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3 Secrets About Pop Singers They'll Never Tell You In College

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

You may have worked as a band singer. If you have, you probably already know these three things.

If you have never worked regularly as a band singer, read on. You need to know.


Here's the broadcast. Or, CLICK HERE to view it on youtube


Sometimes we voice experts are like Washington politicians: we think our world is the whole world.

The truth is that the majority of paying gigs in any city - bar, restaurant, hotel, and private gigs - are not being played by people with college degrees in music.

When a microphone-music singer comes to you, it’s for a reason.

  • They has a new opportunity.

  • They've been fronting the band and are worried about their voice.

  • Their band has gone from playing one gig a week to three gigs a week.

  • They need to be able to sing the songs they’re writing.

Knowing a few realities about your band-singer clients can:

  • Establish trust

  • Encourage meaningful exchanges

  • Allow you to be your most effective

  • Encourage the singer to study with you long enough for you to help them.

Maybe your student aspires to perform in a band, but hasn’t yet. You can help them prepare them for the world they'd like to be a part of.

Maybe they’re already gigging. In that case you can help them appropriately. You can be the pro they can trust to help them with their voice.


Whether your new client is a 15-year-old singer-songwriter or a 60-year-old blues singer, whether they've been fawned over whenever they've opened their musical mouths, or have been quietly singing in their bedrooms, whether they're lacking confidence or strutting their stuff, you should assume that they like the way they sing.

When a band singer or singer/songwriter comes to you, that singer is coming to you because they want something from their voice that they are unable to create. They have a problem they’ve been unable to solve themselves.

You have to communicate to them that you want to help them solve their problem(s), not change the way they sing. Because, except for their perceived problem, they think their singing is fine.

A couple of things about that...

The way they sing may not be fine

It may be out of tune, they may be straining, or super breathy, or any number of things that are fine in small doses (in microphone styles) but are really not what anyone wants as a default sound. You’ll get around to introducing them to alternative ways to sing later. But they typically don’t experience their singing as problematic. They just have a problem. Start with accepting their singing without criticism.

It’s likely they think their problem is unique to them.

No kidding. Even when their challenges are the typical stuff. If you assure them that their problem is one that is shared by other singers, and that you have a program for that, that will go a long way in building their trust.


In the world of theatrical and classical singing, decisions about sound, artistry, technique, and performance are typically shared decisions. The singer shares these decisions with voice teachers, directors, conductors, and often with the requirements of the genre itself.

This is generally not true in microphone singing. With some exceptions - a tribute band, for instance - the singer gets to decide what their singing sounds like. Your client is taking their musical cues from other artists, not from the requirements of a certain genre. If you want to help them realize their musical expression, then you need to be able to empower them to express themselves as they want to.


There’s no definitive answer to this issue, but I want to call your attention to it.

Many voice teachers feel very strongly about teaching their students the skills of written music. There’s a lot to be said for having these skills. Personally, I’m grateful that I have those skills. I find them empowering. However, I learned them in an environment where learning them was not optional and I had ample time and opportunity to practice those skills. This will probably not be true of your band singer or singer/songwriter.

You need to know if your student really wants to learn the skills of reading and understanding written music. If they don’t, they won’t. They won’t practice, they won’t learn, and you may be costing yourself some of their trust.

As band singers, it’s highly unlikely that they’re in an environment that requires these skills. In their world, music is seldom written down. If there’s anything written down, it’s chord symbols that are written above lyrics. Musicians learn by ear. They remember things by inventing their own personal shorthand.

What they need to know

Your band singer needs to know:

  • what a key is and how it affects them

  • what song form is and how to communicate it

  • what a chordal progression is, and what some familiar progressions are

  • how chords work: melody and harmony part

In other words, they need to know the skills and language that is pertinent in a band rehearsal or in the writing of a song.

If your singer is young and inexperienced, you can be the person they trust to help them learn to front a band. If your singer is already working and has vocal limitations standing between them and what they really want from their singing, you can be the person to help free their voice.

Meredith Colby, October 2021


Meredith Colby is available for private voice and

vocal coaching, as well as classes, seminars

and workshops. Click here to get more information.

Want to dig a little deeper?
Download this free mini-ebook.

Colorful and an easy read, this little book-cicle will tell you what you need to know about your singers of popular styles!

#meredithcolby blog post and video about #voicelessons, #vocalcoaching, and #teachingvoice. The subject is about making #voicelessons appropriate for #singers of #CCM, #popularstyles, #bandsingers, #songwriters and calling out the typical #disconnect between #vocalcoaches and #voicestudents. Meredith is a #voicecoach, a #vocalcoach, and a #voiceteacher from #chicago. She helps #voiceteachers and #vocalcoaches teach for #popularstyles and #microphonestyles by teaching privately, supplying helpful content, and offering a #certificationclass in #neurovocalmethod.

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