Learn from a Vocal Coach to the Stars: Lis Lewis

Lis Lewis working with singers
She's coached Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Courtney Love, Iggy Azalea -and many others...

Lis Lewis is a voice teacher and performance coach in Los Angeles, CA. 

Her clients include: Rihanna, Miguel, The Pussycat Dolls, All-American Rejects, Colbie Caillat, Demi Lovato, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Courtney Love, Iggy Azalea, Loren Allred, Jimmy Eat World, Priyanka Chopra, Jack Black, Bryson Tiller and Kali Uchis.

She was the vocal coach for the reality singing shows “Rock The Cradle” and “Rock Star: Supernova”. She’s coached artists on The Grammy’s, The American Music Awards, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Saturday Night Live, SoulTrain Awards, BET Awards, Billboard Awards, NBA All-Star Halftime Show

Lis shares insights, career highlights and lessons learned in her extensive work with singers:

A favorite quote that inspires you

Two quotes from my favorite vocal coaches:

  • Robert Edwards: Let the song pass through you. Don’t get in it’s way or try to force your stamp on it. Trust the song.
  • Gene Lawrence: Treat your voice like an honored guest. House it, feed it and respect it. You didn’t earn it; it’s a gift.

An important lesson you learned early on in terms of vocal health

Warming up. It’s essential if you want to sound good from beginning to end of your set or session. Otherwise you waste the first three songs (or studio takes) dialing in your voice.

An important early lesson on technique?

Lis works with Bailey Baum and many other dynamic, emerging artists.

Mixing. I used to push my chest voice up as far as it would go which inevitably led to hoarseness. When I learned to mix chest and head it completely changed my singing; my range got bigger, my stamina improved and I never sounded like I was shouting or straining. As a teacher, I’ve become The Mistress of Mix

A vocal artist who inspires you? 

That’s an impossible question to answer. So many of my own students inspire me. I get to see the kind of work they put in and their constant recommitment to singing and singing really well. Right now, my idol is Miguel. What a voice! And he’s also damn sexy.

What is it about their singing that inspires you?

Miguel has incredible range and control but also he’s extremely expressive and authentic. His great technique frees him to sing whatever comes into his mind without worrying about whether he can accomplish it. It allows him to be inspired.

Miguel onstage at the MGM Grand Las Vegas – photo taken by Lis who was observing alone in the venue

What is one issue that you especially want to flag up with all singers in terms of vocal health!

You are the only person responsible for your voice. If you over-sing tonight, you won’t be able to sing your show tomorrow. If you have that one extra shot, you won’t be in shape for tomorrow morning’s radio interview. No matter what other people tell you, there’s wisdom inside of you that knows what you need to do to take care of your instrument. Do it. (And BTW that inner wisdom will also guide you in other choices: songs, style, image, direction. Pay attention to it. That doesn’t mean pay attention to only that; you will still listen to advice and creative input. Just don’t lose sight of yourself)

What is one issue that you especially want to flag up with all singers in terms of an effective performance?

Mean what you’re singing. Never be on automatic pilot. If you’re thinking about what’s for dinner, you shouldn’t be on stage. The more you connect to your voice, the melody, the rhythm and the lyrics, the more your audience will gravitate to you. They will recognize themselves in you if you’re real.

Your first singing performance?

Singing for my kindergarten class! I knew it then and I’ve known it ever since: I can sing!!!

What did you learn from that performance?

I had been singing for my family for as long as I can remember. They couldn’t shut me up. But singing in front of my friends was something else!  The song was ‘My Grandfather’s Clock’ which still gives me chills. I knew just what to do with my voice to make it interesting and keep their attention.

What event would you single out as being a “turning point” & why?

Performing for and being signed by a major producer who took me into the studio with a full band to record an album’s worth of my own songs. (FYI that was after a lot of slogging through the industry with very little to show for it. Then I had a bit of luck – one of the many doors I was knocking on, opened)

See Lis’s website: The Singer’s Workshop

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