Asking how to sing like Bono is a deep question. It comes down to asking which U2 song you prefer, as Bono has covered most rock singing styles (and sometimes in the same song, such as in “With or Without You”). Bono plays on contrast quite a lot, sliding from moody close-mike singing to full-belt gospel shouting with ease. So which Bono do you want to sing like?
Hitting Bono’s high C
Singers often marvel at Bono’s range, as he can sing the high C# in “Bad” during ‘I’m Wide Awake” without breaking. At the time, he sang this with a “head” voice, where you let the soft palate go completely and your voice shoots up into the resonators in your head (there’s a good example in the video below, although the coach speaks in Italian). But remember, Bono has about a two and a half octave range (three if you count the falsetto). This is impressive and not within everyone’s reach. So as I said, it’s important to choose your own Bono!
Although there has been a lot of debate about this, it’s likely that Bono would be rated as a baritone. Although he can hit high notes, it does take quite a lot of power (but remember, in rock singing, power is a good word).
If he was a tenor (such as Steve Parry from Journey) he would sound a lot more fluid when running through songs like “One” and “Pride”. So Bono is probably a high baritone with a very impressive upper range, which is not that rare in rock singers.
Singing Bono’s falsetto
People starting out at singing are often put off by the difficulty of singing falsetto. Naturally, as Bono loves a little drama he also loves to throw in this extra stylistic trick. The truth is that falsetto singing comes with practice. Coldplay’s Chris Martin is another singer that uses falsetto quite a lot, switching from a normal singing voice. It might be easier to try using him as a model before using Bono just so you get the mechanical side right. At first, you might want to almost stop singing for the split second you need to switch. But when you work at it, the switch to falsetto singing will become easier.
Two words of warning:
- First, Bono is a very proficient singer and pushes his voice very hard at times. It is essential that you work your way towards that. In practice, don’t try for the high notes or the massive rush in power straight away. You could do more damage to your voice than good. The warming-up exercises before practice are important.
- Secondly, voices change over time. Bono has been touring extensively for 30 years, and has also been using his falsetto voice more. It will be interesting to see how he manages the higher notes on future tours. So if Bono has to accommodate his voice to his own songs, don’t forget that you can too!
- Thirdly (hey, I thought there were only two!), watch Bono at any of his concerts. This man is eager to get a response from the audience. Many of the images show him trying to “embrace the world” (love the song). This is the last tip: know what the words mean and be very sure people get the emotional message.
Check the video for more thoughts on how to sing like Bono. This one is in Italian, but watch how clear his “head” voice is. This is the direction you want to take – one step at a time.