Ariana Grande is considered the modern-day Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, or Celine Dion, by many.
As an artist, her angelic voice contrasts with her explicit, hypersexual lyrics, typical of the modern empowered woman in music.
But there is no denying that this cultural icon is a skilled singer. And if you’ve had thoughts of learning to sing like her, you’re not alone.
In this guide, we look at how to sing like Ariana Grande.
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Listen To Her Influences
This step is ignored by many. But Grande is very much the sum of her influences, so studying who she’s been influenced by is one of the secrets to being able to sing like her.
Grande says her primary influences are Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.
That said, Gloria Estefan played an important role in inspiring her to pursue a music career, and Grande has also patterned herself after the likes of Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child, Celine Dion, and Madonna.
If you want to hear Grande singing like Celine Dion, check out her appearance on Carpool Karaoke:
Don’t Skip Your Vocal Warmups
Experienced signers know already. But beginners might not be mindful of the importance of vocal warmups.
Even though many musicians sing many hours per night on the road, the voice is ultimately a delicate thing, and you need to take care of it if you’re to have any hope of being able to sing like Grande.
This may seem paradoxical, since improving as a singer usually requires an immense amount of practice. But moderation is key, especially early on in your development, especially if you don’t have professional guidance.
So, never skip your vocal warmups. It’s an important part of taking care of your voice.
Nowadays, you can find apps that come with a large array of warmups. You don’t need to do all of them necessarily, but before attempting anything extreme, warm up first.
And, if you are already taking lessons, then get your teacher to show you an entire warmup routine.
Determine Your Vocal Range
We’ll be looking at how to increase your vocal range in just a moment.
But the first thing you should do is determine your vocal range. If you have a keyboard, you can find the lowest and highest notes you can sing (without straining) relatively easily.
If you find this process a little intimidating, however, you can also take advantage of an easy-to-use web tool like Ramsey Voice Studio’s Vocal Range Finder.
Why do you need to know what your vocal range / voice type is? Well, Grande is a soprano singer, and if you’re not a soprano yourself, you’re going to have a hard time keeping up with the higher notes she sings.
For reasons we’re about to explore, that might not be a total deal breaker (you can still increase your range or sing her songs in a more comfortable key) but sounding like Grande without those higher notes could prove a challenge indeed.
Increase Your Vocal Range
Grande has a four-octave voice with a whistle register. This easily makes her one of the best, and therefore a very difficult singer to replicate.
(If you already have a four-octave range, you can skip this section).
You can adjust the key signatures of her songs to better suit your range, of course, but the way she flows effortlessly out of one register and into another is not something you’ll easily be able to replicate without feeling very comfortable with your voice.
Increasing your vocal range is the answer, though as with anything voice-related, developing your range can take time, and it’s important to do it safely to avoid bad technique and ultimately injury.
Can anyone increase their vocal range? Yes, usually by about an octave, but sometimes more! This is good news for anyone worried about those higher notes.
The fundamentals play a huge role in your ability to increase your range, so before trying any exercises, always observe the following as you’re practicing:
- Stand with a tall posture. Stand about shoulder width apart, stand up straight, and lightly lift your chest.
- Breathe from the diaphragm. Inhale through your mouth (don’t tense up your chest or shoulders) and allow your stomach to expand. As you sing, you will notice your stomach contract. Breathing and singing from the diaphragm creates air movement and therefore tends to reduce unnecessary tension too.
- Relax your jaw. Reducing tension will generally allow you to sing higher notes. Pay close attention to your jaw and ensure that you’re not tensing up.
- Relax your tongue. Reduce tongue and larynx tension. This will help with singing higher notes.
Now you’re ready to try some exercises to help increase your range:
- Vocal sirens. The objective of this exercise is to sing a vowel like “ooh” or “ee” from a very low note up to a very high note. Avoid tightening or straining as you move up to higher notes.
- Lip trills. Exhale air to make your lips flop. Say the vowel “uh” as your lips are flopping together. Practice singing a scale or even a full octave as your lips are flopping. This exercise allows the vocal folds to remain close, which makes it a very safe exercise for increasing your range.
Other exercises can help you extend your range. If you’re interested, explore additional resources.
Master The Belt Mix (Mixed Belt)
Belting is a vocal technique where a singer sings past their natural break into their higher register.
While there are plenty of singers – amateur and professional alike – who utilize the technique, it’s not the safest technique.
Unless a student naturally has it under command, teachers sometimes do not teach belting to their students at all.
Okay, so why are we talking about belting? Before you can understand what belt mix is and why it’s effective (and something you must practice), you first need to know what belting is.
A belt mix is where a singer utilizes both their chest and their head voices simultaneously. Where straining might be audible (or even visible) with regular belting, belt mix offers more support for the voice, and usually results in less pressure and straining too.
You could call it “the right way to sing.”
Mastering the belt mix will allow you to sing in a higher register without worrying about injury, which should help with singing songs in a higher range.
While we can’t cover the exact steps to mastering belt mix here, it is an essential Ariana Grande technique, and it’s how she’s able to move between different ranges with ease.
Practice Your Vibrato
Most if not all singers would consider vibrato essential to their singing technique.
A vibrato is where you intentionally wobble the pitch of your voice. You may not hear much vibrato on shorter notes but notes that are held for longer usually utilize vibrato.
Grande takes a great deal of inspiration from Whitney Houston when it comes to vibrato. You can see it at work in “I Will Always Love You” especially.
Work On Your Dynamics
Skilled instrumentalists and vocalists are very conscious of dynamics, and Ariana Grande is no exception.
In simple terms, this means knowing when and where to sing more softly and when and where to sing more loudly. But amateurs are the only ones that have just two modes. Skilled singers know how to use all the shades of grey (dynamics) in between.
In some musical contexts, too dynamic of a voice could be considered a liability. But in vocal-heavy music, it is almost always an asset, and a singer who has full command over it can always find their place in a song.
Grande is a very dynamic singer. This is yet another aspect of her technique you must study if you want to sound like her.
Practice Your Vocal Runs
Grande is skilled at vocal runs, also known as riffing.
Riffing is where you quickly move between a series of notes to create melodies or licks.
While music that’s a little more focused on instrumentation tends not to feature riffing, vocal-heavy music, such as R&B, soul, gospel, and the like, does.
This is because in country, blues, rock, and similar genres, the empty spaces tend to be filled by guitar and keyboard fills. But in vocal-intensive music, the spaces are often filled by the vocalist instead.
Grande is very precise with her technique (much like her heroes), and can always sing on key, even when singing fast riffs.
She’s also great at improvising, another skill that would be well worth building as you look to sing like Ariana Grande.
Work On Your Whistle Register
This is easier said than done, but if you’re serious about sounding like Grande, you’ll want to work on your whistle register too.
To be able to sing whistle notes, you’ll need to practice closing your throat and pushing air through. Although you might hear a bit of a “squeak” as you work on this technique, that’s not the goal. It’s okay if you get a bit of a squeak, but ultimately the idea is to gain control over the notes you’re singing.
Grande naturally takes after Mariah Carey in this regard. One of Carey’s most infamous performances using the whistle register is her “Emotions,” though she has certainly used it in other songs too.
Should I Get Vocal Lessons?
Unless you’re already an experienced (professional) singer or vocal coach, the answer is yes, you should get vocal lessons!
A good teacher will be very keen to know your goals as a singer as well as who you’ve been inspired by, and who you eventually want to sound like! After all, this information will help them tailor a curriculum to you.
Remember – vocal teachers have been trained to dissect singing down to its core components, no matter the singer. They should be able to listen to just about any singer and have a good idea of what they’re doing in terms of technique, tonality, breathing, dynamics, and more.
Trying to figure it all out on your own is much tougher unless you’re willing to spend untold hours reading tutorials, articles, and books, watching videos, and so on.
Your teacher should help you shortcut your progress by months and years. And they can help you bypass over-singing and injury too.
Is It Possible To Sound Exactly Like Ariana Grande?
The only way you will sound close to Ariana Grande (or exactly like her) is if you have a voice tone that’s like hers. Voice tone is a unique imprint of the individual, so it’s unlikely, though not impossible, that you have a voice that sounds like Grande’s.
If you’re a female singer, you will likely have an advantage over male singers, and if you grew up taking vocal lessons or singing in the church, then you will have an advantage over those who haven’t gotten started yet.
Having training still won’t guarantee that you will sound like Grande, just that you will probably have a better understanding of the notes she’s singing as well as her technique.
Additionally, if you are a natural soprano, you might have a head start on singers who do not naturally possess a higher voice.
And, of course, with practice and repetition, you can begin to sound more like the singers you admire, but this still does not guarantee that you will sound exactly like someone else.
So, the best thing any singer can do is embrace their unique voice. The only way to have true confidence in yourself is to begin to love yourself just as you are, and that includes your singing voice.
It’s well worth learning Grande’s techniques and even her songs, but if you don’t naturally sound like her, don’t worry about it too much. Focus instead on besting yourself, not on comparing yourself to others.
Is It Possible My Voice Is Not Suited To Singing Like Ariana Grande?
Yes. If you’re not a female singer, if you don’t possess a soprano voice, and if you have no previous training, trying to sing like Grande could prove an uphill battle at best.
This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to sing parts of her songs. But you may never get to the point of being able to sing her songs without altering keys.
That is, I suppose, one piece of good news – you can find karaoke versions or instrumental tracks that are in a more comfortable key (for you) than the original.
In a song where Grande is using her full range (is there one?), you may still not be able to keep up. But in a song where she’s keeping to a similar range throughout, you’ll probably have some luck.
As noted, however, it’s okay to play to your strengths, whatever they may be. The true fun of learning to sing is discovering what your unique voice is capable of.
How To Sing Like Ariana Grande, Final Thoughts
No matter your voice or range, there is something to be learned from the best singers. So, even if you don’t think you will ultimately be able to sing exactly like Ariana Grande, the time and effort you put into studying her technique and style will not go to waste.
Also, remember to have plenty of patience. It’s often been said that the violin is the hardest instrument to learn to play, but I believe the voice is the hardest instrument to get complete control over. Practice lots and stay consistent.