How to Learn Singing “Sixteen Tons” from Tennessee Ernie Ford

How to Learn Singing “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford

Learning to sing a specific song requires a combination of vocal technique, practice, and understanding of the song’s unique characteristics. In this article, we will explore how to learn singing “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford, a classic country song with a powerful and emotive vocal performance.

Understanding the Song

“Sixteen Tons” is known for its deep, resonant vocals and storytelling lyrics. The song tells the story of hard labor and the struggles faced by coal miners. To do justice to the song, it is important to connect with its themes and convey the emotions it carries.

Vocal Technique

The key to singing “Sixteen Tons” lies in the ability to deliver a rich and powerful vocal performance. Here are some vocal techniques to focus on:

  • Resonance: Develop resonance by enhancing your vocal projection and finding the optimal placement of sound in your body. This will help you achieve the deep and rich tone required for this song.
  • Voice Registers: Pay attention to transitioning between different voice registers, particularly from chest voice to mixed voice. This will allow you to capture the dynamic range of the song.
  • Vocal Distortion: To add intensity to certain parts of the song, experiment with controlled vocal distortion techniques like growling or gritty tones. However, use this technique sparingly to maintain vocal health.

Learning Resources

Using the following Singing Carrots resources can greatly assist you in mastering “Sixteen Tons”:

Practice Tips

To effectively learn and master “Sixteen Tons,” consider the following practice tips:

  • Start with vocal warm-ups using exercises like “How to Twang” and “Mixed Voice” to prepare your voice for the song’s demands.
  • Focus on the song’s lyrics, melody, and phrasing to ensure proper expression and storytelling.
  • Use the Vocal Pitch Monitor to monitor your pitch accuracy and make necessary adjustments.
  • Practice with songs within your vocal range to build confidence and develop your vocal control.
  • Record your practice sessions to listen back and identify areas that need improvement.


The key to learning “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford is to understand the essence of the song, focus on vocal technique, and utilize resources such as the Singing Carrots website to enhance your learning and practice. With dedication and consistent effort, you can master this classic country song and deliver a powerful vocal performance.