The vocal artist–particularly the young singer who is developing his/her vocal technique–must never be so committed to a particular sound or way of singing that creativity suffers. This is not to say that technical mastery must not be a goal, or that the expressive end justifies any means. Far from it, as great expression may be found in technique that is limiting, or even damaging! One should develop techniques that allow increasing options for both today and tomorrow, though. The basic vocal approach should be simple and integritous, so that it is dependable and will support decades of artistry. Yet, it must be comprehensive and thorough, so that a multiplicity of stylistic choices can be supported, and the maturing singer will be able to continually grow and adapt.
The serious student must be willing to experiment with a wide range of choices, attitudes, timbres and vocal directives. Voice lessons, vocal coachings, opera rehearsals, even choral/ensemble rehearsals provide the dedicated student with opportunities to expand her/his horizons. A teacher, coach or conductor may suggest or insist that the singer employ a particular timbre, intensity level, even a specific vowel (things that may seem manipulative or wrongly motivated) but the singer may discover an authentic result that becomes a viable option for other situations.
Above all, though, the practice room is the place to discover those abilities and talents that have been there all along, simply not recognized! The student (you) must not be so focused on being correct that expressive energy disconnects from technique-building. The goal of mastering “the sound” alone will disappoint; you will lose motivation and the basic joy of singing–what I call “the fun factor.” Surprise yourself by discovering new sounds, effects and abilities that you actually already possess!
I find when I let go of the sound I want to make and allow myself to sing for the sake of singing, I have a much easier time achieving the goals listed here. Singing should indeed be about the joy of it, rather than the sound!
I am enjoying your blogposts- they are very concise and direct and a very good pedagogical tool for young singers.
You have touched upon something very important. As each of our instruments is unique we have to find our individual paths. Lessons and formal learning are what give one the “rough cut” of the voice, but only through a genuine kinesthetic and visceral effort- involving “playing” and “experimenting” on one’s own- can one realize one’s full potential. Even trying things that are patently “wrong” can often open up new vistas and provide insights that are simply unavailable when one constrains oneself by staying “within the (technically correct) box.”
Well, let’s say I want to have a more “Broadway”/pop sound. Would I be able to make myself do that and experiment with it, even though my “natural” voice doesn’t possess some of those qualities? Do you think Britney Spears could sing opera if she were classically trained? Do I have the ability to sound like Britney Spears if I really tried?
How do we know what our voices *really* sound like?
I agree, and would say that this advice goes far beyond voice. Limiting yourself in any media is likely deprecated. The serious mediaist must be willing to participate in any number of media, evoking all of the senses, simply to get the message of the content across. Let no media limit you!
John — I appreciate your point of view, and concur with your comments. It’s nice to have your words to help illuminate the bigger picture.