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5 Vocal Techniques to Master for Pop Singing

Adele singing at the Genting Arena, Birmingham, England in March 2016, by Egghead06, under CC BY-SA 4.0

People often think of pop vocal technique as a single skill that they can learn and master. I think of it more as a series of skills to conquer that make up an overall pop vocal technique toolkit you can draw from as you go. Contrary to popular belief, pop singing doesn’t have one particular sound that you hear across the board. Instead, you hear a variety of techniques in use, ranging from quiet breathy singing to loud full-belt singing, sometimes within the same song. In this post, we give you 5 vocal techniques to master for pop singing and link to some other resources to help you achieve those techniques.

1. Full Belt

Belting is often thought of as the cornerstone of pop singing, and for good reason. Singers from Whitney Houston to Christina Aguilera have used this technique effectively and are considered some of the great popular music singers.
Listen to Christina Aguilera singing “Hurt.” She employs several of the techniques discussed in this article, but you can skip to the prechorus at 1.13 for a full belt example.

2. Mixed Belt

Lighter than a “full belt,” but heavier and chestier than head-voice dominant singing, a mixed belt is also used constantly in pop singing. Ariana Grande is a great example of a fantastic mixed belter. For more help learning how to belt, feel free to poke around on this blog.

3. Breathy Singing

Breathy singing is extremely in vogue in the pop world. Not only do singers make whole careers out of singing that way (think Ellie Goulding), but aspirated tones are often used in the quieter, more intimate moments of belt songs–usually in the verses and outros. Listen to Taylor Swift in “Safe and Sound” for a great example of breathy singing.

4. Voice Break

Most voice lessons are focused on eliminating the dreaded voice break, but it’s a very commonly used vocal technique that results when a chesty tone suddenly breaks into a heady or aspirated tone. It’s certainly not as fundamental to pop singing as learning to belt or learning to sing breathy, but it can be a great stylistic device. Listen to Leona Lewis’s well-placed voice break at 3.06 of bleeding love.

5. Head Voice

For most traditional voice teachers, calling “head voice” a technique to learn for pop singing, as if it’s something optional, is pretty close to sacrilege. However, I’ve had plenty of decent pop singers come to me who don’t have much in the way of a head voice and still manage to sound good. Pop singing tends to be a fairly chest-dominant vocal form. But when belters don’t throw any head voice in at all, their singing begins to sound monochromatic. Adele is one of the great pop belters of our day, but if you listen to her music, head voice is sprinkled in all over the place. Listen to the word “deep” in every chorus of “Rolling in the Deep,” for example.

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