It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of false starts and a lot of rejection handling to start a singing career, but if you are committed and genuinely love what you do, then you have every reason to get your singing chops up to scratch and get yourself out there.
Our guide below contains everything you need to know if you’re brand new to singing, if you sing in your spare time and want to take it beyond a hobby, or even if you’re a professional singer and just want a reminder of what you can do and where you can go with your vocal abilities:
How do I know if I‘ve got a good singing voice?
Before we get into how to become a singer, it’s important for you to understand that there’s an extremely broad spectrum when it comes to judging a well-known professional singer on their singing talents, with Beyonce at one end and Bob Dylan at the other.
That’s not to say people can’t enjoy Bob Dylan as much as Beyonce because she’s a far more powerful and technical vocalist; nor is it to say people can’t prefer the more relatable sound of Dylan’s voice to the unattainably high standards set by Beyonce – it’s entirely down to the listener.
However, Dylan had the advantage of also being a singer-songwriter who penned some of the most celebrated lyrics of the 20th century, and since for this guide we’re focusing purely on singing ability, here are a few serious questions to ask yourself:
Can I sing in tune?
Singing in tune, or on key, is all about controlling the pitch of your voice to match the music you’re singing along to.
A good way to practise this is by playing a key on a piano keyboard or app and matching that note with your singing voice.
Once you’re confident with your ears and vocal cords to go straight to whichever note you play on the keyboard, try playing a short phrase or melody and copying it with your voice.
Can I enunciate well?
Regardless of how well-spoken you may be in your day-to-day life, properly pronouncing your words while singing is a different beast entirely. Put simply, you’ll need to exaggerate how you sing each syllable of each word – which means your facial muscles will be working overtime.
In terms of improving your diction, many singing teachers and vocal coaches recommend practising tongue twisters such as “the lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue”, “I like New York, New York’s unique, I like unique New York” or “she sells seashells on the sea shore”
Can I sing without straining my voice?
There’s nothing quite so disheartening as running up to a high note, only for your voice to crack. The same goes for low notes – no matter how true your aim is, you’re bound to find some notes more difficult to reach than others.
While some of us may be born with wider vocal ranges, there’s still plenty the rest of us can do to expand our own vocal range and become a better singer in general. Good posture, vocal exercises and breathing from your diaphragm are just a few tips for you to take on board which will quickly show results.
Can I sing consistently?
It’s all very well being able to belt out your favourite songs note-perfect when nobody’s within earshot – but in order to be a good singer, you need to work on delivering the same standard of performance every time you open that talented mouth of yours.
What age should I start singing?
The best time to start to sing is when you’re young, because your body and vocal cords are still developing, and you’ll also get into some good habits which you’ll carry through with you into adulthood. Just sing along to your favourite songs, whether they’re nursery rhymes, theme tunes from film and TV or just whatever you like to listen to on the radio.
That being said, it’s never too late to try out new things – who knows, maybe you’ve been sitting on an undiscovered natural talent for years!
Your vocal cords are just like any other muscle in your body – if you spend time training and developing your vocal range, you’ll be able to achieve so much more than when you started out.
While there may be more available resources and more obvious routes into singing while you’re at school, there’s plenty out there. In addition to the tens of thousands of free YouTube videos offering tips and advice on how to improve your vocal range and develop your musical ear, there are a multitude of online music courses and evening classes you can enrol on which go into much further depth.
How do I become a great singer?
Even if you’re a natural singer, you’ll find that you’ll improve a lot more quickly if you sing often. And we’re not talking about singing in the car, or even in the shower – here are a few things you can do to ensure you’re singing regularly:
Study your favourite singers
YouTube is a wonderful resource these days for free lessons, breakdowns and video essays, all of which can help you understand how your favourite singers manage to do what they do.
So in addition to listening in depth to a range of songs from a successful singer you want to emulate and singing along to their music videos, do some background research on their musical journeys.
Join a choir
You will no doubt find that your school, local church or community centre will have its own choir or similar vocal group which you could sign up for.
A choir is not only a great way to start understanding how harmony works, but also a great way to gauge how well you’re singing compared to the other singers in the group – plus you’ll get some really useful feedback and get to perform live.
Join a theatre or pantomime troupe
There’s bound to be some sort of amateur dramatics society not too far from you, and even if you don’t quite see yourself playing the lead just yet, there’s always more room in the chorus for you to sing in the background.
As with singing in a choir, a theatre or panto group will introduce you to some like-minded people who’ll share tips and advice with you, and performing in a show is a great way for you to overcome stage fright and develop stage presence too.
Get private singing lessons
Nothing will be quite as effective as private tuition. When you’re one-to-one with a professional singing tutor or vocal coach, they will be able to tailor their expertise to your specific learning and vocal styles and help you become the best singer you can be.
Don’t be too precious when they offer you constructive criticism, however – they’re only trying to help you give the best vocal performance you can.
Do I need to study music to pursue a singing career?
Not all professional singers necessarily studied music at GCSE or A-Level; equally, not everyone who studies music at BIM, the Royal College of Music or any of the other major music schools goes on to become a singer.
However, studying music either whilst you’re still at school or taking an online course or evening class in your spare time will teach you some very valuable lessons that will broaden your musical knowledge and help you improve as a vocalist. This will also put you in contact with people who are close to the industry – don’t forget, half the battle is who you know, so keep making and maintaining those connections!
What does a professional singer do in the music business?
If you’re wondering how to get paid singing work in the music industry, the good news is: there’s no single career path for you to follow. This gives you plenty of options, but it can be daunting if you don’t know where to start, or what any of these paths involve. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the most common singing careers:
This might be the most obvious career path for you to take, and it’s certainly a big one – but you don’t have to be singing to filled stadiums like Rihanna to be a perfectly respectable performing singer.
You can carve yourself a great career as a singer in a bar band or a function band, and you can also make a name for yourself in musical theatre.
Top Tip – if you’re going to be singing every night of the week, you’ll need to take extra care of your voice. Make sure you warm up before you perform, drink plenty of fluids and don’t stretch your vocal cords unless you absolutely have to.
If you’re particularly creative and want to take matters into your own hands, you may well have tried your hand at songwriting. Writing songs is an entirely different yet complementary skill to singing – many singers compose original songs as a creative outlet which also suits their personal vocal style.
When you write songs for yourself, you’ll have full creative control of your own music – and as an added bonus, you won’t have to split royalties with another songwriter!
Top Tip – you may wish to pursue a songwriting career writing songs for other singers. There’s certainly no shame in this; in fact, it’s prevalent throughout the music industry – Prince famously wrote songs such as ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ which was made famous by Sinead O’Connor, Bruno Mars penned Ceelo Green’s mega-hit ‘Forget You’, and Miley Cyrus’ ‘Party in the USA’ was actually written by the very British Jessie J.
If you have a good ear for harmony and can learn songs quickly, you could offer your services as a session singer – usually as a guest vocalist or backing singer. You’ll need to be adaptable and committed, as you won’t always get a great deal of notice from the music producers or artist.
You can train yourself to become a better backing singer by listening out for and singing along to the backing vocals and harmony parts of songs, rather than the lead parts. And as for learning songs quickly, this is mostly down to practice – you could listen out for new songs on the radio, and test yourself to see how quickly you can memorise them.
Top Tip – in order to make yourself available for as much session work as possible, expand into musical genres you wouldn’t usually sing in. This way, you’ll have a busy and fulfilling music career with many more open doors.
Give private singing lessons
People who say “those who can’t do, teach” clearly don’t know what they’re talking about – you can’t be a decent singing teacher and not know your stuff!
In fact, the only way for you to offer your students specialist vocal training is to have mastered all the tricks yourself.
Top Tip – there’s no legal requirement for a private vocal coach or singing tutor to have any professional qualifications – all you need is a passion to share your singing talent. However, you may find that you will need certain qualifications to give singing lessons in a school, so be sure to get yourself fully informed before you apply for a role.
How do I become a professional singer?
Changing your passion into a profession is the ultimate goal of many up and coming singers – and it’s not always an easy one to achieve. You need a pretty tough skin to make it in the music business, and you’ll need to be able to bounce back when faced with rejection.
However, the music industry does open its doors occasionally – so here are a few ways you can get your foot in:
Put in the Hours
If you have the talent and you put in the hours, doors may well open in places you were least expecting. Here’s Ed Sheeran explaining the 10,000 hour rule…
A talent show will mark the debut performance of many future successful singers. For your first talent show, try not to view it as the be all and end all – just see it as an opportunity to make the leap from someone who’s never performed in their life to someone who knows what to expect when they give their next performance.
Once you’ve competed in a few talent shows and feel more comfortable doing so, see if you can get yourself a spot in a more prominent show. This will likely mean you get to sing in front of a larger audience, and there may even be prizes to be won such as cash prizes, studio time or the opportunity to perform as some prestigious venues.
Another avenue for you to go down which will help you get used to the often unforgiving world of auditions is musical theatre.
Although not too dissimilar from the pantomimes we mentioned earlier, musical theatre tends to be more rigorous both at audition and show level, so you’ll want to make sure your voice is in the best condition it can be in, and you’ll need to make sure you know your script inside out!
You will probably need to try out for smaller parts in smaller productions before people in the biz have seen and heard what you can do, but don’t let this get you down – even a small part in a group scene is a chance for you to show people you can sing well enough to have been considered for the production.
Record a demo
The word ‘demo’ comes from ‘demonstration’, which is exactly what your recording will be – hard evidence that you really can sing. Often singers will record themselves covering popular songs, or at the very least well-known standards, as these provide an easy, clear comparison for the listener.
You can record your demo at home if you have a good microphone – if not, shop around online until you find a studio offering a reasonable deal on recording demos. You’ll only need 3 or 4 tracks in order to give an idea of what your voice can do.
Start a band
Depending on what sort of music you want to make, you might want to consider starting a group and playing regular paid gigs. You could start out as a solo artist or acoustic duo and start playing at open mic nights and jam nights, which is a great way to meet other musicians and make yourself known to members of the local scene.
If you want to go bigger, you could use your contacts from the open mic circuit to form a bar band and start playing the local venues, possibly with the view to getting yourself a residency.
Especially if you play in a covers band, you might also want to consider becoming a function band or wedding band and getting regular work and experience that way.
Get a manager
With any luck, things will start picking up for you once you’ve made a name for yourself locally – but to take things to the next level, you’ll most likely need some management.
Enter an agreement with a manager so they can handle the business and logistical side of things, leaving you to focus on honing your craft.
How do I get a manager?
The holy grail of anyone wanting to become a singer is being ‘discovered’. A lot of this is unfortunately due to luck, or being at the right place at the right time – but don’t let this discourage you.
The best thing you can do to maximise your chances of being discovered is to draw attention to yourself as much as you can. You could have the voice of an angel, but a potential manager won’t get to hear it if you’re confined to your bedroom!
How do you get recognized as a singer?
At the very least, create accounts (for free!) on the ‘big 3’ social media platforms (Facebook, twitter and instagram) and post on all of them daily.
Make your content engaging and varied to build your own fan base – we’re talking live streamed performance videos, vlogs and polls inviting your fans to vote for their favourite of your songs, or for which cover song you sing next.
Social media is also a great platform to promote your upcoming performances, whether these are live onstage or live in the studio.
You can also gauge how many people are watching your videos and accepting invitations to your events each time you post them – and the more likes and shares your posts get, the more legitimate an act you’ll appear to managers – and even record labels – on the lookout for fresh talent.
There are few things in life as electric as a live musical performance – so once you’ve got a solid act together, this is your best shot at winning a prospective manager over.
Treat every performance as though the place is teeming with talent scouts, and it’ll become second nature for you to bring your A-game
With any luck, your audience will have enjoyed your engaging performance so much that they won’t be able to resist coming back to see you again (or at the very least give you a like or follow on social media!).
As you grow as a performer, you’ll want to start looking further afield for new and exciting challenges. If you’re well known in your local area and concert organisers know you’re a guaranteed draw for the crowd, you’ll be in a strong position to negotiate getting support slots from more established acts as they come through town.
The more you do this, the more your circle will widen both socially and geographically. Next thing you know, you could be picked up by a touring band as their support act – and you’re guaranteed to benefit from that kind of exposure.
Get in touch with your local radio station and ask for a slot – you’ll find that in most cases, local presenters and DJs are more than happy to promote local talent. You’ll find you can either privately message them on social media or drop them an email or phone call – and hopefully they’ll get back in touch with you shortly afterwards to agree a date and time for you to visit their studio.
Professional radio presenters know how important it is to avoid ‘dead air’ on their shows, so even if you’re worried you won’t know what to say once you’re on air, you can trust them to ask you easy, friendly questions to keep the conversation flowing
It’s best to view your local music scene as a ‘give a little, get a little’ type of deal – so make sure you listen in a few times before contacting your local radio station.
To make an even better first impression, try and learn a few names of some of the other artists who have appeared on the show and mention what you enjoyed about them.
Can I become a singer at 13?
Absolutely – you can start singing at any age, and we would 100% recommend that you go for it! There’s no time like the present to start developing your singing voice, as well as your confidence.
However, a very different question is how to become a famous singer at 13.
There’s nothing stopping you from chasing your dreams of becoming a famous singer from such a young age, but it does come with its pitfalls.
For example, if you’re lucky enough to gain a large following on YouTube, Instagram or Tik Tok with your singing videos, for example, then you may want to consider getting yourself a manager to help you organise your performances and handle your ever-growing fan base.
Working with a manager
It can be pretty overwhelming, especially if you’re young, to think about how many people have heard you sing on your videos, how many people want to hear you sing in public, and what you have to do in order to make that happen successfully. This is why it’s common to turn to a manager or agent to take care of booking the shows, promoting your music and dealing with industry people.
While hopefully your manager will have your best interests at heart, it’s important that you don’t lose sight of the fact that their main aim will always be making as much money as possible out of your talent. Just take a look at Lou Pearlman, the man credited with launching both the Backstreet Boys’ and N*SYNC’s careers only to be sued by every act he ever managed for failing to pay his artists their dues.
Luckily there have been some highly successful partnerships between young singers and more established managers – Scooter Braun, who discovered a young pre-fame Justin Bieber, has maintained a strong and supportive friendship with the now ultra-famous singer.
It’s all about being level-headed enough to not accept the first offer that comes your way – you need a manager who understands both your personal and your artistic needs, and you might have to give a lot of nos before you give a yes.
Maintain a strong support network
But one of the most important factors of a truly successful singing careers, aside from you having the freedom to pursue your dream, is having a strong support network around you, such as your family and close friends, who will always fight your corner. Maintain your strong relationships and they’ll be there to pick you up when you get low, as well as bring you back down to Earth as and when you need them to.
We hope this guide has given you idea of the many different roads you can take on your quest to become a professional singer. Good luck out there – maybe one day, you can quit your day job!