Ariana Grande is one of the greatest singers of our time, for plenty of good reasons. From her crazy range, intricate riffs and runs, crystal-clear tone and whistle voice—it’s no question why you want to learn to sing like her!
In order to learn how to sing like Ariana Grande, you will need to:
- Develop a solid (preferably classical) vocal foundation
- Learn and practice riffs and runs
- Find and strengthen whistle voice
Let’s get into it!
1. Develop a classically trained voice (or close to one)
Ariana Grande had her start on Broadway when she was 8 years old. So, this means she has a more classical style of singing from a very young age. This doesn’t mean you need a time machine to go back and classically train your voice; you can do this at any age! But it might be encouraging for you to know that it took much of Ariana’s life to develop the voice she has, so give yourself the same time and patience with your own voice.
A classically trained singing voice is a singing voice that focuses heavily on technique.
The most classical singing genres are opera, classical singing itself, and Broadway/musical theatre.
Classical singing is the purest form of singing, and in result it sounds much more proper and clean.
You can both see and hear Ariana’s classical roots best when she’s singing musical theatre, so check out this performance of her singing “The Wizard and I”: Ariana Grande – The Wizard And I (Live at the Wicked 15th Anniversary Special)
Much of what we hear on the radio, such as pop and rock music, stray pretty far from classical technique. Pop, for one, is a much more laid-back style of singing, where you can pick which techniques you like.
However, when singers use these classical techniques even in pop and rock music, you will hear crystal-clear tone, and sometimes they even sound like they’re auto-tuned when they aren’t. (Ex. Charlie Puth, whom many have joked that ‘auto-tune itself needs Charlie Puth’. The same applies to Ariana Grande. No arguments here.)
This is due to using classical singing techniques.
These classical techniques include:
- Learning proper breathing (from your diaphragm, which you can read about here!)
- Building a solid vocal foundation through learning chest voice, mixed voice, and head voice
- Forming correct vowels
You can check out those classical techniques in my post about how to sing opera, over here!
2. Riffs and Runs
One signature of Ariana’s voice is her insane runs.
Vocal riffs and runs are when a singer sings one string of connected notes that often change pitch quickly.
As you can see in the compilation video of Ariana’s best riffs and runs, she is quite a master at this technique!
She’s compared to Mariah Carey for a reason: both their runs are so intricate and quick.
Ariana has said that she learned how to do the riffs and runs she does by studying them from the greats: Beyoncé, Mariah, Celine Dion, among others. She would practice doing their riffs to learn them, and then she eventually found her own style of runs for her own voice.
How to sing riffs and runs
One great way you can improve your riffs and runs is by practicing vocal warm-ups geared toward riffs and runs. There are thousands of videos on YouTube with riffs and warm-ups, and they will increase your voice’s flexibility and speed. The more you practice these, the easier it will be for your voice to switch from note to note with as much precision and clarity as Ariana herself.
Here is one video in particular that is a very helpful, warm up for riffs and runs (there is a male register version, but we’ll just link the female one for the article!) Riffs and Runs Vocal Workout – Female Riff Exercises
You can also check out my post on riffs and run over here!
3. Whistle Voice
One of the most famous, and most impressive, parts of Ariana Grande’s voice is her whistle register, or her whistle voice.
Whistle voice is the highest possible register of the human voice. This register occurs from the soprano “high D” and above (usually capping out about an octave higher).
It sounds similar to its namesake: it is a very high-pitched sound that sounds similar to a whistle, however when done both correctly and healthily, carries a beautiful, well-rounded tone.
Here’s a compilation video of some of her best whistles! 8 Times Ariana Grande WENT OFF in Whistle Register!
Ariana uses this register in most of her songs, usually as an improvisation, a riff/run, and sometimes even as a harmony in the background of her tracks that you could blink and miss.
How to sing in whistle voice
First and foremost, proceed with caution!
Whistle voice is a very gorgeous vocal technique. However, there’s also a very high risk of hurting your voice if you are doing whistle voice incorrectly.
So, you want to make sure that we’re doing this technique carefully, and you aren’t forcing anything. Take your time with it; it will take a while to develop this part of your voice, so don’t speed up the process by forcing or pushing, as that may lead to vocal damage.
With that in mind, let’s get into how to sing whistle notes!
- Lip trills
The first thing to do is find your whistle register. (Yes, you already have it!)
There’s a quick way to access it, even if you have never attempted to sing whistle tones before.
First, do a lip trill.
If you aren’t sure what a lip trill is, it’s the exact technique a toddler uses when pretending to speed a plastic boat in water to mimic the sound of the engine. Pretty much, you’re just blowing air and completely relaxing your lips, so that they make a trill-like sound.
If this is new to you, it will take some time to maintain it.
Here’s a video of this technique if you need a visual representation! How To Lip Trill
For those of you who are familiar with this technique, as it’s used in many vocal warm-ups, let’s take it one step further!
- Do a lip trill on a slide
If you’re also new to the idea of what a vocal slide is, a vocal slide, or siren, is when you slide through all the notes in your range in one breath, both up and down. It will resemble the wail of an ambulance or fire siren.
(Also another great warm up all on its own.)
However, to reach our whistle register, we’re going to do a siren…
…on a lip trill.
(Again, this is another great warm up on its own.)
Now, to find the whistle tones…
- Open your mouth mid-trill
Now, do that lip trill a few times, sliding up and down your range. Then, take a breath and do a lip trill around the very top of your range. Try to get it as close to the highest notes as you can hit.
Then, open your mouth, mid-trill.
What you’ll hear is a very raw whistle tone.
Important: do not push or force this at all!
Pushing or forcing here could cause vocal damage–and we want to avoid that at all costs.
You might notice that your whistle tones don’t sound nearly as clean, as controlled, and that you can’t hold them as long as Ariana can. That’s totally normal. You will probably only be able to hold this tone for a few seconds at most. Let it last however long it naturally does. Let it sound however raw it sounds and make sure you stay relaxed!
But how cool is that?! You just sang in your whistle register.
For another visual representation of this exact technique, check out this video! How To Sing Whistle Notes Like a Pro!
I’ll reiterate one last time: do not push or force this!
Ariana Grande herself is very vocal (pun intended) about singing healthily. So, if you’re trying to sing like Ariana Grande, go the extra step, and sing as healthily as she does.
Your whistle register will round out and develop in its own time!
All of Ariana’s techniques are completely learnable. Just put as much time, effort and determination into your voice as she’s done with hers, throw in a “yuh” here and there, and you’ll be singing like her one day!
But just remember—as Ariana herself would tell you, make sure you take care of your voice as you get there!
What is your favorite aspect of Ariana’s voice? Let me know in the comments!