How to Become a Singer (& Why it’s so Hard)


Take a break from your arpeggios and sit for a chat about what it takes to become a professional singer. We know that this is a career for those that are talented and passionate about music, so we did tons of research to see how you can make your dreams come true. Take a quick read of our little ditty and we’re sure you’ll be singing a happy tune in no time.

How to Become a Professional Singer

There aren’t any post-secondary schooling requirements to become a professional singer. However, those that are interested in classical music or opera, a bachelor’s degree at minimum will be needed. There is quite a lot of additional training and skill building that comes along with this type of schooling, thus its importance.

A lot of professional singers get there start in music theory or music performance degrees. Often times for admission, you will need to submit a recording of yourself or audition in person, there may be times when both are required even. During your time in one of these musically directed undergraduate programs, you will learn all about music history, styles and methods to improve your vocal skills and musical expression. Some students will feel the desire to continue their schooling beyond a bachelor’s degree. If this is the case, there are many master’s degree programs in the fine arts and music too.

To become a professional singer, you will need extensive, intense and continued training. You will need this amount of training to help you practice and maintain your vocal skills at a professional level. If you interested in becoming a professional singer it is likely that you have already had singing lessons since you were just a wee sprout. This continued training to become a professional singer will be an amped up version of that training.

The extra practicing and training can be done on your own time, but it’s a good idea to have someone there to train you. They will keep you on point and help you to sharpen your vocal abilities. You can also attend camps, fellowships and workshops for extra training in more specific vocal areas.

There is some room for growth in this industry but it doesn’t come in the form of promotions or titles. These advancements come in the form of bigger venues, larger audiences, better pay and sometimes will result in a contract of some sort. The broader your knowledge base is and the more you train, the better the odds of this happening to you are.

What Does a Professional Singer Do?

Yes, what indeed does a professional singer do? For starters, they do a whole lot more than just sing, so let’s find out the real deal!

Professional singers will perform a variety of vocals for different musical styles. It is common for singers to specialize in a specific vocal styling too. For example, a professional singer may have a particular affinity for singing opera or jazz. It is also pretty common for singers to be able to sing in different languages, such as Italian, Spanish or French. This is more common in opera than other genre’s, but it’s cool no matter which way you slice it.

You may start out as a backup singer when embarking on your career as a professional singer. In this position your goal will be to provide background vocals and harmonies for the lead singer. There will be times when you are required to go to auditions for jobs too, so keep that in the back of your noggin because that is part of the job as well.

There are some duties that you can expect to come along with the job territory and here they are:

  • Sing for live audiences and recordings
  • You may have to audition for positions. There auditions may require you to sing with orchestras, choruses, bands or some other types for music groups
  • Practice your skills as a singer to hone in on your technique and exercise your craft
  • Rehearse for specific performances. This is obviously similar to practicing, but rather than just singing scales or warm ups, you will be singing the actual material you were hired to sing.
  • Scout locations for performances
  • There will be times that you may have to travel a pretty good distance to perform
  • Market yourself and get your name out there.

Are There Important Qualities Needed to Become a Professional Singer?

Yep, there sure are! Having these qualities will sure make your job easier and more enjoyable. Lucky for you they can all be learned too, so if you feel that you are lacking in an area or two, no worries. In this case practice makes perfect…well as close to perfect as possible.

Dedication:

Real talk for a second. This is not an easy profession and auditioning can be super frustrating. You will likely have way more “no’s” that “yes’s”, but this is not a reflection of your talent. There are just a lot of other great singers out there too and it’s a competitive industry. You’ll want to be pretty dedicated to your craft to help you stay firm in your desire to pursue this path even if you encounter many rejections

Discipline:

This is a career where just having talent alone isn’t enough. You will pretty much have to eat, sleep and breathe singing if you want to get anywhere. There will be constant practicing and performing. You’ll have to mind all of your trebles and clefs to keep your voice in good shape.

Interpersonal Skills:

Being a professional singer will require you to work with a large variety of people. You’ll have to work with band mates, managers, producers, conductors and those that are employed in the industry (if not already listed). Having interpersonal skills is a very helpful quality when trying to build a working relationship and having it may just get you called back over the Prima Donna next to you.

Music talent:

This one is pretty obvious, right? As a singer you will need to have some super musical abilities. You’ll obviously need to have a great voice, but you’ll also want to be able to read music and understand all of the elements of it as well. It’s also super helpful if you can play an instrument as it will lend you with an extra leg up.

Physical Stamina:

It’s easy to assume that there isn’t a whole lot of physicality involved with singing, but that’s actually complete malarkey. It actually is a super physically demanding job and will wear your booty out if you don’t keep fit and healthy. There will be long nights of singing and you will need every ounce of energy you have to hit all of those powerhouse notes.

Promotional Skills:

 We mentioned this briefly a bit ago, but it deserves another, so here it goes. Market yourself! You are going to be your best sales person, so get out there and hustle. Get your name thrown out to local communities by word of mouth and social media. A good self-promoter will build an even better fan base.

Professional Singer Salary

A dollar will make you holler, so let’s talk about the salary expectations for professional singers. According to the awesome peeps at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a professional singer can expect to earn roughly $23.50 as of May 2012. There isn’t a median yearly salary for this position because most professional singers are hired by the hour, so hopefully that provides a bit of clarification for you. Also note that the lowest 10 percent of paid singers may earn an hourly wage of $8.81. On the flip side, the top 10 percent may earn an hourly rate of more than $65.24.

There will be variations in your expected hourly wage. These variations will depend on what industry you are employed in. The top three industries that employ professional singers are as follows:

  • Performing arts companies: Hourly rate – $26.72
  • Educational services; state, local and private: $20.46
  • Religious, grantmaking, civic, profession and similar organizations: $19.43

Professional Singer BLS

 

Schools to Become a Professional Singer

We mentioned earlier that there are some degree programs available that will help you hop along the path to becoming a professional singer. We researched a good deal of schools to find just the right ones to accurately display what options lie ahead for you. Take a look and let us know what you think!

Berklee College of Music

While studying at the Berklee College of Music, you will tap into your vocal range, hone in on your abilities and develop your own singing style. At this school, there isn’t a limit as to the direction you can head in. Instead you are encouraged to play around with different styles and interests that you may have. Having this extra bit of freedom with help you to challenge yourself, improve your ability and allows you to become a singer with a strong voice and identity.

Temple University – Boyer College of Music and Dance

The Boyer College of Music and Dance through Temple University has a program for professional singers. This program is dedicated to providing high quality training to students with a focus on their vocal practice. The teachers at this school want each of their students to live up to their highest vocal abilities in all areas, such as: dictation and language, music styles and live performance skills.

The Boyer College of Music and Dance also offers students that are training to become professional singers to sharpen their performance abilities as well. They have small and large performances at a variety of venues. These performance classes are taught by very well respected master class teachers that will definitely have a lot of knowledge to be shared.

Here are a few more music schools you could look into:

Your creativity is a big part of who you are and where you're going. To take it, and your future, as far as you want, you need an education that's focused on developing your talents and putting you on the path toward the creative career that stirs your imagination.

Programs:

  • Interior Design (BFA)
Locations: Durham

Dreams Do Come True – The Story of Singer and Songwriter Jewel

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If you were a teenage girl in the mid to late 1990’s then you are likely very familiar with the amazing singer and songwriter, Jewel. Jewel made it big with her breakthrough hit album “Pieces of You” in 1995 at only 21 years old. Her journey to become a professional singer began long before that on a small homestead in Homer, Alaska. Here is the story of Jewel and her journey.

Jewel was born on a warm spring day in May of 1974. She was born on a small homestead about 2 miles from town in Homer, Alaska. She was raised in a saddle barn that had been in her family since her grandparents first settled there in the 1940’s after fleeing from war torn Germany. Her home had no running water and no heat. There was a simple coal stove and an outhouse to provide the most basic of needs. Her family lived mostly off of the land, surviving on what could be picked, hunted or butchered on their own land.

She grew up riding horses all day and romping around outside. She was happy and fulfilled as a child and loved living on the land that her family before her grew up on as well. Jewel loved her quiet little life.

When she turned 8 years old her parents got a divorce and she remained with her father. He had a true love and passion for music that he had passed down to Jewel. They soon became a musical duo that trained and practiced for hours a day to learn his songs. Her Dad stressed to her how important good harmony, punctuality and being professional was. Those turned out to be very important lessons that she would call upon later in her life.

She began performing all over the place with her Dad. They would sing together as Veterans Clubs, bank openings, biker bars and honkey tonks all over the state. Her Dad was a pretty great performer with a way of charming the crowd with a joke and a laugh. He taught Jewel to skip the set list and to instead read the crowd to see what they would want to hear. That was again something that she would use later in life.

When Jewel was 15 years old she moved out of her father’s house and into a small one bedroom cabin of her own. Her new little home didn’t have any water or plumbing either, but she was used to this way of life and it was no big deal. To maintain life on her own she worked several odd jobs and even rode a horse 12 miles into town for work. She would stable her horse at an aunt’s house that lived closer to town and then would hitch hike the rest of the way.

Jewel applied to and was accepted to the famed music school in Michigan, called Interlochen. She was awarded a partial scholarship and needed to raise the rest of the money fast. To raise the money she performed her very first solo show at the local high school in the auditorium. She had her friend playing the piano as her back up band as she belted out all of her favorite Cole Porter songs. Many of the local businesses in her small town were kind enough to donate some items for her to auction off during the intermission. The great people in Homer helped Jewel raise $11,000 during that very first concert. This was amazingly enough to send her to school.

She took a major in classical voice and art with a minor in dance and drama during her time at Interlochen. During her time away at school, Jewel spent a good amount of time writing her songs. In fact she wrote her very first hit single, “Who Will Save Your Soul” when she was just 16 years old.

After she graduated from Interlochen, she sort of became a drifter without much of a plan. She traveled her way to San Diego where she got a job answering phones…well that is until her boss decided to fire her for not wanting to pull a Lewinsky, so to speak. As a result of this she ended up homeless for an entire year. During this hard time she kept writing songs and sang at a local coffee shop where she built a solid fan base.

A radio station managed to record a bootleg copy of Jewel and put it on the radio. This turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to her. This random airplay garnered her a lot of major attention and there was soon a bidding war to get her to sign with a label. Being the super smart and savvy lady that she is, she chose the label that let her stay true to her singer/songwriter ways.

Jewel was amazingly able to sell 12 million copies of her very first album. That’s a pretty big feat for any artist, but even bigger so for one with such a folksy sound in such a pop driven market. She has gone on to sell millions more records, win loads of awards and become a pioneer for singer songwriters and professional singers.

Final Grade

Put down the metronome and sheet music for a second. Grab a cup of tea with some lemon and give your voice a rest too. We want to talk about the overall picture and give the career of being a professional singer a final grade, so to speak.

  • Degree vs. Debt: B

The degree to debt ratio is too bad at all, especially if you don’t attend a school for a degree. The hourly rate that professional singers pull in really isn’t too shabby if you can keep it flowing in steady enough. Even those that did attend college  wouldn’t need more than a bachelor’s degree in most case, so not too much debt will be racked up there either.

  • Degree Difficulty: B+

The degree options that are available to those that want to become professional singers are not too hard at all. You’ll be doing lots of singing and other creative, artistic courses. Sounds pretty cool to us! We graded it a B+ as opposed to an A because it can still be exhausting and it’s definitely competitive.

  • Happiness Quotient: B

We are giving the happiness quotient a tentative B for one major reason…Becoming a professional singer is most often a based off of the sheer love of singing. For this alone is something that will make you happy. You’ll be doing what you love and what is better than that? Sure there will be lots of rejections and pavement pounding, but most singers know to expect it and are ready for the challenge.

  • Job Outlook: C-…almost a D, but we felt like being nice today

Why such a low grade? Well the Bureau of Labor Statistics in only projecting a growth of 5% between 2012 and 2022. This doesn’t leave much room for growth or demand, which means less money in your pocket at some point. Seems like a pretty big bummer to spend time in college, years fine tuning your craft and countless hours auditioning only to one day not be able to have a job.

 Sources and Recommended Reading56804085

Our sources are just as important to us and the information we are able to provide to you as Do Re Mi is to your vocal warm ups. This is a special kind of a career that required special a kind of sources, but luckily we were able to find just the right ones. There really is a ton of information on all of the sites that is so helpful and will surely give you a good jumping off point if you pursue a professional singing career. There was so much information provided that there was no way to include it all without writing a novel on this subject and we figured we’d spare you that torture. So feel free to click on the links within the article itself or the ones bulleted below. We wish you much luck on your journey and hope that you remember us when your name is in lights!

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