Classical versus contemporary voice lessons

I’ve said this before and I’m going to say it again. I’m thankful I never took classical singing lessons when I was young.

I did sing in choirs up until about the age of 15. I respected my choir directors very much. I sang alto and learned great things about posture, head voice, reading music, tone, dynamics,  and blending with the other singers. It was great fun.

At the same time I was jamming with my sister in a local dance band. I sang everything from the Carpenters to Helen Reddy to Bill Haley and the Comets. This, too, was great fun. I was not using my “choir” voice in the dance band. I definitely had two very different voices as a young singer.

Eventually, I stopped singing in the choir but continued singing contemporary rock, pop and country music. My “choir” voice went away. I was happy to replace it with my “band” voice.

I tell you this story to make you aware of the many different sounds any singer can make. They are not made the same way, and any classical teacher who tells you they can teach you how to sing pop, rock or country better be able to prove it.

There are some teachers who can teach these two very different voices, but many cannot. So, be clear what you want and how you should get it.

If you have any questions, let me know. I’d be glad to point you in the right direction!

Singing Isn’t Rocket Science….

Learning to sing better isn’t rocket science. However, difficulty can arise when a singer wants to sound like someone else.

You know what I mean. Singers may want to sound like Josh Groban, Charlotte Church, Christine Aguilera, Steven Perry, Barbra Streisand….the list goes on. We all have our favourite voices that we try to emulate.

All the above voices are different in genre, style, texture and range. Let’s face it, no two voices are alike. That’s the beauty of being an unique singer! It’s not wrong to try and copy other voices, and in fact, I think it is an integral part of growing and exploring your voice. However, your voice is unique to you, and your instrument will not sound like anyone else’s on the planet.

I suggest you change your thoughts to your preferred style and genre of voice instead of a specific singer.

When looking for a voice teacher, make sure that teacher can sing the same style of music you want to sing. Classical singing technique will typically only teach you how to sing classical and opera music. Good vocal technique to sing Broadway is sometimes hard to find. You need a teacher who understands how to belt correctly (in a strong chest mix without strain) so that the voice can be free to sing notes that are loud and very high.

And guess what? If you can find a teacher who can teach you a strong “safe” Broadway belt, then you have probably found a teacher who can teach you country and pop and jazz too. Rock singing can be a challenge, so if you are a rock singer then be absolutely sure you have a teacher who knows what they are doing! This genre of singing can be extremely dangerous on the vocal cords.

Questions or comments? Leave me a message.


So you want to be a singer…

Learning to sing is no different than learning to play the guitar or the piano. It requires a great deal of discipline and practise to get your vocal cords working to the best of their ability. Copying other singers can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing. If you are not approaching the pitches correctly, or not using the appropriate mix of head and chest voice for the song, then it can be problem. This can create some very bad habits, and lead to hoarseness and possible damage.

Bottom line is, if it hurts or if you are straining for notes, then you are doing it wrong. Singing should feel easy and free. If you are grimacing and singing loudly during high notes then you are not singing freely.

Everyone’s vocal cords are different. That’s the fascinating thing about the vocal instrument. No two sound alike. Some voices are automatically pleasing, and some not so pleasing. Of course, this is all subjective. What’s pleasing to my ear may not be pleasing to your ear.

If you’re not sure how to make your singing better, then it’s a good idea to see a vocal coach with a reputable background to learn exercises that will help you build strength, endurance and better tone.

Think carefully before chosing a voice teacher…

Here are two scenerios to consider:

1. A student starts taking singing lessons at age 8 from a voice teacher who has had his/her training from a university. (This teacher also started his/her singing journey with a teacher who got his/her training from a university). The student accomplishes many singing exams, then goes on to university to complete his/her training in singing and graduates with a beautiful classically trained voice. This student, who is now a teacher, goes on to teach many other young voices.

Scenerio two:  A student starts singing lessons with a voice teacher who has had his/her training from a master teacher in Speech Level Singing. This teacher may have gone to university, but realized the limited potential for “work” with a classically-trained voice. This student doesn’t take vocal exams, but rather learns to sing with a microphone and performs regularly in front of small and large audiences. This student is also writing songs. This student goes to university but not for music. He/she is performing their original music with their band and making money to pay for their education. Later this student gets a record deal ….

Seth Riggs says take voice in a “Speech Level Singing” studio not at university…

Seth Riggs is considered by many to be the best and most successful voice teacher in the world. He is certainly the busiest. No other teacher, past or present, has ever matched his phenomenal track record. His students are a veritable “Who’s Who” of singers, actors, dancers, and entertainers throughout the world. He teaches opera singers, rock singers, jazz singers……..any kind of singer.

He recommends that singers who want to work in the music business take singing lessons outside of university. Here’s why…… teachers will teach you opera. This does not strengthen the “mix” which is what singers need to do in order to sing in the 21st century of rock, pop, country and jazz music. Singers need to learn how to negogiate through their bridges so they have a proper mix of chest and head voice through all their registers.  This will allow them to sing any style they want………….even opera!

That’s my head voice?

Have you ever had an “ah ha” moment? Well, that’s what happened with my adult student today and it was her first lesson.

She had developed the habit of only using her chest voice to sing. She ignored her head voice. I guess she didn’t like the sound. It’s actually quite a common habit among singers.

The problem is if we ignore our head voice, then we can’t reach the high notes “appropriately”. That is, with a “mixed voice”. Oh, you may be able to reach that high note, but what does it sound like? Is it wide and splatty, and overall just plain not nice to listen too? Probably.

You see, you can’t get a nice sound on a “high” note without using some of your head voice. That’s why you need to learn how to mix the chest with the head so you get a balance of each.

Are you not sure what is your head voice? Well, try to sing the vowel “oo” (like the hooting of an owl), and make high sounds……like the siren of a fire truck or ambulance. Is it breathy? Then you are likely using falcetto…..that is not your head voice. Try again, but don’t let the high note be breathy. Lean into it a bit. There you go, that’s your head voice!