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Is Singing Easy?

Tessa performing on stage with Eric Clapton

There exists a perception, amongst the public, that singing is somehow easy – says Tessa Niles.

Tessa Niles is one of the most successful backing vocalists of all time, performing with Eric Clapton, David Bowie, Sting and Robbie Williams.

She sets the record straight on the work it takes to be a great singer.

I’ve had many people say to me “It’s pretty much like speaking, isn’t it?” So, where to begin…

Being largely self-taught, I marvel at the amount of help available for singers to fully reap the rewards of their beautiful instrument.

Coaching, online info and even college courses should serve to create a generation of technically adept, respected and expert singers. So why is a career as a singer often viewed as a soft option?

Whilst involved in research recently, I popped into the British Library to search for statistics on how many singers are working in Britain today. To my great surprise, I found almost no data. Largely because singers work at both professional and amateur levels and the numbers can’t be tracked.

In general, data on career choices tend to come from higher education institutions. Could this be a reason why it appears to the public that singing is easy? Because singers by and large don’t have accreditation?

What’s easy about singing?

1. Opening your mouth and having a sound come out. Singers are fortunate to have their instruments built in, however this is just about where the easy bit ends.

What’s not easy about singing?

  1. Everything! As with anyone wanting to perform at a professional level, a singer must master all aspects of their field.
  2. The technical and physical side of singing is hard and the fragile instrument can be easily damaged.
  3. Performance and execution require precision and dedication.
  4. Building the emotional resilience necessary to sustain a career as a singer is a very real challenge.

Now that we know singing is not easy what else could be contributing to this misconception?

Maybe the Saturday night T.V competitions have dumbed singing down in the public’s eyes. Perhaps the viewer values a compelling backstory and a few vocal gymnastics over hearing an emotional message conveyed.

Just because something appears to be executed with ease doesn’t mean it’s simple to do.

Becoming not only a great singer, but a great performer is very much a journey and there are so many aspects to being a performer that one can only really learn by actually doing. Both theory and practical knowledge is key.

So, the next time someone suggests singing is easy make sure you:

  1. Raise your game by being the most professional you can be.This will help others respect your career choice.
  2. Invest in your own equipment. A great microphone, monitor system or in-ears if preferred. Make singing a level playing field with musicians who play and invest in their instruments. This will help ensure your voice has the long-term support it deserves.
  3. Practice – It doesn’t make perfect but it does make permanent.

My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry

Harini Padmanabhan Harini Padmanabhan - Me Myself and I

With smokey tones and gorgeous to watch, Harini is a confident performer. She has a lovely voice and she delivers the song well. She shows she can definitely interpret the piece but I’m not entirely convinced that Harini lets the listener see who she really is as an artist. With this choice of pop song, it’s hard to show the breadth of the voice and I have a feeling there is much more to her. Harini has a great tone and I’d love to hear her tackle a more challenging song. When choosing covers make sure you can show yourself in them.

Tessa NilesTessa Niles first entered the music scene in 1981 and has since become one of the best known session singers of the past three decades. Her first big break came when Sting asked her to join The Police on the Synchronicity world tour. With her versatile voice and ability to blend within a myriad of styles, Tessa has hundreds of recording credits and live appearances to her name.Tessa has recently turned author with her first book, a memoir titled ‘Backtrack’ – the voice behind music’s greatest stars. Recently described as ‘the most famous person you’ve probably never heard of’ Tessa proves that you can still shine brightly whilst in the background. www.tessaniles.com | www.backtrackbook.com

  • Sams_1

    true for opera singers too

  • Yavor Kresic

    Good article Tessa. Timing, phrasing, emotionally connecting with your lyrics. It is a journey and what a trip it is. When I’m able to deliver the songs I wrote and make an emotional connection with the audience, it is so rewarding.