Previous voice training

When I think back to the voice training I have had (6 different teachers in the past 20 years), speech level singing was the eye-opening experience for me. That is not to say that the classical training I had wasn’t useful….because it was….in many ways….but in other ways, it was detrimental.

It wasn’t until I took speech level singing lessons that I found a teacher who understood the actual bridging of my voice (and taught me to understand it)! I was vocalizing through three passagi in the first lesson and over 2 and a half octaves. I had never experienced that in all the previous lessons I had taken.

The blending of the registers is key, in my opinion, to developing a strong and healthy voice in all registers. Here are three favourite links to teachers who teach “mixing” and blending registers (formerly called speech level singing).

No classical singing lessons here…

I’ve said before that I’m not a big fan of classical voice training for commercial singing. I’m happy that I never had voice lessons when I was a teen.

The reason being is that I learned what my voice can and can’t do on my own…long before I ever took a voice lesson. Classical training would have suggested my coordinations for resonating with a high tongue and slightly high larynx were incorrect. Teachers would have opened up the back of my throat, thus creating a “classical” sound. Years of this type of training would have squashed all my instincts that have taught me how to belt and sing freely in my high range with a commercial sound.

However, teens now have options. Classical training is not the only road to good technique.

Mix it

I much prefer to hear a singing voice that is unique and interesting, to a voice that has been trained to sound the same as other “trained” voices.

If your plan is singing in a band, or karaoke, or even musical theatre, then beware what “kind” of voice training you get.

Radio-friendly voices today are “in the mix”. ¬†Audiences love to hear a chest voice that meets the head voice in wild and crazy ways. There are so many textures and co-ordinations possible, it’s mind boggling. Find your best “coordination” and “mix it!”

Singers, you have a choice!

Times have changed, and they are going to continue to change for singers. This is a great thing! Singers now have a choice!

Gone are the days when there was one, and only one, way to train the voice. There was traditional voice training, and there was traditional voice training! You could go to university and develop a beautifully resonant head voice that soared through arias. Or, you could go to a private teacher, who either learned the same way, or taught what worked for them.

Traditional voice training was developed for traditional European music (where a singer had to be heard at the back of the concert hall with no microphone), but this type of projection was not what rock’n rollers and contemporary singers needed to help them sing better. Most traditional voice teachers considered these modern types of singing (which was predominantly a thick fold/chest voice coordination) wrong and damaging to the voice.

We now know this isn’t the case. Certainly there are limits to what the voice can do (in any coordination), but making unique and different sounds other than traditional classical, choir-like sounds is not always damaging to the vocal cords.

Seth Riggs was a pioneer in developing a vocal technique that strengthened the bridges in the voice and encouraged transitioning through the registers. No more vocal breaks. Hallelujah! This technique balanced the singer’s voice so they could sing whatever genre of music they wished.

Some teachers are now helping singers who want to make even more extreme sounds. Resonance and bridging is fundamental in these music genres to ensure the singer maintains a healthy larynx.

Singers, what do you think? Have you found freedom and balance in your voice, while at the same time you’re able to make sounds you are happy with?

The untrained voice and belt singing

The definition of (chest) belting according to Seth Riggs is using an excessive amount of air (air blast) and vocal cord tension in an attempt to sing louder.

Over the last 50 years, singers have been using their voices in many new and demanding, interesting and entertaining ways. Whether we like it or not, the untrained voice is creating sounds that many cultures desire and enjoy. Traditional singing techniques consider these sounds wrong. What is a singer to do? Take traditional vocal lessons and never be able to create these sounds? Or train elsewhere and learn how to make these vocal sounds without harm to the vocal cords.

Belting is indeed “a flavour” that the Western world has embraced. This can be a learned technique, but for the most part is self-taught. Good singers who are very “intune” with their body energy and support can acquire a belting voice with much practise and careful attention. An example of this would be Celine Dion and Adam Lambert. Unfortunately, when a singer is not careful about the problems associated with “belting” incorrectly, it can result in hoarseness, vocal nodes, fatigue, and even total loss of the voice.

Singers need to be aware that traditional training is not always the best path to study voice. Musical theatre voices are changing as well. Producers are hiring singers who can belt more now than ever. Again, we may not like these changes, but this is happening. The trained voice is being set-up for failure in the music business.

Having said that, Speech Level Singing does not encourage or teach belting. Belting is a preference in style. SLS sets a singer up with a strong, well-balanced voice, that allows the singer to sing in any style they wish.

I will try and unravel more about vocal styles in upcoming posts.