How has Singing changed? Is Technique keeping up with Style?

Before the age of microphone technology there was only one way to sing. You needed to be heard at the back of the stadium with only your own head amplification to count on. This led to certain vocal techniques which were the only correct vocal sounds to be produced. This is known as a classical sound. Vocal technique was and still is centered around this classical sound, and the fact that it can be achieved without damage to the vocal cords while achieving great demands.

Times have changed, and when “popular music” emerged, there came a different voice, the “untrained” voice. Or, shall we say the voice that was trained by the singer, himself. This is much the way it still is today, and the division between the two voice types has never been more apparent. The classically trained singer generally has superb head voice tone, resonance and breath control, while the untrained voice may not. The “untrained” voice may have a superb chest voice register with belt, while the “trained” singer may not.

The classical singer’s “popular” voice sound is the voice you hear most often in musicals and on Broadway. The trained chest voice is typically precise with enunciation, resonance and clarity. Musicals sometimes require the singer to use their chest voice in a different manner compared to their classical training. In fact, productions are requiring a strong chest voice more now than ever before. Producers are looking for that singer who can sing just as strong in their chest voice, through their middle voice, and well into the head voice. This is a huge hurdle for some singers, depending on how they were trained.

A good way to think about it is that history has typically taught voice centered around the head voice and all its resonators and worked it’s way down into the chest voice……..whereas, musicals and Broadway are more than ever looking for voices that have trained well from their chest voice and up. In other words, a strong chest voice is more important in theatre than ever before.

So consider these ideas when searching out a voice teacher, or when working on your own voice. Which section on the voice do you practise the most? Do you know your chest voice from your head voice? Can you sing strong in your chest voice and through your middle voice (the mix)?

Your thought and questions are welcome.

2 thoughts on “How has Singing changed? Is Technique keeping up with Style?

  1. Hi! Thank you for sharing this information. I would like to ask you something. If I wanna sing like broadway singers do, should I study contemporary singing or classical singing?

    • Hi Andrea
      Thank you for your question.
      I suggest you find a good reputable teacher who is familiar with the shows and songs of Broadway. The pro side of a classical teacher is the opportunity to take examinations and sing in festivals. This can be a very good thing if you need the structure and feedback to advance your voice. The downside might be not developing your mix enough to sing contemporary/rock Broadway repertoire.

      The pro side of a reputable contemporary teacher is they will understand the importance of developing a good mix necessary to sing the many different styles we hear on Broadway today. The downside may be not having enough opportunities to sing (in exams and festivals for example). You would need to be diligent about self-motivation and find as many opportunities as you can to sing and act. I would suggest getting involved with your local playhouse or theatre group. And remember to sing, sing, sing everyday!

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