John Fluker has coached Jennifer Lopez and worked extensively with Gladys Knight as her musical director and accompanist.
He shares a few tips so that singers can watch their singing style evolve and flourish.
1. Explore the colors of your voice
In order for a vocalist to create their own sound they will need to explore the full vocal scope of sounds their voice can make.
At the time same time, the vocalist may study and imitate the sound of their favorite vocalist(s) and incorporate specific sounds and inflections into his/her own vocal vocabulary.
I would explore the colors of my own voice more in depth and imitate the sound of a favorite vocalist who may have a more pleasing and appropriate tone to get out of my usual “natural tone.”
You may try singing certain phrases brighter or darker or more rounded to deviate from your “natural tone.”
2. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain
A vocalist like Chaka Khan may sing certain notes in an animated style, with wide vowels sounds emphasizing certain words and phrases for effect. I don’t think Chaka was going for the simple, safe and standard way of singing which helped her to stand out in a more unique way.
Singing a style like funk or something like that may go against the grain in certain areas of traditional vocal training.
3. Find your own song interpretation
Some singers will perform exactly like the artist they admire, hand movements and all. It takes away from what could be a unique performance.
If you learn a song by your favorite artist and perform the song note for note than you haven’t really given your “unique” point of view.
You may start by breaking the song down and singing it phrase by phase and emphasizing the words that standout from your point of view; using repetitions and runs and embellishments that are in different places and areas than what was original sung by the artist.
Taking an old piece of sheet music/hymn/folk song, where a recording may not be found, and exploring ways to make it come alive with your own voice may help you achieve a more authentic sound.
Gladys Knight once said Sammy Davis Jr. advised her – “If you believe it, they will believe it.” So, in that same vein – if you don’t “feel it” then most likely none else will.
4. Focus on performing your message
You have to be well rehearsed and confident with your sound and delivery. Practice a cappella so you know exactly what you sound like – confidently.
Then, when performing always focus on communicating to the audience, no matter what is happening on stage.
I’ve sung at a church where your notes went into the microphone but another brighter and piercing tone came out.
I did make a mental adjustment to darken and relax my tone but I had to keep singing and make sure the message wasn’t lost.
I made a lot of eye contact to keep me focused on the congregation and not the awful sound system.
John Fluker, L.A.-based pianist, composer, vocalist, arranger has performed for the Grammys® to the Nobel Peace Prize to the Michael Jackson Memorial concert. John has backed a roster of heavy hitters including Beyoncé, Dionne Warwick, Oleta Adams, Mavis Staples, Hinton Battle, John Legend, Boyz II Men, David Hasselhoff, Sam Harris, Ron Brown, Regina Belle, and Smooth Jazz saxophonist Michael Lington. Most notably, John has collaborated extensively with the legendary Gladys Knight. A highly sought after vocal coach, John can count among his clients Jennifer Lopez, Roselyn Sanchez, Kim Fields, Mary Hart, Florence La Rue, and Shawn King.