How different is your singing from your speaking voice?

One of the key principles that our technique is built on is using the natural calibration of your speaking voice (i.e. chest voice) as a roadmap to build our singing voice. The greater the deviation from our speaking voice co-ordination/calibration (evidenced by a different sound), the greater the level of issues singers tend to encounter.

Such issues can be physical, acoustic, and/or psychological. Let’s talk about a few of these.

1) Physical issues

– The way you speak is a healthy way to phonate and make sound, for the majority of people at least. Therefore, the more you deviate from that healthy way of using your voice, the greater the likelihood you’ll contribute to some kind of vocal trauma. This could be as minor as swelling, moderate as a regularly sore throat or need to clear your throat, or far more severe, nodules, granuloma, haemorrhage, etc.

An artist like John Mayer would be a good example of someone whose singing voice deviates heavily from his speaking voice, and this has led to severe vocal issues (granuloma) that required surgery and vocal cord paralysis for a long period to enable recovery. It’s also a key reason he struggles with pitching now, as this is a side effect of granulomas.

2) Acoustic issues

– This is far more evident by way of a sound that makes people go ‘oh, that’s not what I was expecting’ because your singing voice sounds so dramatically deviant from your normal voice, all the way through to someone just sounding mangled, or struggling to hit notes on demand (whether low or high). An unusual sonic style can be a useful effect from time to time, but as a default state of singing, this can lead to undesirable musical and technical issues.

A good of example of such a big deviation would be a singer like Passenger. Here’s a clip of him both singing, being interviewed, AND the interviewer commenting on that discrepancy. I’ve marked the video to start from the short song clip:

They also discuss some positives to having a unique sound, which I 100% agree with, and we should absolutely seek that unique sound, but as a result of styling a completed safe and healthy voice, not arbitrarily styling it before we even start to build the voice (for reasons we are discussing in this very post).

3) Psychological issues

– In some ways, I feel this area is the least looked at and yet arguably the most powerful. Fundamentally, when you use your own voice – the one you are intimately familiar with because you’ve used it your whole life – you no longer feel a disconnect between you and your singing voice. It means when you sing, it already feels like you. This makes it like speaking on pitch. Whereas doing the opposite often leads to people feeling like they are bashing notes out on a keyboard rather than using their own voice. It leads to a psychological disconnect in how they sing, and this is a huge deal.

Now you can work through the latter, but in my experience it’s a very hard process (that also leads to some weird psychology where people don’t want to sing in their own voice), and also increases the risk of issues in the first two areas BECAUSE of how fully committed they are to a sound that is not their own.

Conclusion

We’ve GOT to get someone into their real voice, which starts with chest and proceeds from there. For health, tonal, and mental reasons, this makes a HUGE difference to the longevity, power and style of a voice.

Further reading: If you want to read more on establishing chest voice and why this is important, have a look at these articles here for further reading. Any questions, let me know.

Doyle Bramhall II – Everything You Need

A great 70s soul sound from Doyle Bramhall II. This guy has done it all, with Clapton, Roger Waters, Jimmie Vaughn and many many more. It reminds me of Donny Hathaway but far more guitar led. Very easy-going vocals to be found here.

Voice pedagogy – has teaching become more about science than singing?

A question was asked relatively recently in a voice forum by someone who had picked up on recent trends for voice teachers to dive heavily into voice research as opposed to practical vocal development.

“Has voice pedagogy become study ABOUT the voice rather than how to TEACH singing?”

This is a fascinating question, and one I think about a lot. I posted the following response in the forum, and a number of people suggested I follow it up as an article on my site. Here are my thoughts in response to the above question:

In my opinion, I think there has been an excessive shift towards pure intellectual knowledge over practical application. More importantly, there has been a drift away from a more objective and concrete understanding/appreciation of what makes good singing. Having objective science seems to matter very little if there isn’t something objective to apply it to, i.e. what does good singing ACTUALLY sound like? Continue reading “Voice pedagogy – has teaching become more about science than singing?”

How to sing when recording?

I received an email this week asking about how to sing when recording. I’ve re-parsed the sentences in the email so that the questions flow for the purposes of this article.

“Hi Mark,

Do you have any articles [or advice] on how to sing when recording? I feel like my recorded voice sounds both harsh and dull.

I wonder whether I sing too forcefully to try and get emotional intensity. Do I need to improve my loud singing? Or is it about singing differently when recording?

When I listen to my favourite artists’ recordings they sound alive, intense and still have nice higher resonances going on. Would getting a mic that can deal with louder singing help with not losing the higher resonances?”

What can we do?

Sorry to hear you’re having trouble with your vocal recordings. I happen to spend a lot of time recording and working on this stuff, so let’s dive into it… Continue reading “How to sing when recording?”

Different bridging strategies

To sing well, we must learn to move from chest voice into head voice and be able to dance back and forth without difficulty. To be even more precise, we must learn to transition across multiple passagio/bridges, and to tonally match the bottom to the top and vice versa.

Although there is a particular pathway to achieve this, the exact nuances of the bridging process as felt by each singer can be a little different. And even within those nuanced routes, there are different strategies that are employable by even the same singer to colour the sound in different ways, whilst still being within the realm of technically correct and aesthetically beautiful singing. Continue reading “Different bridging strategies”

Why are singers needing voice surgery?

Another voice coach shared this (older) article this week regarding singers needing voice surgery (embedded below), and a paragraph in the middle jumped out at me:

“Soul singer John Legend, 33, said he has grown mindful of the importance of looking after his voice.
“I’ve certainly been no stranger to having issues with my voice,” he said. “My first year performing was the worst year because I didn’t know how to pace myself, and once I started to understand how it worked, I started to pace myself better.”
Continue reading “Why are singers needing voice surgery?”