Leona Lewis 2010, by David Skinner, licensed under CC BY 2.0
When learning to sing, you’ll hear a lot of myths about what “good vocal technique” is. Voice teachers tend to have a lot of hang-ups about how you should sing: don’t be nasal, eliminate your voice break, draw out your vowels, and avoid breathiness. But nearly every singer, to some degree, defies these rules. In order to be a great singer, it’s important to recognize that vocal technique rules are malleable and ever-changing. Listen to these 6 famous singers who use unconventional vocal technique.
1. Danielle Haim, from the band Haim:
Traditionally, voice teachers will instruct you to draw out your vowel sounds and to avoid hard consonants. In the song “The Wire,” Danielle Haim does the exact opposite and creates a delightful percussive effect. If you listen to the song, the vowels are clipped, and the consonants are hard and over-pronounced. The result is that her voice becomes like another percussion instrument in the song.
Much of what you do in voice lessons is learn to blend your vocal registers so that your head and chest voice are mixed into one seamless line. If you listen to MIKA in the song “Grace Kelly,” on the word violet, he switches from a raspy chest voice to a piercing reinforced falsetto reminiscent of Frankie Valli.
3. Kristen Chenoweth:
Kristen Chenoweth is one of a very few singers who’s known both for her nasal belting and her gorgeous operatic soprano, sometimes in the same number. If you listen to her singing most of “For Good,” she has her typical nasal belt, but toward the end of the song, she moves into her legit soprano. Nasality, of course, isn’t thought of as proper vocal technique, and it’s particularly uncommon to be paired with shimmering soprano. Learn how to sing with nasality here.
4. Leona Lewis:
Leona Lewis: Google “voice break,” and the entire first page of the search results will be on how to get rid of a voice break. Leona Lewis, on the other hand, uses the infamous voice break on purpose, and with an absolutely stunning effect! Listen to the bridge of “Bleeding Love.” She’s intentionally breaking between her belt and head voice instead of creating a seamless mix with her voice. Learn how to get a voice break here.
5. Michael David Rosenberg (Passenger):
Recently, I posted an article from Buzzfeed about why British singers don’t have British accents. The reason is because singers don’t typically stress syllables when they sing. Vowel modifications are similar whether you’re British or American, so everything becomes fairly neutralized. This is not the case with Passenger. If you listen to “Let It Go,” there’s a spoken quality to it with absolutely no confusion about whether or not he’s British. Commonly, voice teachers will instruct their students to sing the word bottom in “bottom of your glass” as bah-ddum, softening the consonants and opening up the vowels. Passenger sings it as “bawttum,” exactly the way he’d speak it. This spoken quality gives his music a more conversational feel.
6. Regina Spektor:
One of the first things you learn in voice lessons is how to breathe properly, largely in order to eliminate breathiness. If you listen to almost any female singer-songwriter from the last decade though, you’ll hear that they incorporate breathiness into their singing. You could pick almost anyone, but let’s go with Regina Spektor, since I love her music so much. Learn how to sing with an airy voice here.