Since the early 2010s, Abel Makkonen Tesfaye (professionally known as The Weeknd) has been blazing a trail of success.
His 80s-influenced music matched with his silky tenor voice has caught the attention of fans and budding singers everywhere. No wonder so many want to sound like The Weeknd!
If you’ve been trying in vain to sound like him, though, you’ve come to the right place at the right time. In this guide, we explain how you can sing like The Weeknd.
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Listen To The Weeknd’s Influences
Here’s a step that many will end up skipping. But if you want to know where The Weeknd gets his singing style from, exploring his influences is well worth your time.
The Weeknd says his primary influences include:
- Michael Jackson
- R. Kelly
You can detect shades of these influences in his lyrics and delivery, and it is clear he has strong hip-hop and R&B leanings too.
If you want to delve deeper, you should also explore Aster Aweke, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Cocteau Twins, Deftones, Lana Del Rey, David Bowie, The Smiths, Bad Brains, DeBarge, Talking Heads, Eminem, 50 Cent, and Wu-Tang Clan.
Some of the previously mentioned acts represent vocal influences, while others reflect The Weeknd’s synth-heavy 80s musical style that he’s taken to.
Determine Your Vocal Range
The Weeknd is reportedly a lyric tenor with an F2 to G#5 vocal range. That means he has a three-octave range with a few extra notes thrown in.
For better or for worse, most male singers are not natural tenors but rather baritones, meaning they possess a lower voice and range than The Weeknd. Fortunately, even if you are a baritone, there’s still hope (it could be a different story for my bass singers out there though).
If you want to find out what your vocal range is now, you can either sit at a piano and find the lowest and highest notes you can comfortably sing (without straining), or use Ramsey Voice Studio’s Vocal Range Finder for quick automated results.
Knowing your vocal range will give you a good idea of how much of a challenge singing a Weeknd song will or won’t be.
The good news is most people can extend their range by about an octave if not more. Plus, if you’re willing to work on your falsetto voice (more on this later), I think you will find that imitating The Weeknd isn’t that hard, even for a baritone.
For the most part, I find The Weeknd’s voice to be wispy (let me know if you think otherwise), which is why you can get away with a lot of falsetto.
Some experts say to master belting if you want to sing like The Weeknd, but honestly, I’m not hearing it. I find The Weeknd goes quite easy on those vocal cords of his.
Most phrases he sings are short and to the point, rarely long and sustained (except for emphasis), and not powerful in their delivery. His singing style is, for lack of a better term, effeminate (but let’s be honest – Prince was kind of the same way, though he knew how to belt when called upon).
This is neither good nor bad – it’s simply the way The Weeknd has chosen to channel his influences, and what works best for mass appeal.
Of course, there are still some techniques you’ll want to work on if you want to sing like The Weeknd, so let’s get into those.
Don’t Skip Your Vocal Warmups
It honestly doesn’t matter who you want to sound like or how much singing you intend to be doing. Do not skip your vocal warmups!
While it might be a bit of an exaggeration to say that the voice is a fragile and delicate thing, bad technique and over-singing can lead to injury rather quickly.
Warmups will not only help you avoid complications but can also help you develop good singing habits and techniques. This can lead to meaningful progress in other ways too, such as with your range.
There are many vocal warmup exercises to choose from, and you can even find apps that come with entire vocal warmup libraries.
I will still make some suggestions as to where you can get started, though. Do these exercises every time you’re warming up, preferably daily:
- Lip trills. Stand or sit up straight, loosen any tension in your neck or shoulders, take a deep breath in, and exhale (slowly) as your lips are pursed. Allow some air to pass through your lips and let your lips flop together. This exercise will help you get your lips warmed up for singing.
- Tongue trills. Relax your tongue and place it behind your front upper teeth. Inhale through your nose and exhale from your mouth. Make your tongue vibrate as if you’re rolling your R’s. Hold this for several seconds. As you get used to it, you can try holding tongue trills for longer and longer durations (a great way to practice singing sustained notes). Tongue trills will help your tongue get warmed up for singing.
- Sirens. Make an “ooh” or “ng” syllable sound as you glide up from the lowest note in your range to the highest note in your range, and then back down the way you came. Repeat this several times. It should sound a bit like an emergency vehicle siren (that’s how you know you’re doing it right). Always remember to stay relaxed and don’t try to go beyond your range.
- Humming. You know how sometimes you’re listening to your favorite song on Spotify and you end up humming it all day long? Besides annoying your friends, roommates, or significant other, it turns out this is a great way to get your voice warmed up for singing. Try humming some scales or melodies. Hum your favorite melodies. Hum, everywhere you go. Start simply and work your way up from lower to higher notes.
Extend Your Vocal Range
If you’re not a natural tenor, it’s nice to know you can still extend your vocal range by at least an octave, sometimes more. This is another good reason to determine your vocal range before getting started – you get to track your progress.
One of the main reasons people even take voice lessons in the first place is so they can expand their range.
To extend your vocal range, you will need to achieve more stretch and resistance at the vocal folds (both are required).
As with most things, however, you’ve got to walk before you can run. Jumping right into singing songs that require a huge range (like “Bohemian Rhapsody”) could see you injuring your voice. And that will set you back, even if it’s just time spent resting and healing.
Extending your vocal range is mostly a matter of good technique, which is why we recommend getting a vocal coach to help you through the process. We’ve even covered some of the warmups you should be doing if you’re looking to extend your range earlier.
Here’s a summary of steps that play a critical role in you being able to extend your range safely and consistently:
- Work on your posture
- Breathe from the diaphragm
- Relax and relieve tension
- Work on your lip trills and sirens
Extending your range should be a high priority if you’re thinking about becoming a better singer long-term. But if the only thing you’re interested in is sounding like The Weeknd, more time could be spent working on your falsetto.
Either way, we will be talking about developing your falsetto voice a little later. The key difference is that you can extend your natural range without using your falsetto.
If you’re a female singer, there’s a good chance you already possess the range you need to sing The Weeknd songs.
Develop Your Vibrato
You’ve probably heard singers adding a bit of a “wobble” to their voice, especially when they’re finishing a phrase. This is known as vibrato.
Nowadays it can be hard to tell the difference between natural wobble and auto-tune. Not surprisingly, The Weeknd uses auto-tune, so it’s safe to say it’s a bit of Category A and a bit of Category B.
There’s no doubt he is using natural vibrato in his singing, such as in the song “Earned It,” but some of the fast and wide vibratos you can hear on his recordings can be attributed to auto-tune.
And while he is using vibratos in parts of “Earned It,” for the most part he is actually using melisma, which is where you move between several notes in succession while singing one syllable.
So, if you want to sing like The Weeknd, you may want to work on this aspect of your technique as well (more on melisma later).
If anything, The Weeknd seems to have a natural “shaky” quality to his singing, which he uses to his advantage.
Listen closely and notice the subtleties and nuances of The Weeknd’s singing style. You will start to hear how he uses his naturally high, wispy voice to his advantage.
Remember – listening is key to you sounding more like your favorite singers. If you spend no time studying their singing style and technique, you have very little hope.
Work On Your Falsetto
This is the 80/20 of this guide. Even if you happen to be a natural baritone, if you can get your falsetto working for you, you should not find it difficult to sing higher notes, and even imitate or sing like The Weeknd.
But first, what is falsetto (not to be confused with head voice)?
Your falsetto voice represents the upper register of your voice above what is known as your modal voice register. Your modal voice is the voice you use by default in speech and singing.
Singing in falsetto allows you to access higher notes you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach. That means even if you are a baritone, you can hit the higher notes The Weeknd sings by taking advantage of your falsetto (tenors should be working on their falsettos too, though).
The Weeknd moves effortlessly between his registers, something that’s very noticeable in his hit single, “Blinding Lights.”
Creating smooth transitions between your registers is admittedly something that can take a while, so don’t expect this to come overnight.
For best results, develop your chest voice, head voice, and falsetto alongside an experienced vocal coach.
Develop Your Melisma
Working on your vibrato will make you a better singer, and in some ways, it will help you sound more like The Weeknd too.
But if you had to choose between vibrato and melisma to sound like The Weeknd, I would suggest placing a higher priority on melisma.
Melismatic singing involves singing multiple notes using a single syllable. Ariana Grande, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, and other similar singers are well known for their melisma. The term “vocal runs” or “riffs” may also be used to refer to melisma.
Vocal runs sound very impressive, which is one of the reasons artists who take their vocals seriously rarely if ever miss out on opportunities to show off their vocal prowess.
Fortunately, just about anyone can perform simple vocal runs. The best singers can do them on command and move quickly between multiple notes, but even if slowly, beginners can do this too. After all, singing a melody requires you to move between different notes too.
If you want to start creating your own riffs and runs, then you can identify a few notes in a key signature, and practice singing the notes up and down while holding a pure vowel.
While there are other exercises you can try, we’ve covered many of the essentials already – relaxed posture, warmup exercises, working on your mixed voice, etc.
Should I Take Vocal Lessons?
Yes, we wholeheartedly recommend finding an experienced coach to book vocal lessons with!
The advantages are multiple. Consider the following:
- A teacher can guide you every step of the way. You can discuss your goals with your teacher, and they will tailor a curriculum to you. They will walk you through the steps necessary to reach your goals (which will sometimes mean working on things that are seemingly “irrelevant” to singing like The Weeknd – guaranteed they aren’t!) and help you address problem areas as they come up.
- Teachers can help you avoid bad technique. Singing technique did not come naturally to me, and no doubt this is the same for most people who are fresh to singing. You may hear clichés like “check your posture” or “sing from the diaphragm” and have no idea what this means! It can take a while for it all to “click” but guaranteed it will happen faster with a teacher than it will on your own.
- A teacher can help you avoid over-singing and injury. Injuries generally come from improper technique, tension, and straining. But it can sometimes be hard to tell when you’re doing all the wrong things! Experienced teachers should be able to tell what you’re doing wrong and when, so you don’t end up with injuries that negatively affect your ability to sing and become a better singer.
How To Sing Like The Weeknd, Final Thoughts
There’s simply no way for us to cover all the technical details of how to sing like The Weeknd here. This is the main reason we suggest getting lessons with a qualified teacher. They can help ensure that you’re on the right track as you’re practicing.
We hope you found what you were looking for and have a ton of fun singing like The Weeknd!