I grew up singing. I sang at nursery school, I sang at church. I sang at public school in the choir and when I was 13 started a “band” with my sister. I played bass guitar and she played drums. We also had two friends in the band who sang and played guitar. We would perform at church events, community events, and frankly, anywhere we could. My parents were very supportive and it was a huge part of why I am still singing and performing today.
I didn’t take singing lessons as a child, but I did take piano lessons. I can remember the hurdles I had with my voice early on. I can remember the limits I had. Even though I had a “nice voice” it was mostly chest voice. The highest note I could sing comfortably was a C above middle C, and that was pushing it. I struggled with this limitation for years as I went on to play and sing in different dance bands for over 20 years. I got good at belting but I had trouble lasting a gig that was more than three nights in a row. If I had a virus I was doomed. I knew I couldn’t make it through even one night without being hoarse.
I studied classical voice when I was in my 30’s and pregnant with my first child. It was something that I always wanted to do. I practised hard and took the Grade 9 Western Conservatory practical exam after two years of training. After that, I quit. I had learned a lot, and it was some of the most vigorous singing I had ever done. However, I didn’t want to sing classical music. I wanted to sing contemporary music.
The reason I am writing this post is to tell you how glad I am that I never had traditional singing lessons as a child or teenager even though I wanted them. To put it simply is that classical singing lessons would have changed my vocal sound, and I would never have been able to sing popular genres the way I do now. The reason I know this is because I experienced myself what singers with trained voices are experiencing as they try to sing other styles of music. Unfortunately, traditional classical training gets in the way. Popular and contemporary music focuses a lot on music written under the first bridge, through the first bridge and usually climaxing near the second bridge (not over the second bridge). Singers usually approach the second bridge with more chest in the “mix” than head voice. This is the problem. Classically trained singers have trouble disengaging so much head voice in their mix. They are not familiar with their speech level chest voice which is very common in popular music.
The best thing that happened to me is when I stumbled upon Speech Level Singing (SLS). I had been reading and researching it for years, and finally decided to enroll as a student/teacher. (Yes, I still take voice lessons!). SLS was the technique that saved my voice. I can now sing hour after hour, night after night, with consistency, great tone, power and strength. It has been the only technique that made sense to me. I am now able to strengthen my mix daily and stay healthy and ready for regular singing day after day.
My comment to you is this. If you take traditional vocal lessons, you need to realize you may be altering your voice in a way that you don’t really want to. Traditional training approaches the voice from the high end first. You end up with this beautiful head voice tone. However, the chest voice can suffer and leave you wondering why you can’t sing certain songs the way other singers do.
Times are changing and there is no better time to tell singers about these differences than now…..so spread the word!