How to Sing Like A Country Music Artist
It may surprise you to learn that many famous country music artists weren’t born with that perfect country twang. Believe it or not, Shania Twain is from Canada, and Jo Dee Messina is from Boston.
So, how did these popular artists learn to sing that perfect country twang? They had to learn it, of course. Surprisingly, you don’t have to be born in the South to sing like your favorite country music artist.
The Technique Behind the Twang
“Twang” is actually a type of vocal technique that can be useful to singers from other genres as well. Applying twang to your voice when you sing achieves two things:
- It gives you a less breathy, brighter tone.
- It adds power to your voice without increasing strain.
That makes it a valuable technique for any singer to learn, even if they never plan to sing country music.
The plain English explanation for that twangy sound country music fans love is that we all have membranes and cartilage above our vocal cords that form a funnel shape. When you learn how to change the funnel shape into more of a horn shape, the resulting clearer, louder, less breathy sound is called twang.
How to Achieve Twang in Your Singing Voice
Start by finding twang in your speaking voice. When you become familiar with how it feels when you speak, it will be much easier to apply it to your voice when you sing. To practice, start by talking in twangy character voices. Mimic twangy characters like a duck, an auctioneer, or even a robot. You’re going for a nasal-y, monotone sound. You have to really get into it so you might want to start out by practicing when you’re by yourself.
Once you can achieve it in your speaking voice, practice applying it to your singing voice. Pick any song and start singing it in one of the character voices you’ve been practicing. Really exaggerate the twang, so you become familiar with how it feels. Eventually, once you’ve got the feeling down, you can tone down the twang.
That Southern Drawl
Now, let’s move on to that signature Southern drawl of classic country music. Nowadays, many country music singers get by with no accent at all, but from the 1950s to the 1990s, the Southern drawl was what made country music, country music.
Listen to this recording of Hank Williams to hear a classic Southern drawl. Notice his steady voice and the slight Southern accent of a boy from Alabama. Now, compare it to George Strait in this recording. The Southern drawl is evident in both recordings, but there are also distinct differences. That’s because Southern accents are a little different in each Southern state.
Texas: A Texas accent is restrained and steady. The mouth is pursed at the corners, and there are no open O sounds. For examples of a Texas accent, listen to George Strait and Miranda Lambert.
Alabama: People from Alabama talk fast. They sound a bit tense, kind of like they’re trying to talk with their mouths partially closed. Emmylou Harris and Hank Williams, Sr. are good examples of an Alabama accent.
Mississippi: This is the true Southern drawl. It’s drawn out, slow, and musical. R’s are not pronounced; butter becomes “butt-uh,” and mister becomes “mist-ah.” Ing’s are often shortened as well; running becomes runnin’ and drinking becomes drinkin.’ For examples of a Mississippi accent, listen to Randy Houser and Faith Hill.
How to Apply a Southern Accent to Your Singing
The easiest way to learn how to apply a Southern accent to your singing is to copy someone else. Start by picking a song you know every word to, by your favorite country artist. Study it carefully to learn how the singer pronounces their R’s and ings. Pay close attention to how they pronounce their vowels.
Now, sit down and take careful notes as you play the song. If you can print out the lyrics, that’s even better. Make notes about how each word sounds. Once you’ve got your notes, practice speaking the words slowly so that you can feel how your tongue and lips move. Gradually increase your speed as you become comfortable with mimicking the sounds.
Now, sing along with the recording and try to make your voice sound exactly like the artist. Don’t worry that your copying the artist. This is just practice to help you get a feel for the accent. Once get the accent down, you can apply it to your own music.
How to Bring it all Together
Now that you know how to achieve twang in your singing voice and apply a Southern accent, it’s time to bring them both together. Start with a single verse and practice it in your speaking voice first. Use twang only on the high notes.
Once you’ve got it down in your speaking voice, practice singing it over and over until it becomes second nature. Now that you have the technicalities down, you can apply these techniques to any song and put your own unique spin on it.
Some Final Tips
A lot of discipline and practice will be required if you really want to develop a classic country singing voice. Getting instruction from an experienced vocal coach will help you build on your strengths and provide guidance in areas where you are weak.
The more you listen to country music the better your grasp of different styles and songs will be. Pay close attention to the intonations the artist is using. You might even go so far as to take notes about the things you do and don’t like about the songs.
Recording yourself with a computer or tape recorder can be a great learning tool. Replay the recordings and listen to yourself carefully. Make notes about areas that need practice.
Just like any singer, you should always warm up before you sing. It’s essential for your vocal cords, and it will improve your range and tone. Consider doing some complicated warm-ups to advance your technical abilities.
Most importantly, practice, practice, and practice some more! Go over each part of the song individually until you have it right. Focus on the parts that are difficult for you rather than singing the song from start to finish, over and over again.