What Is Singing?

Richard Wagner, a 19th century German composer and conductor, once said that the “human voice is really the foundation of all music.” He may not have been very far off, since the sounds made by the human voice were actually used as a guide for the sounds for many musical instruments.

Singing refers to the act of making musical sounds with one’s voice instead of a musical instrument. It is also sometimes referred to as vocalization.

Today, singing is often done to accompany instrumental music. This is referred to as cantata singing. Acapella singing, on the other hand, is a type of singing with no musical accompaniment. This type of singing requires the singers alone to create rhythm and harmony, since there are no musical instruments.

Work Environment

Obviously, a singer – or vocalist – is a person that sings. However, there is usually much more to just opening one’s mouth and belting out a tune. Professional singers must be able to reach certain pitches with their voices, and they must be able to carry a tune. This means that they must be able to create certain notes – or pitches – with their voices.

Knowing which notes and pitches to reach with the voice is not always instinctive, nor is it always easy. A singer will usually use sheet music to know how high or low their voices should be at certain points in a song. Sheet music will also usually tell a singer how long or short each note should be. Although many singers will usually be born with the knack for carrying a tune, the majority of them will usually need to practice this skill constantly in order to perfect it.

Singing is a type of performance art, and singers are considered to be performing artists. Typically, a professional singer’s goal is to entertain other people during her performances. She may do this any number of ways, either in front of an audience or on a recorded track. A lead singer, for instance, is the main singer in a musical group, such as a band. Backup singers, on the other hand, provide harmony for a musical piece. Some singers also sing in large groups, known as choirs or choruses.

Some singers are also multi-talented. Aside from singing, they might also write music or lyrics. Some singers may be instrumentalists as well.

When practicing and performing, a singer will usually need to be able to work with other musicians, whether they are singers or instrumentalists. If a singer is not in sync with other musicians in a group, the sound of a musical piece can be completely ruined.

Anyone interested in a singing career should have a love for music in general. They should enjoy listening to music, simply for music’s sake. A love of music can only take a person so far, however. An aspiring singer should also have a good voice, and she should be able to sing well.

Perseverance and dedication, however, are equally important when looking to start a professional singing career. The music industry in general is a very competitive industry, and aspiring singers and other musicians must be prepared for hard work as well as initial rejections.

Education Requirements

With the exception of an opera career, which usually requires years of formal rigorous training, most singing careers do not require a formal education. However, formal training can help an aspiring singer refine her talent.

Nearly every musician will benefit from a degree in music or music theory. Aspiring singers can choose to concentrate on vocal performance. Singers should also enroll in voice coaching classes as well. These types of courses and degree programs can usually be earned at reputable performing arts institutes, music schools, as well as some traditional colleges.

Salary and Job Outlook


The average salary of a typical singer can be very difficult to predict. Live singers usually get paid per show, for instance, and depending on their popularity, the number of shows that different singers perform in will vary greatly.Recording artists also usually receive a certain amount of money for every album that consumers purchase. If a singer is successful in selling several albums, she can make a great deal of money. On the other hand, if she sells very few albums, she obviously won’t make as much money.The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), however, has recorded the salary data of many different singers and musicians. According to the BLS, singers and musicians made an average hourly wage of $26 in 2017. As mentioned above, the actual salary of a singer will vary depending on a number of factors.

Job Outlook

People who like to sing can technically perform just about anywhere they want, with or without an audience. For many, this means singing in the shower or at Wednesday night karaoke at the local tavern.Professional singers, on the other hand, are usually a little more particular about where they perform.Individuals who are just starting their singing careers will often perform nearly anywhere there is an audience to listen. For example, singers just starting their careers might perform in bars, nightclubs, and taverns. As they become more popular and gain a following, singers may then be able to book concerts at concert halls, theaters, and stadiums.Besides doing live shows, some singers may also record their music in recording studios. Depending on the type of music, these recording may either be sold for the entertainment and enjoyment of others, or it may be used for other purposes, like advertising.


2016 Median Pay

26.96 per hour

Recommended Level of Education

Some college, no degree

Number of Jobs in 2014


Expected % Change in Employment (2014-2024)

6% (Faster than average)

Expected 10 Year Employment Growth (2014-2024)


Source: BLS - Occupational Outlook Handbook

Singing Salaries by Industry


Other Amusement and Recreation Industries


Death Care Services


Motion Picture and Video Industries


Promoters of Performing Arts, Sports, and Similar Events


Agents and Managers for Artists, Athletes, Entertainers, and Other Public Figures

Source: BLS OES - Industry Profile
Mean Hourly Wage

Helpful Resources

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Singing Jobs