll be singing like you! ….if that makes sense.