Sometimes it is the more unique voices that capture peoples’ imagination. As soon as you hear a few seconds of a Michael Jackson song, you know exactly who is singing. But can this voice be replicated? While MJ had a higher soprano voice, and at times a tenor voice, which not a lot of men have, it is possible to replicate, especially if your vocal range is in this rough area. In this guide, we explore how to sing like Michael Jackson and provide some tips to replicate some of the more unusual aspects of his voice.
Whether you love the big pop ballads that MJ would sometimes belt out, or you are into the “attitude” singing we heard on albums like “Bad” there are a few things you can do to try and get a similar range. Or, if you want to do some of his songs in karaoke competitions, you can even learn how to do his little vocal add-ons.
It’s important to first understand whether it is possible for you to sing like MJ. He had a relatively large vocal range, which went as high as the upper end of soprano or even tenor. For a man, this is really quite high. If you are blessed with a higher voice then there is every chance that you can sing like the king of pop.
To work out your own vocal rane you can either work with an online vocal coach, or you can use a keyboard to work out which notes you can comfortably reach before you start straining your voice.
If you’re trying to sound exactly like Michael Jackson, it can be hard, but it is also possible that you can nail it, meaning you can sound exactly like the singer, down to every “shamone” and “he he” added into his vocals. You can really impress people on the karaoke machine.
Because of the really unique style, it is a good idea to fully understand Michael Jackson’s vocal style.
The first thing to do if you want to sing like Michael Jackson is to understand the longevity of his career, and how many styles he went through. Listen to something soulful like “Rock With Me” then a ballad such as “You Are Not Alone” and the punky attitude of a song like “Bad” or anything on that album. His voice is usually high, but it can vary so much in style.
On to our top tips for singing like Michael Jackson.
One of the first tips is to understand the difference between your head voice and your chest voice. This is what enabled MJ to blast out some huge ballads using the full capacity of his chest, but also allowed him to reach soulful highs that didn’t sound too airy or breathy either.
To connect these voices, practice with Ns as well as vowels like “oo” or “ee” sounds. You need to balance your chest voice, while you are breathing out, as well as your head support for your vocals, closing the vocal folds to create an almost nasal sound.
Singing like Michael Jackson might mean using some vocal improvisation. This is one of the things his singing is famous for.
If you want to sound exactly like MJ then you might want to emulate his “shamone” and “heehee” vocal improvisation, but you will probably find that this is not ideal if you want to develop your own style. Ask yourself if you want to develop your own vocal improv sounds, or copy his exactly, ready for use in karaoke. To see what sounds good, you could always use a USB microphone and add sounds and words in between vocal phrases, listen back and see if some of the sounds are any good. Things like “yeah” are the sort of words a lot of singers use in contemporary music.
Practice belting it out once in a while, too. If you listen to a song like “Dirty Diana” you’ll see that MJ had a real skill when it came to really belting out his voice when he needed to, with some real attitude. Unless you fully invest and sing to your lungs’ full capacity, you will really struggle to replicare this. That means it is time to get used to really using your lungs, filling them, and using all of the power you may have in your voice.
Obviously, if you are going to sing like Jackson then practice is nothing short of essential. The only way you can actually sing like him is to go through the repertoire of songs. An MJ tribute act is going to have a really tough time due to the fact that there are just so many different styles to replicate throughout his singing career. Though his voice is iconic, and the tone is recognizable, it isn’t easy to sound like MJ.
On now to a few generic tips for improving your singing voice. If you want to sound like Michael Jackson, you need to get to the point where you are a good singer overall. He had a great range, and was able to sing for two hour shows while never missing a beat, and sometimes even improvising along the way.
Our top tip is daily practice. If you buy a keyboard or digital piano, then you need to be near your equipment to practice effectively. With your voice, you really don’t need anything else to help you to get good at it. You can sing in the car, while you’re in the bath or shower, or in pretty much any scenario where you don’t have to be quiet. This means it is so much easier to practice than most other hobbies and skills.
Most of the time, it is a fine to just keep practicing by singing the songs you like. Once in a while, though, you should try to practice using vocal scales and exercises that help to warm up the voice and can even expand your range.
Looking after your voice in general is relatively easy, but it is something that a lot of people don’t manage to do. For instance, once a week you should give yourself a break from singing for around 24 hours. This is how your voice will actually recover and vocal cords will avoid getting overworked. You may not think of vocal cords as something that can become worn and tired, but they can.
Always drink plenty of water. This is good advice in pretty much any walk of life, but there is a reason why so many singers go on stage with plenty of water. It helps you to keep your voice sounding good, with less strain on the tissues around the vocal cords. It’s like a way to lubricate your voice.
If your voice does cause throat pain, you should use tea or warm water with honey. You can even use cough medicines once in a while, as long as you don’t become reliant on them or overuse them.
If your skills expand beyond just singing, and you can also play an instrument, try to incorporate singing songs while playing on digital piano or guitar. This will make you a stronger performer in general, but it is also a very good way to check your own voice, rather than singing along to a song and only hearing the voice of MJ or other vocalists. You might be out of tune and not even realise it.
Always remember that improving your singing voice can take time. Don’t overstretch, and try to create a way of singing that complements your voice. If you are a baritone naturally, then you are simply not going to turn into a soprano singer overnight.
You might want to sing like Michael Jackson because you love the style, or because you want to impress everyone at a karaoke event. There are even MJ tribute acts out there! Whatever your reasons, be warned that this can be a tough voice to get right and it takes some practice as well as listening to his back catalog.
Learning how to sing like Michael Jackson means getting good at singing softly and gently as well as belting your vocals out, and combining chest and head voice to good effect. Remember that MJ had a long career, so even if you can sing “Dirty Diana” well it doesn’t mean you are going to be as good at singing something from his early days, before his voice had even broken.