Find out what it takes to make it as a vocalist in the world of electronic music and the process behind writing dancefloor bangers.
From the Top 40 singles charts to the clubs of Ibiza, dance music is a genre that gets people all around the world moving. So what are the rewards and challenges of working in the electronic music industry?
To find out, the Singing Teachers Talk podcast spoke to vocalist Kimberley George.
Kimberley is a topliner, which means she writes the melody and lyrics for dance tracks (a DJ provides the instrumental).
“There definitely a gap there for vocalists,” Kimberley says. “There are lots of people creating instrumentals that can’t write a vocal and can’t sing a vocal.
“And as singers, we listen to vocals all the time and analyse them. Who better to produce a vocal than somebody who loves them? Singers are more qualified than a guitarist, so why are they doing the production?”
Here are Kimberley’s five tips for success as a dance music vocalist.
Electronic dance music is more varied than you might think. While there’s a place for belters like Becky Hill and Ella Henderson, a variety of vocal styles are in demand.
“What’s brought me work is being able to do lots of different styles,” Kimberley says. “I’ve been asked to do everything from that big, old-school belty sound to breathy Ellie Goulding-style vocals and all sorts of variations in between.”
Don’t be precious about tuning
Singers shouldn’t be surprised (or insulted) if a vocal is tuned – that’s the nature of the beast with electronic dance music.
“It’s not a personal attack,” Kimberley says. “There is something about keeping that vocal in harmony with the track that makes sense with electronic instruments. They’re so perfect that sometimes the slight, beautiful imperfections we have in our voices don’t make sense with those tracks.
“I know there can be a hang-up with vocalists of ‘I don’t need to be tuned’. But it’s a musical choice, not an insulting one.”
Kimberley says it’s a real advantage if you can record vocals without needing to go to a studio.
“Even if you can’t do the production, it’s a massive advantage if you can get a clean recording and then get it over to somebody for them to do vocal production,” she says.
You’ll need a laptop, digital audio workstation (DAW), interface, mic and reflection filter to do this.
Prepare for collaborations
Take the awkwardness out of first-time collaborations by turning up with a few ideas.
“When you get into a writing session, especially when you’re on a collab with somebody new, it’s nice to have something in your pocket so you can say, ‘Do you like any of these?’. Most of the time, they’re just a phrase or one line, but they’re useful as a jumping-off point.”
Don’t be afraid to share imperfect ideas
Whatever you do, don’t say, ‘This is really hard!’ when you hit a roadblock in the collaborative songwriting process.
“It’s a real vibe killer,” Kimberley says. “No one needs to hear it. Instead, just share whatever crappy idea is going through your head.”
You never know, but that half-formed idea you share could be a great starting point for a brilliant track.
“It’s not about you having the idea or the other person having the idea – it’s about the two of you solving the riddle together.”
Listen to the full podcast to learn:
- Kimberley’s favourite production tech.
- How she approaches songwriting.
- The challenges of communicating with producers and DJs when you’re a dance music vocalist.