Frank Sinatra's style brings to mind many descriptive words, including "smooth," "laid back," "sexy" and "seductive." Singing sounded as if it was the easiest thing in the world for Sinatra to do, as if he was born with that mellow voice and never needed to practice. But in fact, Sinatra studied his craft intensely and worked hard to accomplish complete control over his sound. Therefore, to emulate Sinatra's singing requires learning to master certain techniques.
Sinatra's classic style -- the one he used for most of his songs -- has a relaxed sound to it. To emulate this requires no detectable tension in the mouth or throat. As soon as those muscles tighten, the singer begins to sound "tight" or forced and harsh. Tension in the throat also may lead to a voice that tires quickly or vocal cords that develop bumps or "nodes" that adversely affect singing.
Phrasing Is Key
When Sinatra was young, he studied musicians in Tommy Dorsey's orchestra and learned to emulate their long phrasing. As Tony Bennett, friend and admirer of Sinatra, confessed in a Vanity Fair article, "I was amazed at how Frank...learned to extend his breathing, which gave him better vocal control and the ability to sing two or three sentences before taking another breath. That subtle and elegant nuance kept a listener hanging on every word ... ."
Volume Speaks Volumes
Sinatra used volume to add expressiveness to his singing. When he wanted an intimate, warm, seductive feeling, he held the mic almost to his lips and sang very quietly -- sometimes almost in a whisper. When he wanted to convey anger, determination or similar emotions, he sang loudly with an open throat, pulling the mic well away from his mouth. To sound like Sinatra, a singer must think about the emotions behind the song and use volume to help express them.
Tony Bennett also quoted Sinatra on another element of his legendary style: "When I sing, I believe. I’m honest.” Emotional honesty, Bennett says, was one of the most important keys to Sinatra's vocal success and what set him apart from crooners before him, such as Bing Crosby. "The singers who are the most honest are the ones who become immortalized," Bennett said. Exposing your heart while you sing is a key element in sounding more like Sinatra.
- Vanity Fair: That Old Sinatra Magic
- The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults; James C. McKinney
Kristina Seleshanko began adult life as a professional singer and actress, working on both the West and East coasts. She regularly sang jazz in nightclubs, performed in musical theatre, and sang opera and pop. Later, Seleshanko became the author of 18 books, and has written for such publications as "Woman's Day," "Today's Christian Woman," and "True West." Seleshanko has also been a writing coach, a research librarian for "Gourmet" magazine, and a voice teacher.