Many people can "sing" a song. In order to be considered a "real" singer, you need to go above and beyond hitting the right notes to a point where the vocal performance is strong and full of emotion. Whether or not you're looking to be a professional or amateur, there are certain requirements that music fans and industry insiders look for in a singer.
Without a doubt, nothing else matters for a singer with a bad voice unless she has millions of dollars in marketing money and an incredible auto-tune program. A strong voice is essential to becoming a singer. Singers need to be able to project without shouting, as this not only sounds bad but damages the voice. Singers need to possess a wide range as to accommodate different pitches that come in different parts of songs. Singers need to know from where and how to sing, such as from the diaphragm and not the throat. Singers need to be able to control their breaths within pauses in phrases, as not to disrupt the flow of a song or have their voice trail off at the end of a phrase.
An effective performance requires extra effort. Singers need to be able to use their dynamic voice to display the array of emotions different songs ask for. Great singers can bounce back and forth from sad ballads to upbeat dance songs. Part of the reason why people call Aretha Franklin the "Queen of Soul" is that she puts so much emotion into her performance; just listen to "Respect." This is important in a recording situation, but especially important when singing on a stage. A singer needs to be able to entertain the audience. Even the greatest singer in the world could put on a bad performance if no emotion or personality comes through in the vocals. Audiences crave authenticity and can spot a fake a mile away.
World-famous singers continue to take lessons and train their voice throughout their lifetime, in order to better themselves and keep their voices intact and at their best. Prospective singers should devote themselves to their craft just as tenaciously if they expect to get better or potentially make a career out of it. Singers should take private voice lessons and participate in choirs and other singing situations. If possible, singers should seek degrees in vocal performance and familiarize themselves with music theory, in order to learn the ins and outs of melody and harmony. As singing professionally is a hard field to break into, singers need to have perseverance and be willing to handle criticism and rejection. Singers should possess good networking skills and make friends in the music industry to score opportunities.
James Gilmore has written professionally since 2005. Since then, he has written and proofread obituaries for "The Press & Sun-Bulletin" in Binghamton, N.Y., press releases for "Goals, Seminars and Consultants" and articles for Made Man and various other websites. He writes a good deal of music-related content and holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Ithaca College.