Singing Lessons in Brixton


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Secrets to Whitney Houston's Sensational Singing - Part 1

There are singers, and then there are SINGERS!


If you want to be successful in the music industry, your ability to perform on stage is a skill that you should master.


One of my favourite performers is Whitney Houston. Back in 1985 we were both signed to the record label Jive, which was part of the Zomba Records which was started in London by two South African musicians Clive Calder and Ralph Simon. Later that decade they teamed up with Arista BMG in the US, headed by the renowned Clive Davis.


I remember the buzz of excitement in the record company for several new signings.


At the time I was working on my album which included “I’ll be Your Friend”, the title track from the Michael Douglas movie, “The Jewel of the Nile” plus several tracks written and produced by Prince’s former band member, Monte Moir.


It was around the time that Billy Ocean’s, “Caribbean Queen”, & “When The Going Gets Tough”, was riding high in the charts. A Flock of Seagulls, had also just got signed up, and many more.


Whitney was working on her debut studio album, which included “Saving All My Love”, “How Will I Know” and the “Greatest Love of All”.


I love the richness and the effortless beauty in her voice. A truly wonderful charismatic performer, who could make a nursery rhyme sound great.


But did you know that all of her hit songs were chosen with her specific voice in mind?


Every aspect was tailor made to maximise her vocal strength and minimize her vocal imperfections. That included the key, tempo, mood, and arrangement.


So even though there are many different tricks and techniques, there are actually a few hard-and-fast rules that are used by the majority of sensational singers.


What Can Aspiring Singers Learn from Whitney?


Whitney gave us such magnificent performances.


Aspiring singers can learn a lot from the three distinctive chapters in the process of her career development.



Chapter 1


Whitney Houston was a Natural Talent


In the 80’s with her newly launched career, you can notice that Whitney was still developing her capability and vocal performance.



Chapter 2


Whitney Houston at The Peak of her Performance


By now in the second chapter, she has full command, having all the required and desirable elements, qualities, characteristics; in her voice. The 90’s is when Whitney was at the peak of her performance, what I call her signature sound.


Take a look at the video link below and you will see how she places the upper register of her voice. Singing in mixed voice, or blended voice, means singing in a combination of head voice and chest voice. This produces a full, bright sound that is similar to belting but, less likely to cause injury. As the song progresses to the final lines, the singing technique of anchoring the more difficult notes, allows her to ease through her vocal range, with beautiful control, effortlessly!


One of the reasons why Whitney’s singing was so distinctive, was that she was gifted with an innate talent. Her agility and unique style of add-libbing, was enhanced because she could think on her feet, making her a master of intricate improvised vocal runs,which is where you go up or down in quick succession, based on scale.

In her body of work, you see her frequent use of improvisation. This way of singing comes spontaneously, it has no specific or scripted preparation.

Whitney’s improvisation style goes back years to black gospel music, back to what is known as “religious fervor”, which means singing in a way that exudes strong heartfelt, sincere feelings.

Its the ability to sing and express enthusiasm, passion, love, and devotion.

Whitney Houston had the ability to turn gospel and soul into pop music gold.

“Religious fervor”, is often expressed with urgency, to sing as if you’re on fire, to go deep within and connect spirituality to a realm, where your pleas, supplications and requests can be expressed. It’s a way to use the voice to appeal and be in direct communication to God, the creator. 

It all started further back than we think. The song writer Thomas A. Dorsey (July 1, 1899 – January 23, 1993) “the father of black gospel music”, the writer of the song “Take My Hand Precious Lord”, was one of the many writers of that era, that wrote in this style, which was all about a personal communication with God.

In this video example of “religious fervor” he tells his story about what inspired him to write the song: “Take My Hand Precious Lord”, sang by Mahalia Jackson.

Video here.

Here's a second example of “religious fervor”; in this video the Mississippi Mass Choir sings another example to show you what I mean. Its the type of music that connects with your spirit. “Grace And Mercy”

Video here.

Take a look at this next example, at the royal wedding of Megan and Prince Harry. Notice the hush, the shift in the energy and the atmosphere created by the song "Stand By Me". You can sense the choir's desire to give the gift of song to the bride and groom on their special day.

Video here.

Chapter 3

Whitney's Personal Struggles

In Whitney’s latter years, when her voice was clearly in need of rest. Her hectic touring schedules and her own personal struggles etc, all took its toll and drew concern.

In the video you can still hear the strength in the lower range of her voice, but the is clearly a struggle to replicate her agility and vocal stamina, breath control has somewhat diminished, along with a possible inflammation or health issues such as pre-nodules, however, it didn’t stop her from trying.

Whitney Houston live in Brisbane, Australia 2010.

Sad as some might say about her Brisbane performance, but no one can take away her phenomenal achievements, and the long list of singers that came along after her, that openly admit that she was their influence and inspiration. Many of them using her vocal template as a catalyst for their own vocal style. The list includes: Beyonce Knowles, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keyes, Jennifer Hudson and Adele, to name just a few.

Whitney truly has The Vocal Touch. Her body of work has and will continue to bless us all with decades of hearing her sensational singing.

Along with all her loyal fans, I Will Always Love her music.

PS - If you are looking to get started on your singing career, I would love to help you. I’ve had Platinum records with major labels, toured the world, made guest appearances, recordings and vocal contributions with artists such as Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Cliff Richard, Sir Elton John, James Brown, Boney M, Michael Bolton.

So, let's get you started:

Every journey starts with a first step…

Here's To Your Success!