How to Become a Singer: The Definitive Guide
In this guide, we’ll show the tips and tricks it takes & how to become a singer.
Not many of us can say we haven’t fantasized about taking centre stage, having a spotlight illuminate us in a crowded theatre, and singing our hearts out to a cheering audience.
Yet, though many people dream of becoming a singer, few actually take the steps to pursue this passion.
Becoming a singer — be it at an amateur or professional level — is no small task. Achieving exceptional proficiency in singing can take many years of practice and commitment, while building a successful singing career takes excellent business acumen.
Many would argue a successful career in singing takes a heavy dose of luck as well — but as the late hip-hop legend Nipsey Hussle once said:
“Luck is just bein’ prepared at all times, so when the door opens you’re ready.”
This guide is here to help you prepare for the road ahead. Becoming a singer takes tremendous time, effort, and confidence — but with the right preparation, you can overcome the challenges thrown your way along your journey into the world of singing.
To better steer you through the steps to becoming a singer, we have divided this guide into four parts:
- Part 1: Who Can Become a Singer?
- Part 2: Getting Started as a Singer
- Part 3: Improving Your Singing Ability
- Part 4: Pursuing a Career in Singing
Keep reading to learn all about how to become a singer!
Part 1: Who Can Become a Singer?
In theory, anyone who wants to can become a singer.
However, not everyone is well-suited to the reality of becoming a singer. Much hard work is needed to master the craft of singing at both an amateur and professional level.
With enough dedication and lots of practice, anyone has the potential to become a singer. Although, a few key characteristics and skills can give a person an advantage in pursuing the path of performance.
Before diving into the specifics of how to become a singer, we must examine these characteristics and skills a bit closer. Understanding the core requirements for becoming a singer can help you decide what the first step is the best choice for your journey specifically.
Without further ado, let’s jump into the requirements to become a singer.
Requirements to Become a Singer
The requirements for becoming a singer can vary from person to person. For instance, someone who is born into a family of musicians may have access to more educational and industry resources than someone who is born into a family of accountants.
Though having a familial connection to the music industry can certainly give you a leg up, you can still pursue a life and career in singing if you do not come from a musical background.
Moreover, you do not need to meet every single requirement for becoming a singer right away.
Taking an inventory of which boxes you can check off can give you a better idea of where you stand compared to your peers. Think of this list of requirements as more of a jumping-off point from which you can determine which areas of your career to focus on first.
With this in mind, here are the basic requirements for becoming a singer:
- Musical Proficiency: Musical proficiency refers to your talent in a given field of music. For singers, this refers to not just your raw vocal talent but also your physical singing stamina, your understanding of music theory, and your ability to maintain control over your voice.
- Creativity: Creativity is an essential skill for anyone who plans to write and create their own music. Even if you plan on singing music written by someone else, having a strong sense of creativity allows you to bring your own character and style to a piece of music.
- Education: Pursuing an academic pathway in music is not necessarily a requirement but it can be an excellent choice for building industry connections. Following a higher education path for music can also help you to hone your craft further and gain access to more difficult career paths in the industry, such as opera and Broadway performance.
- Business Support: Once you have heightened your singing skills sufficiently, you will also need the business resources to get your music out there. The nature of these resources can vary depending on the exact career path you choose but can often include management, music distribution, recording equipment, and music production.
- Dedication: Stating dedication as a requirement to becoming a singer may sound obvious but it is one of the most important requirements to take seriously. Thousands — if not millions — of people are pursuing this same career path. Those that make it and make a living for themselves are the ones who stay true to their dedication and find the ideal pathway that works for them.
Is this the Right Article for You?
If you have landed on this article, you are more than likely in the midst of your singing journey.
Regardless of what stage you are at, this article can help guide you to where you need to get next. We cover everything from the very beginning steps of becoming a singer to figuring out the exact career path you want to choose and how to achieve it.
The most important thing to remember is that your journey is your own.
While comparing yourself to your peers is tempting — and, at times, necessary — you should strive to build a sense of confidence in yourself that is not knocked down by the success of others.
Treat this article as an essential resource for helping you to establish that confidence and feel more assured along your journey to becoming a singer.
Part 2: Getting Started as a Singer
If you are brand new to the world of singing, first and foremost, welcome!
In this part of the guide, we are covering the basics of becoming a singer, including the first key steps to take on your journey. Here, we discuss topics such as learning to accept criticism, getting singing instruction, and choosing your first tasks to focus on.
For anyone familiar with the beginning stages of becoming a singer, feel free to skip to Part 3: Improving Your Singing Ability or Part 4: Pursuing a Career in Singing. Alternatively, stick around as we cover these basic first steps — you may even learn something new.
Let’s start by breaking down the initial 8 steps to take to start your quest to become a singer.
7 First Steps for Becoming a Singer
By deciding to become a singer, you have already made it over the first major hurdle — making that decision in the first place.
Many people feel fear around trying new things, especially if they are not experienced in the thing they choose. Thus, making the choice to dive in and begin learning a new skill — and potentially even altering your career path — is a huge decision indeed.
After the excitement of deciding to become a singer has worn off, you may find yourself asking:
“What should my next steps be? Where do I go from here?”
To help you through these initial growing pains, we have outlined 7 key steps to follow in the early stages of your singing journey. With the help of these steps, you can find more comfortable footing and begin honing your singing craft on a deeper level.
Here are our 7 first steps for becoming a singer:
- Learn to Accept Rejection & Criticism: As a performer, you will inevitably face rejection and criticism from audiences, peers, and businesspeople. While you should certainly develop a thick skin that can handle this type of commentary, you should also maintain an open mind. Receiving rejection and criticism can often help you identify problems in your current strategy or skillset, allowing you to work to revise those specific issues.
- Network with Your Successful Peers: Finding industry connections is an important step in any career path, but especially those in the creative arts-centric fields. Work to get to know people and establish connections with other singers who are further along their professional journeys. Ask them questions and learn from their successes as much as possible. You may even find a professional mentor who can provide you with additional resources and guidance.
- Sing as Much as Possible: If you are going to be a singer, then you need to sing. Just like any skill or craft, maintaining your singing talent comes down to practice. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become with hearing your own voice and performing in front of others. Moreover, you will become more familiar with your abilities, giving you more creative freedom to stylize pieces of music to match your vocal aesthetic.
- Improve Your Singing Skills: Simply singing all day every day is not enough to improve your singing ability. Along with practicing singing, you should also seek out professional lessons, as well as develop a healthy practicing routine that includes warm-ups. Having a well-planned-out approach to improving your singing skills is crucial to developing specific vocal skills.
- Have a Go-To Song: Let’s face it — people are going to ask you to sing to them. Whether it’s friends and family, casting agents, record labels, or anyone in between, having a go-to song you can turn to for showing off your vocal abilities is essential. When just starting out, this can be your favourite song from another artist that shows off the scope of your singing abilities. As you create your more music, however, you should ideally pick a go-to song from your own music.
- Believe in Yourself and Your Dreams: Confidence is key to a successful career in singing. The music industry is tough and not everyone is going to see or understand your vision for yourself. What is most important is having a strong belief in your ability to accomplish your goals and find the right label or business team to match these goals.
- Set Achievable Goals: The sky is the limit when you are dreaming big — but if you are starting from ground level, setting your first goal as jumping straight into the sky is unreasonable. It is crucial to set achievable goals that attack your larger goals in smaller, bite-sized chunks. For example, rather than setting the goal to get a music agent, you can instead set the goal to research different agents and schedule consultations with two or three.
Do You Need Singing Lessons to be a Singer?
If you think vocal powerhouses like Beyoncé, Adele, and Ariana Grande step up onto a stage and sing without a single lesson or rehearsal, think again.
Even if you naturally have an incredible vocal talent, singing lessons are key to learning how to control your voice and maintain consistent vocals throughout a performance.
Of course, in-person lessons are not always the most accessible option, especially for people living outside of major cities.
Luckily, the internet is full of high-quality online singing courses that can help get you where you need to be with the help of professional musicians, all from the comfort of your home.
When taking an online singing course, the biggest consideration is personal responsibility.
In-person singing courses have the added pressure of an instructor that you must see face-to-face for each lesson. Online lessons can sometimes feel more laidback and often designed to be self-led, making it easier to shirk off the responsibility of practice between lessons.
This brings us back to our earlier point on the importance of dedication. It is up to you to take the responsibility for practicing and improving your singing skills, regardless of how you receive lessons.
Plus, the complete-at-your-own-pace style of online singing courses can be a great convenience for anyone who is currently working a full-time job and needs to spread out their lessons and practice time among odd hours of the day.
Is it Hard to Become a Famous Singer?
To put it as straightforward as possible — yes, it is hard to become a famous singer.
It is not unreasonable to expect someone with the goal of becoming a singer to also strive for fame. After all, fame is often used as a measurement of a singer’s level of success within the music industry.
Yet, just because you may not achieve the same fame as today’s top dogs in the music industry does not mean you cannot still have a vibrant career in singing.
If becoming famous is your only real goal, then singing may not be the career path for you. However, this goal of fame can be applied excellently in other areas of the music industry, such as within marketing or public relations departments.
However, if becoming famous is just one piece in a much larger set of goals you have set for becoming a singer, fret not — the power of digital and social media has made it more possible than ever to achieve varying levels of fame that can help you build a loyal and long-lasting fanbase.
We discuss the role of social media in the music industry more at the end of Part 4 of this guide, so stick around to learn how you can leverage social media to your advantage as a singer.
What to Focus on First for Your Singing Career
You have made it to the end of Part 2: Getting Started as a Singer. To wrap up, let’s quickly recap some of the most important things to focus on as you begin this journey:
- Set Goals & Practice: Setting achievable goals and committing to a consistent practice and rehearsal schedule will take you a long way in the early days of your singing journey.
- Be Ready for Rejection & Criticism: Negative opinions are abundant in the music industry, especially when it comes to newcomers. Allow your skin to thicken and take the negativity in stride while still looking for the valid criticism you can apply to improve your skills.
- Build Your Sense of Confidence: Confidence is key as a singer. Your sense of confidence is how you will develop a thicker skin, as well as how you will maintain your internal drive and passion along your way to becoming a singer.
- Network, Network, Network: Establishing industry connections is paramount. This can help you find mentors, labels, production companies, and everything else you will need as you step into the world of professional singing.
Part 3: Improving Your Singing Ability
As you become more deeply entwined in the music industry, you must not allow your singing ability to fall to the wayside in favour of marketing and brand-building.
Improving your singing ability is essential for not just creating better music but also for opening up new opportunities within your career. For example, if you cannot read sheet music, you may miss out on the chance to sing in a theatrical production or voice an animated character in a musical.
Additionally, improving your singing can also help you determine which singing career path is right for you. Not everyone’s voice is the same and different voices are suited to different types of music.
Keep this thought in mind as we jump first into the different styles of singing.
Understanding Different Singing Styles
Figuring out what type of singing style your voice is best suited for is a highly important step when working to become a singer.
Singing styles can be divided into many categories. The two main factors that determine what category a singing style falls into include:
- Voice Type: There are six total voice types generally recognized in the music industry — soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, and bass. Sopranos can sing the highest notes, while basses can sing the lowest notes. Women are generally sopranos or altos, while men are generally tenors or basses. Voice types are not gender-exclusive, it is just rare to find a man with a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or alto voice or a woman with a tenor, baritone, or bass voice.
- Musical Genre: Singing style is highly dependent on the genre of music of a piece of work. There’s no denying that a Broadway musical is much different than a rap song — but how exactly are the respective musicians altering and using their voices to apply the final result? Genre greatly affects the tone and technique of a person’s singing style. Many singers even specialize their training to learn the specifics of one particular genre.
These days, there are more musical genres than we can count, with each genre comprised of numerous sub-genres to complicate the matter further. Learning about different singing styles according to genre requires you to pay attention to these sub-genres and note the subtle differences.
In general, your voice type is thought to be inherent to you, while your musical genre is the component of your singing style you have more freedom of choice over.
However, with proper vocal training, using a different voice type is possible, and some people are just born with voices that are well-suited to a specific genre.
The point is this — your voice is going to be naturally inclined toward a specific style. Choosing to train in this style is often your path of least resistance but if you want to train in a different style, you have the freedom to do so.
Vocal Warm-Ups for Singers
Vocal warm-ups are a very important component of any practice or rehearsal routine.
A person’s vocal cords are sensitive and need proper care. Think of it like this — an athlete doesn’t join a sports team and immediately jump into a game. Instead, they spend a significant amount of time stretching and warming up before even beginning to practice.
Why? Because warm-ups prevent injuries.
Your vocal cords can become damaged if you strain them too often or for too long while singing. Plus, your vocal cords often need to be warmed up before you can fully utilize your singing skills.
Vocal warm-ups help to prevent damage and injuries to your vocal cords by ensuring they are engaged and prepared for work before you begin singing.
To learn about vocal warm-ups and which ones to practice, we suggest taking introductory vocal courses that cover the basics of warming up before a singing session. This will help you to learn different warm-up and breathing exercises that work best for your voice.
Can You Learn to Sing High Notes?
When it comes to whether or not you can learn to sing high notes, the answer is — maybe!
Technically, anyone can learn to sing higher notes with enough time and practice. However, not everyone’s voice can achieve the highest notes possible. Different voice types can typically only hit notes within a set range that is still comfortable for their vocal cords.
Hitting notes outside of that range is more difficult, especially the higher you go. With extensive training, you may be able to learn to hit notes above your range.
It is very rare for someone to begin in one voice type and ascend more than one type above their current one (for instance, an alto may use vocal training to be a mezzo-soprano but end up unable to train as a soprano).
Yale University lists the following as the note ranges for each voice type (ordered highest to lowest note):
- Soprano: C4 to A5 (singers who can reach the highest C6 notes are uncommon)
- Mezzo-Soprano: A3 to F5
- Alto: F3 to D5
- Tenor: B2 to G4
- Baritone: G2 to E4
- Bass: E2 to C4
What Age Should I Start Singing?
Children can begin singing at any age once they have gained the ability to speak. A child’s voice typically becomes more developed around age 4, which is regarded as the youngest age to begin singing lessons.
In terms of when a child can begin formal singing instruction, this depends on the child’s propensity for following rules and listening to authority. Generally between the ages of 7 to 10 are when children have gained enough maturity to cooperate and work effectively with a vocal coach.
Singing from a young age can also help a person gain musical and vocal competency from a younger age. A person who has been taking singing instructions since childhood will inherently have better control and understanding of their voice than someone who has just begun learning in adulthood.
Here are four ways you can learn to sing at any age:
- Get Private Singing Lessons: Taking private lessons is often the most effective but also the most expensive way to learn to sing and improve your skills. With a private vocal coach, you receive one-on-one time with an instructor who can tailor the lessons to your exact voice type.
- Study Your Favourite Singers: Studying your favourite singers and their discographies is a great way to learn to sing from home. When studying your chosen singers, pay attention to how they stylize their voices and play with tone, harmony, and more.
- Join a Theatre or Pantomime Troupe: Theatre and pantomime groups generally involve some level of musical practice. This is especially true for theatrical musicals which require an entire cast to sing. Not only can this give you practice in a more formal setting but it can also help you learn to read sheet music without having to take the academic route to music.
- Join a Choir: Choirs are an excellent choice for honing your skills, as you must ensure you maintain control over your voice to make it sound good in harmony with your other choir members. Additionally, joining a choir can be a good way to find out what voice type you have, or even try out different voice types to see which best fits your vocal range.
How Do I Know if I Have a Good Singing Voice?
For anyone who is just starting to sing and does not have much experience singing in front of other people, you may wonder if you even have a good singing voice to begin with.
Even if your tone and pitch are off, you may still have a strong voice that just needs training.
One of the best ways to initially assess your singing voice is simply to record yourself and then listen back to your recording. While it can be uncomfortable at first to listen to your own recorded voice, doing this regularly can help you identify problems in your vocal performance and assess your improvement over time.
When assessing your vocal performance, ask yourself these 4 key questions:
Can I Sing Without Straining My Voice? Strain in your voice occurs when you are hitting notes above or below your natural range. However, strain can also occur if you are not using the proper breathing techniques. Learning to breathe correctly while singing can greatly improve the overall quality of your voice, as well as reduce the amount of strain you feel while singing.
Can I Enunciate Well? As you sing the words of the song, it is crucial to ensure that each word is clear for the audience to understand. Without the right level of enunciation, a song can end up sounding like gibberish. Enunciating while singing takes practice and paying close attention to each word that flows out of your mouth.
Can I Sing In-Tune? The ability to sing in tune is a major factor in determining the quality of your singing voice. Some people have the inherent ability to find a tune, while others struggle with it more. Using a headphone playing the piece of music in your ear as you sing can help you to stay in tune and re-find the tune when you lose it.
Can I Sing Consistently? Singing takes physical stamina. The ability to sing consistently comes from many different sources, including regular practice and proper self-care. If you hear your voice losing its quality and consistency, it may be a sign that you are straining your voice too far and either need to take a break or work on increasing your singing stamina.
Part 4: Pursuing a Career in Singing
Once you have learned to sing, established a consistent practice and rehearsal schedule, and have the right approach to improving your singing abilities, you can finally begin pursuing your career as a singer.
Chances are, you have likely already taken several steps toward this goal while learning to sing.
Music professionals like singing instructors can serve as excellent mentors who can provide a multitude of resources and industry connections for you to leverage. Likewise, if you have been networking among your peers, you should have at least one or two connections to more established singers who have experienced some level of success in the industry.
With a healthy dose of confidence in yourself, you can use these connections and your skills to get in touch with relevant professionals, such as music label representatives or casting agents.
Let’s now take a look at what it takes to pursue a career in singing.
Do I Need to Study Music to Pursue a Singing Career?
Everyone who pursues a career in singing should study music — but studying music does not mean you need a formal college degree.
While studying music at a collegiate level can certainly give you advantages, it is not the end-all-be-all of becoming a professional musician. In fact, many of the industry-leading singers of today do not come from extensive educational backgrounds.
However, though collegiate education is not a must for pursuing a career in singing, learning about singing styles, your vocal range, and your target music genres are.
What Does a Professional Singer Do in the Music Industry?
The music industry is a diverse landscape of all types of musicians, including a plethora of singers.
While a professional singer has many job opportunities within the music business, a few stand out as the most viable career paths. These include:
One of the simpler ways to begin making money in the music industry as a singer is to offer private singing lessons. Of course, to work as a vocal coach, you must have a solid command of your own voice and abilities. Having a degree in music can also be helpful for anyone opting for an educational career path in singing.
Session musicians are those who, rather than building a musical brand around their own performance persona, lend their skills to other artists making music. For instance, a successful backing vocalist will often work as a session musician when not on tour with another artist.
A performer is the most well-known occupation of a singer and can include such jobs as a solo artist, a lead singer for a band, an opera singer, a lead vocalist for a choir, or a singer-actor in a theatrical production. Performance singers must also learn to develop their stage presence and live performance skills.
Singer-songwriters are singers who focus on writing songs for both themselves and other artists. A singer-songwriter career path allows you to use your gift for writing songs to make a living, regardless of whether you sing your own songs or not. As a singer, finding songwriting inspiration is the key to learning how to write songs that succeed.
Finally, we have the voice actor career path for singers. This is similar to being a performer, except that you are rarely seen when voice acting. Instead, you must use your voice to do the acting for you. Professional singers who choose to pursue careers as voice actors often focus on animated musicals and television commercials.
How Do I Become a Professional Singer?
To become a professional singer, you would proceed as you would with any other career path — look for opportunities everywhere and apply to as many as you can.
Many professional musicians who are just starting their careers rely on a hustle attitude to carry them through the harder parts of their careers. Hustle logic is centered around working hard consistently each and every day to build your discography and fanbase.
Of course, you should always build in rest time to your professional schedule. Your time spent resting is crucial to prevent professional burnout that can set you back when starting your career.
Here is a quick list of do’s and do not’s for becoming a professional singer:
- Do: Reach out to industry professionals looking for job opportunities.
- Do Not: Fake interest in a person’s musical work just to gain their professional favor.
- Do: Send music samples to artists, labels, and other professionals you want to work with.
- Do Not: Repeatedly send the same or similar samples to the same people, especially if they have asked you not to send more.
- Do: Build a large library of music that you can showcase to other professionals.
- Do Not: Spend too much time developing your brand aesthetic as a singer rather than developing your vocal and singing aesthetic.
Is It Necessary to Audition to Become a Singer?
Auditions are not always necessary when becoming a singer but they are a common hurdle to encounter.
Jobs such as session musicians, voice actors, and performers are almost always subject to auditions when pursuing a career through established organizations (theatre production companies, music labels, etc.).
The key to a great audition — besides relentless practice — is selecting a song that matches the vocal aesthetic the casting agent is looking for.
For example, if you are auditioning for the lead soprano role in a Broadway play, choosing a lowkey folk-pop song that primarily features an alto range would not be your best choice. Instead, you would want to choose a song from a musical that matches the vocal range of the character you are auditioning for.
The Role of Social Media in Growing a Music Career
Social media has come to play a massive role in the growth of small musicians in recent years.
Platforms like TikTok make it possible to have a song go viral without having to be an established singer in the music business. Social media popularity has even made working as an independent artist a more viable option for professional singers who do not wish to sign label contracts.
Ignoring the role social media has come to play in the music industry is incredibly unwise — but so is relying on it too much.
As you build your brand as a singer and work to spread awareness about your music, use social media as you would any other professional tool. Treat it as an essential resource for connecting with your target audience but not as your main bread and butter (unless building a career in social media is your goal).
Final Thoughts: How Elevate Can Help You Become a Singer
Elevates online music courses helps you master the musical interests of your choice. With the help of Elevate, you can learn skills for both singing and entrepreneurship to give you the right foundation for building a successful singing career.
Explore our music courses today to learn more and sign up for a course!