Rock Star Fantasies: Singing Lessons for American Idol and Karaoke Dreamers


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The running joke that everyone secretly wishes to be a rock star may not be off track. So many people long for the ability to sing, to sing more, to sing better.

And many of them feel that they can’t do it.

Whether you are actually working on a professional singing career or just want to have a better time in the shower, there are very specific things you CAN do in order to develop your sound, style and overall vocal production.

The first thing to remember is this: Madonna, Pavarotti, Bob Dylan, Wynonna Judd, Bernadette Peters, Jay-Z, Eric Clapton, Alicia Keyes, and Prince all can write SINGER on their passport. There are so many singers, so many sounds, and so many voices. Why can’t you be one of them, too?

Well, you can. You just need the passport to your voice.

First and foremost, you need to listen to music. To singers. To anyone and anything you can lay your hands on. CDs, concerts, television specials, movies, old recordings, the latest radio releases, whatever band, show or musical event is happening in your town. You may do this already. But now you get to do it with an eye (and an ear) towards your own musicality.

Start listening not just for your pleasure, but also for your abilities. When you notice someone doing something you like, try it yourself! Did someone just wail on the National Anthem? Go into your room and see how it feels to do the same thing. You may be terrible! But at least you have tried on some new notes for size. That’s awesome! Think of it as a shopping spree. You have a free pass to every mall in the country, and you get to decide what fits and what you are taking home with you. And whatever feels too tight or just doesn’t look as good as it did on the hanger…leave it in the dressing room without a second thought. You may surprise yourself and discover something you never knew you could do before! But most importantly, you are trying on everything.

Make sure you also experiment with music you think you hate. We tend to get into listening ruts and need to shake things up a little.

The great thing about expanding your musical horizons is that you will begin to notice more details. You will become able to break down the mechanics in a much more enlightened way. Including discovering aspects of singing that are universal whether you are Billie Holiday or Billy Joel. Then you can notice the fascinating ways they apply these abilities in such vastly different songs.

What’s playing in your hometown? And have you checked out music from your local library lately? Make sure to hit a section you normally would never look. This way you can hear new music but not have to invest in it if it ends up not being your cup of tea.

So, once you have narrowed down the huge possibilities of musical genres into the “I love this stuff " or to the “never again will this pass my lips", now it’s time to figure out what you are good at.


Because you need to decide something else as well…

What do you sing for pleasure? And what do you sing for profit?

You may love to sing standards, but your gritty sound is more suited to the blues. That’s cool. Sing standards for fun. Learn the blues for the public. This kind of self-awareness will save you from heartache later. You see it all the time on the initial “American Idol" preliminaries. People who have not listened with a discerning ear to their own voice. So instead of letting themselves shine, they simply sing what they like and are not brilliant at it. At all.

Again, you may have no desire to be a professional. But just imagine going to the next family gathering and shocking everyone with your beautiful rendition of “Happy Birthday" instead of the ‘too high for you, cracking on the final notes’ version everyone has come to expect. Just by knowing what sounds you make best, will have an amazing effect on you and the reception to your singing.

Michelle Cohen, is a professional actress and singer and a highly sought after producer/director/coach (she produced the Off-Broadway musical hit Schoolhouse Rock Live!)Her book Of Course You Can Sing! is devoted to helping undo years of unsupportive thoughts focusing on the fact that, no matter what anyone has ever told you, you can sing. Of course you can order at


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