Have you ever listened to a top music artist and questioned their technique? It’s not unusual to uncover some questionable patterns of behaviour, so let’s examine the vocal habits of some famous singers.
The vocal habits of famous singers are not always good, despite their success. This can be due to lack of training, individual idiosyncrasies or unchecked ingrained habits. However, there’s much we can learn from both positive and negative singing styles.
Read on to find out who would benefit from taking some lessons and whose habits have caused major consternation. In this article, you’ll learn how the stars’ foibles have affected their vocal health and sound over the years.
The vocal habits of famous singers
It’s common these days, for singers to get spotted on social media, particularly YouTube, or via a streaming service. This is often at a young age, with no management and without a label providing artist development and singing lessons. A
s a result, there are many artists in the industry who have developed bad habits that haven’t been ironed out. Some of these habits become their USPs (unique selling point) so form part of their image and vibe. But other vocal habits of famous singers land them in big problems, resulting in the cancellations of whole tours and recordings.
Famous singers with bad voices
There are many practices in modern music that are not defined as traditionally ‘good’ singing. Many artists get away with a lot, due to having a fantastic image, super songs and an engaging performance style. What constitutes ‘good’ singing can also be subjective – what one person enjoys another will not. It can, therefore, be more helpful to think of becoming a healthy singer – one who can stand the test of time without having vocal issues further down the line.
Vocal habits of famous singers
#1 Habit: Nasality
Some genres of music – namely country and pop – can suit a nasal style of singing. So it’s not a total no-no. However, it must be kept in check, not only for the benefit of the listener but to avoid vocal damage and access a more open sound when required. If you are singing through your nose, it often follows that there may be tension elsewhere. And tension is always a bad sign for the singer.
How to stop nasal singing
Nasality can come from your physiology – the shape of your facial cavities. If you’re overly nasal, you’ll need to control it. But ideally, retain the ability to use a nasal quality from time to time. Watch famous singers with nasal voices (like those we mentioned above), to work out what it too much. Also, read this article and follow the steps to manage your nasality, harness its power and sidestep vocal damage.
Famous singers with nasal voices
Nasality is one of the most common habits in singing these days, especially among the ladies of pop. Here are some of the stars who sing with nasal voices.
- Ellie Goulding
- Nick Jonas
- Rebecca Black
- Miley Cyrus
- Britney Spears
- Olly Murs
- Kylie Minogue
#2 Habit: Poor posture
One of the first things covered in a singing lesson is posture. Standing with an aligned spine, feet hip-width apart and a long neck, with your head resting in a neutral position at the top, helps airflow and supports the sound. But the trend for posing often involves overarching the back or slouching to look cool. These affect your long term physical health, along with your singing.
Victoria Beckham was never known to be the best singer and her extreme posturing will no doubt have impacted this.
#3 Habit: Singing off-key
Just to prove that even the biggest selling artists of our time aren’t perfect, let’s take a look at Taylor Swift’s imperfect vocals. She’s often known to sing flat or to be pitchy. In some live shows, she’s even gone off-key. It can be tricky when performing with loud backing as it can throw you off the melody line and mess up your tuning. Here are some examples of when Taylor got it wrong.
Famous singers who sing off-key
Many pop songs are actually quite difficult to sing, with awkward intervals and pitches. Add into this, that singers often struggle to hear their backing, or themselves and it can result in otherwise strong artists going off-key.
Jessie J, Katie Perry and Christina Aguilera have all been guilty of this. But in their defence, singing with an earpiece while performing a dance routine is very challenging and takes real skill.
#4 Habit: Singing off-pitch
While this isn’t a great habit, it’s sometimes a minor issue for famous singers. This is due to autotune and other vocal effects balancing out pitchiness.
Jason Derulo is a prime example of this. His hip-hop/contemporary R&B style allows for a lot of electronic intervention, so if he’s singing live you may pick up some issues.
Off-key vs off pitch
Off-key is more serious than being off-pitch. If you’re off-pitch, you’re in the right ballpark in terms of the notes, just not quite hitting the spot on. Off-key means, you’re out on the entire melody. It’s rare to hear a famous singer off-key. Yet there are many who are ‘pitchy’, although this is often corrected by autotune.
#5 Habit: Singing out of tune
Stars like Madonna are incredibly rare. Don’t assume that you can get away with occasionally singing off the note and make it big. If you struggle to sing in tune, this is something you must rectify if you plan on becoming a professional. Consistently singing out of tune is more than just a habit, it’s a considerable problem.
Famous singers who can’t sing in tune
Every famous singer is capable of singing in tune. The only ones who become known for singing out of tune, are the X-Factor rejects, and their fame is always very fleeting. But there also many artists who sometimes go out of tune.
Madonna is one of the biggest names in the business, with a career spanning five decades. Yet she’s often deemed to be pitchy, and sometimes even out of tune when singing live. Remember that cringe Eurovision performance:
She has taken lessons, but as she waited till she was a long way into her journey as an artist to begin vocal coaching, many of her habits were ingrained. However, it’s possible that her distinct sound may have been ironed out by too much training. It would be hard to describe her as a good singer from a technical perspective, yet she’s the queen of pop. This just goes to show how crucial image, marketing, attitude and performance can be and how it can weigh over your vocals.
Famous singers with no training
So these are the habits, but what is the cure for poor technique or ‘bad’ singing?
Vocal training is important at any stage in your career. You may have a naturally amazing voice, with a huge range and an innate ability to breathe well. But take those vocals on an international tour with jet lag, high energy shows and intense schedules and it’ll put everything you’ve got under strain. Similarly, recording day after day, for very long hours, through colds and fatigue, will place your throat, larynx and vocal folds under pressure.
Training gives you the tools to protect and strengthen these muscles, so they can withstand being overworked. It also helps you recognise when you need to rest.
#6 Habit: Overuse
Even if you have good technique, the voice has limits. Like the body, if you force it beyond its limits it will break down. But with labels, managers, venues and audiences relying on artists coming up with the goods (for financial and practical reasons), the pressure can cause famous singers to push it too far.
Adele, Leona Lewis, Luciano Pavarotti, Joss Stone, Meghan Trainor, Jess Glynne and Freddie Mercury have all experienced nodules or complete voice loss due to overuse. In some cases, this has resulted in a full tour being axed and major gig cancellations.
Famous untrained singers
There are as many untrained singers in contemporary music as trained ones. This is in contrast to classical, opera and musical theatre, where it’s almost unheard of for a singer to succeed without having a decent amount of training behind them.
- Rihanna has fantastic vocals, but these went untrained until she began recording.
- Ariana Grande is also self-taught but was exposed to a lot of music as a kid, enabling her to develop strong musicality.
- Selena Gomez isn’t known for her perfect vocals, but she knows how to make the most of what she has and choose songs to suit her.
- Justin Bieber’s rhythm comes from having drum tutoring as a child, but he was never enrolled in singing lessons.
Good singing habits
We’ve given the stars quite a hard time in our list so far. But there are many positive habits adopted by the rich and famous too. Keep reading to find out what they are…
#7 Habit: Taking lessons
But there are plenty of big names who – while they may have been born with incredible voices – have been taking singing lessons for years. These include:
- Celine Dion
- Lady Gaga
- Adam Lambert
- Justin Timberlake
- Josh Groban
This is an excellent habit to adopt.
#8 Habit: Hydration
Drinking lots of water at room temperature it’s a pillar of the vocalist’s foundation. Take a look at the beverages found on famous singers’ riders.
- Aquafina water (Beyonce)
- 12 Small bottles still spring water at room temperature (Adele – who also requests a bottle of red wine)
- 6 Vitamin waters zero. Throat coat, Twinnings Chamomile PG tips and Mint medley tea (Katy Perry)
- A smoothie station. Organic ginger and lemongrass tea and honey (Lady Gaga)
Kanye West is less of a good example, asking for a 750 ml bottle of Hennessy Liquor, a 750 ml bottle of SKY or Absolut Vodka, a bottle of Patron Silver Tequila and 4ix Packs of Heineken Beer. No water on that rider!
Mariah Carey has a mix of good and bad in her selection of 12 litres of Fiji Water, three bottles Chardonnay, 12 Coke, 12 Diet Coke, 12 Vanilla Protein Drinks, Six bottles of San Pellegrino, 12 melon Gatorades. We think Mariah should read this article!
#9 Habit: Healthy eating
What you consume has a big impact on vocal health, physical health and affects elements of your image. This is something the stars know only too well. Here’s the food these artists enjoy in their dressing rooms…
- Beyonce: Juicy Baked Chicken: Legs, wings and breast only (heavily seasoned with fresh garlic, season salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, steamed garlic broccoli, lightly seasoned green beans, lightly seasoned steamed spinach.
- Alicia Keys: Three cans of white tuna, 10 Nutri-Grain Bars, 6 packets of Quaker Oats Instant Oatmeal (brown sugar and apple cinnamon), assorted fruit platter with strawberries, seedless red grapes, bananas, mango, blueberries, cantaloupe and raspberries.
- Grace Jones: Two dozen Findeclare or Colchester oysters on ice (unopened), two sashimi and sushi platters and a fruit platter.
- Jack White: 12 chicken wings with sauce, a bowl of fresh home-made guacamole, hummus & pitta chips. NO bananas.
- Madonna: Vegan foods prepared by a personal chef
- Eminem is not one whose diet we’d recommend, he’s another fan of coca-cola, along with white bread, Lunchables snacks, Red Bull, but he also tucks into healthier fresh jumbo shrimps with cocktail sauce, lemons and banana pepper rings (whatever they are!).
Have you recognised any of these vocal habits of famous singers in your own life and practice? If so, it’s time to work on making some changes, especially if you’re experienced hoarseness or strain. If you can’t afford a coach, you can use YouTube, apps or our many advice articles to help you improve, last and soar as a singer.
- What vocal effects do singers use?
The number of effects used in the editing, mixing and mastering process has increased dramatically over the years, particularly in genres such as electronic dance music. Reverb, compression, EQ, pitch correction and autotune are the most commonly used in a recording studio.
- Do famous singers use autotune?
It’s usual for autotune to be used by singers these days. That doesn’t mean they can’t sing in key, it’s just an aid to help improve and sharpen the finished record. You’ll unlikely be able to hear it though.
- Do famous singers have vocal coaches?
Almost every famous singer works with a coach, even if they are very experienced. This helps them to avoid the vocal fatigue and damage caused by falling into bad habits. and provides stamina for gruelling international tours.
Have you identified any other vocal habits of famous singers? Do you have any yourself, that you wish you could eradicate? Let us know in the comment below.