A while ago I wrote an article called 5 Reasons: Why singing is like clothing…. While the article is not the most read article on my site, it is (in my opinion) something that is critically overlooked by far too many singers.
When it comes to building your voice to be capable of whatever you throw at it, having an appropriate ‘vocal aesthetic’ in mind is crucial. This is to both build your voice to be the best it can be (now and in the future), and also to minimise otherwise avoidable frustration. It’s this topic that I want to revisit this week.
Why ONLY looking at range can lead you down a dead-end
As it happens, I was working with a particular client this week. They have a great voice, and they brought in a selection of songs to look at towards the end of their session.
Now, every single one of the songs they had brought in, was well within their range and existing style capacity. Even just based on where we were taking their voice during vocal exercises, the melodies of the songs were less demanding in their range. So the natural question most would ask is, which song did we pick?
Answer: None of them
We looked at another singer entirely, one we had discussed and tried previously, but a different one altogether. But why?
For those who have read our prospectus, you’ll know that the first and non-negotiable step to building a voice is establishing chest voice. If that is not present, we can go no further.
But why? What is so important about ‘chest voice’?
When I say “chest voice”, I don’t just mean the lower range in terms of notes, I’m talking about something more quintessential to each singer. We are talking about the unmistakeable quality of someone’s speaking voice that makes them, sound like them.
As singing and speaking use the same mechanics, if that quintessential quality is absent when we go to sing, that is more than a lack of chest voice… that is an absence of the very nature of what makes that person, them. And again, we can go no further.
Let’s return to our singer’s selection of songs
In each of these cases, the artists who sang each of those songs had lighter instruments then my client. Not by much, but enough. My client’s instrument is more than capable of hitting the notes, i.e. in terms of pure range, but to do so they have to compromise on the inherent quality in their voice.
Do they sound bad when they do this?
Not at all! But do they sound as good as they could? More importantly, did get closer to or further away from their own vocal quintessence? The answer is, they got further away.
The Take-home point: You do you
My simple point this week is less about chest voice, or vocal range, etc. Instead it’s a reminder for you to do you. To do this we need to target a vocal aesthetic that is representative of your voice.
When we pick songs that we want to sing (as great as that is), we can often end up with a set-list of “want to sing songs” that may not reflect how your voice is, or will ever be. Sometimes we can even set a aesthetic expectation our voices may never fulfil.
Now in my client’s case, they will absolutely be able to sing those songs and sing them well (they already are). However, it’s more important to try and sing songs with a vocal aesthetic that is representative of your innate vocal quality.
For heavier, fuller or more mature voices, that means not picking the strident, high, 20 year old diva songs and aiming for that target. Similarly, if one has a smaller, lighter, less mature instrument, they will only find disappointment if they are aiming for the big, explosive, four-decades-deep-career voice of other singers.
As our voices develop, of course we can branch out into songs sung by voices of a different quality to our own, but STARTING with such voices can really pave the way to a much more circuitous and more frustrating path of vocal development. Find artists that sound more like you in your early and intermediate stages, if only to help you figure out how a similar voice is put together.