Tough job for female Broadway singers

My last post was a look at belt singing. Today I want to express the problems facing female trained voices in theatre.

Traditional training typically approaches the high voice in a female singer, and works downward. It can produce some beautiful head voice sounds, but leaves the “speech-level” chest tones alone. Female singers are typically more breathy as they go lower in pitch….irregardless of whether they are a soprano or an alto.

These trained voices have issues pursuing work in theatre….more so now than ever before. Due to the cultural musical shifts and changes, producers are writing plays that require a more contemporary sound with the ability to chest belt. What is good belting? In my opinion, good belting is the ability of the singer to ascend through her first bridge, while maintaining a good chest register connection at a loud volume. This means the balance of the mix voice has more chest tone (speech-like), as opposed to head tone. Can this be done without major trauma or distress to the vocal cords? Absolutely!!! Unfortunately, classically trained singers are at a disadvantage because this sensation is everything they have been told not to do.

Some female voices on Broadway have found a good mix while others have not. Singers who are unable to find a good mix are unable to transition from their low voice into their head voice without notice. They tend to flip into their chest register for lower singing lines, and end up “shouting” up to the highest note needed to complete the phrase. Then, as soon as the music is back to a higher pitch they go back to their classically trained approach. These complications generally happen for notes that fall under A4. Have you experienced this? Tell us about it.

Comments and questions are welcome.

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.