Amy Winehouse Tribute

Amy Winehouse is one of the many singers that inspire me. The walls of my teaching studio are covered with the albums and images of my favorite singers. Among them are Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Chet Baker, Kurt Elling, Prince, Erykah Badu, and of course Amy Winehouse.

Check out my tribute to Amy’s “October Song” off of her first album, Frank.

Amy Winehouse Tribute


For the jazz lovers in the audience, Amy took the melody to the jazz standard “Lullaby of Birdland” for her chorus on “October Song”. She wrote new lyric and altered a few of the chords.

Amy Winehouse was a jazz singer at heart, an old soul. When I listen to her, I can hear her musical influences. I hear Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington and Etta James. I hear Sam Cook and Ray Charles. But most strikingly, I hear a totally unique singer who is much more than just a combination of her musical influences. She internalized their music until it became part of her.

How do I find my authentic voice as a singer and artist?

I get a lot of  students who ask me this question. They feel as though they haven’t found the true sound of their voice and don’t know what style of music suites them.

I always tell them- Study the artists you love. Take in what they have to teach you. Every note and every phrase. Learn from them! I know at least one album, note for note, of every singer that graces my studio walls.

Carmen McRae taught me how to lay down the time, Sarah Vaughan taught me how to fatten up my low notes to sound rich and sultry. Prince taught me to sing with attitude.

It’s not about imitation or forcing something unnatural onto your voice. It’s about recognizing what you like about a singer and trying to cultivate that trait in your own voice.

What can we learn from Amy?

Dig deep. Expand your musical horizons. I once had a student who only listened to Chris Brown, R. Kelly and Usher. Sure, these guys are good singers, but if you only listen to 3 people ( same sound, same genre, same generation) you are going to have a pretty one dimensional sound.

Ask yourself, who influenced the singers that I love? Dig deeper into the history of the styles you love to listen to. The deeper and broader your influences, the more layered and compelling your sound will become.

As singers, each of us is a fusion of our influences and the unique sound of our voice. That’s one of the beautiful things about being a singer- no two voices are the same.

How To Practice

I use this exercise with my private students who want to develop their style.

Choose 3 of your favorite singers. Make a list of what you love about each voice. You should be listening to their music as you make your list. Be specific. If you like their tone quality, describe the sound- smooth, rich, bright, breathy, rough etc…

Maybe you like their vibrato or the way they cut off their phrases? Or maybe you’d love to be able to sing riffs and runs the way they do.

Once you have a clear list of vocal attributes that you admire, it’s time to work to develop those attributes in your own voice. The best way to do this is to choose a recording and learn it inside out. Get all of the pitches, the phrasing, the tone quality etc.

Experiment with different tone qualities you can create, but if anything hurts or strains your voice- STOP! Singing should never hurt.

Remember, It’s not about imitation or forcing something unnatural onto your voice. It’s about recognizing what you like about a singer and trying to cultivate that trait in your own voice.

Enjoy your practice!!


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