Do you want to Sing like Sia? Who wouldn’t! She has a ridiculous range, a cool sounding voice, and SO MUCH POWER! Sia has been in the music industry for DECADES, and is a bigger influence now than ever. She’s been busting out hit after hit for the past several years, and we’re not sick of her yet.
It was no surprise to me when I received a request to do a Sia tutorial.
The resemblance is uncanny, amirite? It’s like looking in a mirror.
SING LIKE SIA
Have you ever heard interviews of singers or bands where they are asked, “Who are your influences?”
Influences are the bands, singers, and other performers that came before that particular band that offer inspiration to a particular act. Whether we know it or not, our work is influenced by our predecesors, and we owe much to the artists who we draw inspiration from, whether in current popularity or from past decades.
When I was first learning to sing, I tried to mimic the sounds and colors I heard in the voices I found inspiring. I would try to do a straight impersonation of the singer (I’d try to copy them exactly) and then I’d put my own spin on it. The more artists I studied, the more I was able to develop and deepen my understanding for my own voice and its potential.
When I was asked to do a “Sing like Sia” tutorial, I decided to show you how to copy the qualities and characteristics of her sounds as closely as possible, but then how to simply use a “Tint of Sia” to color your own natural voice. It was also important to me to note habits that are unhealthy for your voice (it would be irresponsible for me not to!) and how to approach a “Sia-like-sound” with more support and less potential for vocal damage.
Watch this short Sizzle Reel for a preview of this week’s lesson!
(View the full tutorial below!)
DEFINING QUALITIES & CHARACTERISTICS
There are a few signature sounds and techniques that Sia uses to create her sound, and I would be irresponsible to teach you how to do them without a warning that they are NOT healthy for your voice. Most of the techniques are based on tension and pushing, both four letter words in the vocal world. From listening to her talk on a few different interviews, it seems to me that Sia is aware of her lack of vocal technique, however if she were concerned about it, I’m sure it would be unwise for her to admit it. She’s not a teacher, she’s an artist.
I want to be clear here: I LOVE Sia! I think she’s SUPER crazy talented and I love her sound. The following is going to sound like I’m not a fan or I’m a hater since I am basically tearing apart her technique, but as I said before, I think she would agree that she isn’t using proper vocal technique, and as someone who has been through vocal issues, it would be unethical for me to ignore the potential for damage in using these stylings. But I do love Sia!
Here are some of the qualities I’ve gathered:
1. Glottal stops – Sia uses a hard approach to vowels A, E, I, O, U. Instead of a soft breathy like or smooth approach, she punches them out with a harsh pop. Glottals cause the vocal chords to push aggresively against each other so of course they are terrible for your voice. They are used frequently as part of modern pop vocal stylings.
2. The “Stuffy Nose” Effect – Since Sia is Australian, her vocals are colored with a bit of an accent. Australians speak with a little more of a lateral quality, with lots of forward vowels, however their British influence will put some vowels in a rounder placement. I noticed in many songs, Sia sounds almost like she has a cold. Her words are a bit slurred (I mean let’s be real here, they are A LOT slurred…) and the articulation (or lack thereof) makes it sound like she is trying to sing with a cold.
3. Vocal Fry – Vocal fry happens when air is moving through the vocal chords, but they are not closing completely. It is a form of glottal and sounds like the voice is creaking, or rasping. It’s how most people sound in the morning or late at night when they are tired. You’ll hear a lot of vocal fry when people speak, typically towards the ends of their words and sentences. Vocal fry is used A LOT in pop singing, although once again it is terrible on your voice as it’s forcing your chords to vibrate while tight, and not encouraging them to close completely. There are some schools of thought that disagree with the dangers of vocal fry, however from my training in speech therapy I tend to subscribe to the school of vocal fry = vocal problems.
4. The “Cry” – We have here another form of the glottal or the vocal fry. The cry is what it sounds like, more of a cry, using that pop glottal to open up to a vowel for dramatic emphasis, typically on a high note. Sia’s stylings usually feature a bit of a “rock” sound (again, the vocal fry), which is better supported with lower abdominal and pelvic floor support as well as a relaxed neck and tongue. If one must “cry” attempt to use the tongue and soft palette, as opposed to the throat.
NOW HOW DO I MAKE IT MY OWN?
Unless you’re trying to be a Sia impersonator for a tribute show or sketch comedy, understanding how to copy her exact sounds may not be too useful in and of itself, except for maybe as a fun party trick. Learning how to use these sounds as INFLUENCES to your own vocal development will start to expand your vocal color palette. You’ll be able to pull from these qualities to inspire and “tint” your own sound.
Once you’ve mastered these “colors”, sing as yourself in your most authentic voice. Then try using bits of the different techniques in different parts of your songs to add more style.
Many singers are coached in creating their own vocal identity. Ariana Grande, for example, has proven on SNL and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon that she is capable of singing like Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, and Christina Aguilera, among others. She is able to mimic these sounds almost exactly. Her own sound is quite different than any of these. It seems that she could have had her choice of any of these vocal identities, but she and her team must have worked to find a sound that was marketable, fresh, and clearly her own.
You’ll have to experiment and see what works best for you!
My goal as a coach with young recording artists is to find the balance between a natural voice, and the effect of their influences and style application.
Enjoy the tutorial! I had a lot of fun making it!
I hope you enjoyed this! I love hearing about your victories, comment below and let me know how it’s going! Also let me know if you have any struggles, or if you have requests! I’d love to teach you what you want to learn!
For Weekly #TipTuesday's
Tune in for next week’s #TipTuesday, for more FREE singing, acting, and performance lessons! If you have any requests for specific techniques, runs, or any other technique you want to learn or problem you need help on, comment below and I may be able to cover it in a Tip Tuesday lesson!!