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How to Be a Singer

Three Parts:Developing SkillsFinding OpportunitiesPromoting Yourself

You know the truth: you spend all your time singing, and have secret dreams of making it big as a performer. You probably know that the road ahead is difficult and takes a lot of work, but becoming a professional singer can be done if you cultivate your voice and style, invest in some essential equipment, find opportunities that allow you to sing in public on a small scale, and promote yourself using demo CDs and other tools of the trade.

Part 1
Developing Skills

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    Take singing lessons.[1][2] Whether you’re already convinced that you’re going to be the next star, or you’re just starting out, you can benefit from talking lessons. By working with a vocal coach, you’ll not only learn how to sing better, but also how to control your voice to sing the way you want to. Look for music schools or individuals that give private voice lessons in your area.
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    Practice. As a singer, your voice is your instrument. If you want to become a virtuoso, you have to practice, practice, practice.[3] Whether it's singing in the shower, in the car, for your grandparents, in a church choir, or in your room alone, practice.
    • Practice singing your favorite songs, but also ones in different styles. You can learn a lot by trying different types of music.
    • Singing is a very physical art. In addition to trying to hit the right notes, practice breathing right as you sing, holding your body well, etc.[4]
    • Through lots of practice, you will learn your capabilities and characteristics as a singer, such as your vocal range, natural tone, and preferred styles.
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    Get a degree.[5][6] While you don’t need a specific degree or educational background to become the next idol, if you are serious about establishing a career as a singer, then you can benefit from getting an education. Many colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in fields such as music and vocal performance. These can deepen your knowledge and experience, making you a better singer overall.
    • In addition to studying the foundations of music theory and vocal performance, it is a good idea to take courses or get a second degree in a field such as business or marketing. This diversifies your education and can provide you with valuable skills to draw on later when trying to promote yourself as a singer and establish yourself in the music business.
    • Many schools require you to audition to enter a degree program in music.
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    Learn to read music..[7] Even if you’ve got a beautiful voice, if you can’t read music, then you’re illiterate for the purposes of your dream career in music. Knowing how to read music helps you communicate with other performers, write your own songs, and deepen your knowledge of the art. If you don’t get a formal background in music, then do some independent study to learn how to read music and understand the basics of music theory (rhythm, harmony, etc.).
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    Learn an instrument. Singing well is a skill in and of itself. However, if you have at least basic skills on another instrument, you will be one step ahead. Being able to play an instrument such as the guitar, piano, or drums while you sing helps you practice, write songs, and communicate ideas to other musicians. Proficiency on multiple instruments can increase your chances of finding gigs and other opportunities.[8]

Part 2
Finding Opportunities

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    Gain confidence. To sing well in front of other people, you have to be confident in yourself and be charismatic.[9] The only way to really develop confidence as a singer is to get out there and sing as much as possible. You can try:
    • Doing karaoke
    • Busking
    • Joining a talent show
    • Performing in a singing competition
    • Offering to sing at parties, weddings, in religious ceremonies, for your family on holidays, and for any other public occasions
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    Join a chorale or other singing group.[10][11][12] When you are ready to break out and start singing in public, you can look for groups to sing with. These might include a church choir, school chorale, glee club, community chorus, a barbershop quartet, a caroling group, etc. Though you might not be in the spotlight if you’re singing with the group, you can still learn a lot and push yourself to improve.
    • If you’re interested, you can ask your singing group director about opportunities to sing a solo.
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    Find your style. Once you’ve gained some chops as a singer, you’ll want to concentrate on becoming more unique. You can make a good start by being flexible.[13] Try singing in as many styles as you can. Then decide which ones you enjoy the most and perform well.
    • If you have any special qualities as a singer or performer, now is the time to start developing them. For example, perhaps you are able to sing very high notes, or have a “gritty” voice that is well-suited for soul music.
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    Write your own songs. If you really want to step out as a singer and performer, you can also begin writing your own material.[14] Concentrate on writing songs in whatever style and whatever form you enjoy the most, but always look for opportunities to expand and develop your art.
    • You can write both music and lyrics yourself, or work with a collaborator to develop one or the other.
    • If you play an instrument, use it to help you compose your musical ideas, even if you plan for a song to eventually use a different instrument.
    • Keep a notebook to jot down any musical or lyrical ideas whenever inspiration strikes you.
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    Set goals and work hard. Succeeding as a singer takes a lot of work, and more than likely you will encounter setbacks and rejection on the way.[15] Being patient is really important.[16] Despite some stories of stars who seem to break out overnight, most singers put in a long time and a lot of hard work before making it.
    • Define the success you want to have for yourself.[17] You can create a five-year plan to define where you want to go as a singer. However, embrace change and accept that you plan will likely change, at least somewhat.

Part 3
Promoting Yourself

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    Find a regular paying gig. As soon as you can, look for a job that pays you to be a singer. This will add professionalism to your experience. Even if the job isn’t glamorous, it might open doors.
    • Paid gigs for singers can include singing on a cruise ship, at a theme park, in a club, at weddings, at parties, doing jingles for commercials, etc.[18]
    • Some singers are able to find work as a backup singer for another local or touring artist.[19] This can be a great networking opportunity. Look for notices about auditions you can try out for, or contact artists directly.
    • You can start looking for paid gigs at local clubs and other venues, though it may help if you have a manager, your own equipment, and a demo.
    • While waiting for your “break,” you can give singing lessons to others, teach music, work bookings at a club, or in some other job that is related to singing.[20] This can give you valuable experience and income while you pursue your dreams.
    • Finding regular paying gigs as a singer can be very difficult. If you can’t make ends meet, look for a job in another field, and work on your singing career in your free time.[21]
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    Buy equipment. You can increase your gig opportunities if you have your own performance equipment. This will allow you to seek gigs at venues that don’t have a sound system, or at ones that prefer you to use your own. Musical equipment can be expensive. You don’t necessarily need to have top-of the line equipment or every new gadget when you are just starting out. If you are serious about your singing career, however, you will want to get specific equipment as soon as you can, such as:[22]
    • A microphone
    • A PA system
    • A vocal processor
    • Any effects equipment you depend on
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    Make your demo. Once you have polished a set of your own songs or covers, you’ll want to start recording material to use as a demo. Your recordings can be used to help get you gigs, contracts, and other opportunities. You can book time at a professional studio (which can be expensive), but it is fairly easy to make a decent recording in a home studio using consumer-grade computers and software.[23]
    • For most demo purposes, you only need about 4 songs. You can always record more if you want, however, and choose the best ones.
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    Get a manager. A manager can help you find gigs, be promoted, make contacts, negotiate contracts, earn more money, and develop your career.[24] You can look for professional managers in your area, or even ask a friend or family member to help you out.
    • Professional managers will charge a fee, which may be a percentage of what you earn from gigs and other sources. Make sure to get a written contract you can both agree on.
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    Send out your demo. Your manager can help you send your demo out to clubs, radio stations, record labels, etc. as you seek opportunities.[25][26] Make sure your demo showcases your strongest work, and puts your most accessible work first.[27] Along with the demo itself, you should also consider including a brief cover letter and/or resume that lists your experience and achievements as a singer.
    • Contemporary demos might not be a physical cd or item, but a set of tracks online. Either way, the same considerations apply.
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    Get connected. In this day and age, if you want to make it as a singer, you need some kind of online presence.[28] Make professional profiles for yourself on various social media, post recordings and videos of yourself performing, and look into getting your music listed with streaming and download services.
    • It may be harder to make money directly by streaming, but it might get your name out there and encourage people to come see you perform.
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    Refine your look. Self-image and appearance are important for singers.[29] As a performer, you are projecting an image of yourself and the style of music you specialize in. The clothes you wear, the way you move, and other physical aspects of performing are important. Think carefully about how you want to use your look to relate to an audience as well as to convey what makes you unique.
    • For instance, if you want to perform classical music, it usually makes sense to wear formal clothing. If you want to set yourself apart, however, you might perform Beethoven in a t-shirt and torn jeans.
    • Likewise, if you are into goth rock, your audience might find it strange if you show up for performances wearing overalls and a cowboy hat. Then again, this might get you noticed.
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    Promote, promote, promote. To “make it,” most singers need to tirelessly promote themselves.[30] Don’t let any opportunity pass by. In addition to seeking gigs and recording opportunities, you can also:
    • Network at events like SXSW[31]
    • Sell merchandise with your logo or name (t-shirts, stickers, hats, cds, etc.)
    • Make a press kit to share your identity as a singer


  • Take good care of your instrument: your voice. Drink a lot of water, stay away from smoking and too much alcohol, eat right, and get plenty of rest.
  • Make a group to perform with so that you won't be lonely on stage trembling.


  • You'll likely face a lot of rejection with this career path. If you know you don't handle rejection well, you may want to consider an alternative.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Singing