Singing with background music may seem daunting at first, but the music is helpful. Prerecorded and live music help the singer stay on key and keep proper timing, either of which may be difficult when singing a capella.
Replay a Recording
Listen to a recording of the song including vocals many times over until you have a feel for the changes, timing and vocal styling. Sing along with the song, doing your best to sing the lyrics along with the recorded voice. If necessary, write or print out the lyrics to make it easier to follow along. Singing in this manner offers a relaxed, pressure-free way to learn the song without an audience and without stressing over every single note; the goal at this point is to be comfortable and familiar with the material.
Amplify Your Voice
Sing along with the backing music -- with vocals intact -- using a microphone. Play both the original music and your voice through speakers or headphones so you can hear what you sound like in context as you sing. If you don't have a regular microphone, sing along to the song through the built-in microphone in your computer or phone while the recorded song plays in the background. Record yourself with an audio-recording program on your phone or computer; several free options allow you to record while playing back, resulting in layered tracks. An external recording device may be used as well. Play back the recording to hear whether you are hitting the notes and keeping time with the music. Your voice is an instrument; just like with any other musical instrument, it takes practice to perform a song well. Keep at it until you are satisfied with the results.
Eliminate the Backing Vocals
Sing along to the song again, this time using a karaoke version of the song without vocals, or a musical instrument such as a guitar, strumming chords in time. Ask a musician to help out, even if you play, so you don't have to pay attention to the instrument and your voice as you learn the material. Allowing someone else to do the playing also ensures she'll keep time; you otherwise may be tempted to stop and start or slow down during a tricky musical passage. A karaoke track may be a better option at first because it sounds more like the recording with which you are familiar. Sing along with the recorded or live music several times, singing with confidence as if imitating a singer who you think has a good command of the stage.
Tackling Live Performance
If singing in front of others seems frightening -- even some professional singers feel this way at times -- before taking to the stage, pretend the audience isn't there, as if you're singing in the shower or in your car. Recall the level of confidence noted in your favorite singer and stand up tall, as if you are that confident as well. Standing tall also helps project your voice better than slouching over or sitting down. The more you sing in front of others, the easier it becomes. Vibe off the music to help stay in the groove and mood of the song, or look to a smiling audience member if that brings you relief as you sing.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.