Knowing how to make any song your own, fosters skills that help you take any story (song) and act it out using your unique vocal delivery.
I use my song study method to work through this process.
These skills are also elements that can help you craft your signature sound.
How to make a song your own
1. Listen to all kinds of music
Have lots of ideas and musical tools to draw from. Expanding your sonic experiences can really help you enhance your uniqueness by finding inspiration in new sounds you’ve not tried making.
Listening to lots of different genres hones your ear to the stylistic nuances that set each genre apart . Or it can link them together.
You may recognise how one style morphs into or grew out of another. There are specific tools that you can implement to actively style your singing any way you want.
2. Imitate, Assimilate, Innovate
When you are starting out it can be very helpful to imitate singers. When you are practicing, try to figure out what they are doing or how to create the sounds they are making.
It helps you learn how your instrument works and encourages you to explore the corners of your own voice! You may be making sounds you have not made before!
When you feel good about the tools you’ve developed (assimilation), make that song your own (innovation)!
3. Put your own spin on the song
If you are performing covers, put your own spin on the song by re-interpreting it. Imagine you wrote the song and you are telling the story YOUR way.
I believe singers are like actors and the song is like a script. Interpret it however you want.
Don’t be afraid to change the key to suit your range to help you communicate better.
If a key is too high and it’s meant to be a whispered intimate delivery, that’s going to get lost if you have BELT the the line to hit those notes.
Vice versa with a melody that’s too low. It takes much more air to make low notes happen. It can be hard to get the expression or energy of a lyric across if you are pushing too hard to get those low notes heard.
There are singing techniques you can use to balance your tone. Also, voice quality options to help the storytelling and to spotlight your voice to make the song your own.
4. Song choice
Carefully choose the songs you want to perform or practice.
Consider picking songs that showcase your strengths and abilities technically.
As well as songs you like and that are appropriate for where you are performing. You may not want to pull out the bangers if you are singing on a Sunday afternoon in your local cafe!
Embellishments like vocal flexibility and agility in the form of riffs and runs can spotlight your musicality. However, also choose songs you can relate to lyrically and enjoy the melody of.
Learning how to phrase effectively can be your secret weapon in developing your own signature sound and making any song your own.
It can be quite tough to come up with your own phrasing ideas – especially when singing a cover. All the phrasing work has already been done for you by the artist.
You can try speaking the lyrics to see where you would naturally emphasise or elevate the pitch of certain words.
This is a great tool for personalising a song as we very rarely speak in a monotonal way. Pitch usually changes depending on the emotion you are expressing. It can lift when you are excited or even angry.
Use this as a guide when crafting your own sound. You’re literally translating how you speak into song!!
6. Go pro and get coaching
Last but not least, you can work with a vocal coach or vocal producer to help craft your songs, be they covers or originals.
They will bring extra perspectives and their own sonic experiences and offer more options to help you make the song your own.
7. BONUS TIP – Songwriting
The best way of telling your own story is to write it yourself! You are literally making your own song!
However, not everyone feels comfortable writing songs and many people aren’t natural writers.
If this is you, start by studying song forms, melody and phrasing styles to see patterns that place songs in certain genres.
These are all feathers in your cap to understanding how song and vocal structure play a role in crafting an engaging and entertaining performance.
More tools to help you make any song your own.