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Q&A – Bass Singing in Tenor Range

Q&A – Bass Singing in Tenor Range

October 27, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

First of all, thanks for the information you’ve provided on your site. It’s very informative on the “why”s of vocal technique.

Can bass singers (especially a basso profundo like me) sing and sustain the tenor range in full voice in a healthy way? David Jones has talked about the dangers of singing in the wrong fach in some articles but there seems to be quite a few singers who have a 4 octave range (like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bOtqt7OFjg for instance. No idea how healthy it is.).

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Thanks for reading my site and for your feedback. I appreciate it.

I guess to answer your question about bass voices sustaining the tenor range I would first have to define what style of music was being sung. Full voice is defined slightly differently between classical singing and non-classical singing. The difference is not really in the nature of things, but more in degree. Full voice in classical singing implies using the complete potential of the instrument to a greater degree of connection between the registers. (I think David Jones’ article is more geared toward classical singing. So it doesn’t really apply to the examples in the video.)

This is more of an issue for men. Especially lower voices. Women in classical singing connect more to their upper register (because this is where the voice naturally lies. That is why the music is written there), which is easier to deal with because there is less weight. This is the very reason why we all need to include the upper register in our singing, to drop the weight. But there still needs to be a strong connection to the lower register. This is what would make it difficult for a bass to sustain the tenor range in classical singing. And it even could be unhealthy depending on how it was done. The big danger is altering the natural voice to compensate for singing out of the comfortable range. This is why singing the wrong fach is dangerous.

In non-classical singing there is more lee-way in this balance. So even if someone has a bass voice, if they develop the coordination to access the weightlessness of the upper register with some connection they could sustain the range of a tenor. Some might call it head voice. Some might even call it falsetto. Others refer to it as the mix. It all depends on the definition of the terms. That is why it gets difficult to discuss in just words. But with the help of amplification this lighter voice can do the job.

In the way I define these terms, falsetto is too weak to be of much benefit ever. It is a sound production that I would describe as an attempt at the upper register without larynx coordination. It includes an exhalation of breath, which completely dilutes the vibration. And it is completely separated from the rest of the voice. It is not able to descend in pitch and transfer into lower register without a break.

If this condition is adjusted by not exhaling so the vocal folds can come together and make a pure vibration, then this is what I call pure head voice. It is light but not airy. It still doesn’t have much strength but is useful for singing quiet. The break tends to still be there, but it is less significant. And can be eliminated with some smart vowel adjusting. (Many still call this falsetto.)

If we take this another step forward and strengthen the adjustment of the folds we can connect to a stronger head voice. This starts to have some ring. It feels like speaking solidly on pitch. Just like how the lower register should feel, only it is in the upper. This is the basic function of the voice throughout the range and does not have any breaks between the registers. In this condition we can speak through the complete range of the voice through all adjustments of register.

This level can be considered connected and usable for non-classical singing. Since amplification with a microphone is the norm, this level of connection is appropriate and sufficient. There is a sense of ease that allows the singer to feel comfortable. And it connects back down to the lower register without major adjustments. (Adam Lambert is a good – not necessarily perfect – example of this vocal condition. This is where he basically lives, and then makes distortions or whatever based on how he wants to express the music.)

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In classical singing there is one more level of connection beyond this speaking level. So far we haven’t mentioned the breath at all yet. The degree of connection for classical singing requires we take this to another level because we are our own amplifier. The previous level of connection would be appropriate for piano singing. But to try and use that level of connection for forte would be risking ridicule.

This extra degree of connection incorporates the addition of two more elements to complete the coordination. One is an increase of energy, what many call support. This energy from the air pressure must be coordinated or else it will just end up being force throwing the function out of balance. The second element is the adjusted form of the resonating system. The proper adjustment of the resonators allows us access to the reinforcement of the tone through acoustic amplification and the reinforcement of the stability of the larynx. This is what creates the “larger than life” sounds of the good classical singer.

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Comments

  • Joseph
    December 1, 2011

    So many insightful comments. As always, this blog is a pleasure to read.
    Just to tack something else onto what everyone has said, I feel I should share share a thought or two of my own.
    I once had an interesting experience where I was able to vocalize up to a G above middle-C, but it was yelled, forced, and strained. It sounded awful. I knew it was incorrect and was not a good basis for the high range, but I still thought it was interesting that I was able to push my voice that high (being a lower-voiced singer). I told a friend about it, and he thought it was pretty cool, then he mentioned that to sing higher one should “work [their] high range.”
    That’s all nice, but it doesn’t really give much information of how to go about “working the high range.” And if you’re not knowledgeable about how the voice works and how to develop it (which is the case of most youngsters who aren’t working with a good teacher), then chances are that you’ll take matters into your own hands by forcing the voice out of the upper end of your comfort zone. And if your voice won’t go higher, you push harder, contort your voice, flex your neck muscles – your body compensates. Many talented singers who do not have proper technical training manage to sound great in spite of their shortcomings, part of the reason being because their bodies have become accustomed to making an agreeable sound by compensating. Of course, this does not help the vocal longevity very much, and even those people whose voices can “take a beating” can begin to suffer over time.
    In the instance of young singers who don’t have the privilege of proper guidance from a good instructor, they may go on the downhill path of doing whatever it takes to make a sound come out, and eventually the nervous system might adjust so that these incorrect coordinations become automatic. And once these bad habits become solidified, they can cause damage and become difficult to break.
    So if your voice won’t go past a certain limit – dynamics, range, lack of vibrato, etc. – don’t push it too hard. Singing shouldn’t be an act of brute force, but rather one of good coordination which is learned over time. Learning to sing properly isn’t about just increasing the loudness or range of your voice, but rather about bringing all the function to balance. THEN these other benefits will come as your vocal technique improves.

  • November 30, 2011

    Thanks Chris and Bea for the great points to consider.

    Bob, thank you for finding my blog and joining the discussion. Since you are relatively new to singing, at least in the sense of thinking about how it should be done, you need to start by understanding what is actually going to be beneficial for you to work on and what is not. Working to extend your range in either direction is not going to give you any benefit.

    We all have a comfortable range that we can sing even with not much coordination. This is usually in the lower middle part of the over-all range. This is where you feel your comfort zone. But just because something is comfortable doesn’t mean it is coordinated well. It just means we can sing that area no matter what.

    So if you start trying to extend your range you will likely just try to do it by extending what you are doing in this comfortable range. And as I just said, this is not likely to be well-coordinated. So it will be a problem when you try to take that out of the comfort-zone.

    There is a saying, “work for quality and quantity will come”. This generally refers to power in the tone, but it is equally applicable to range. We don’t extend the range by working on extending the range. Just as we don’t work on many aspects of vocal coordination directly, their improvement comes as a long-term result of the body improving its coordination.

    So first you need to learn the principles of good vocal coordination. Then apply them in your comfortable range. As this becomes more familiar and secure you will then gradually be able to keep good coordination as you sing outside of the comfortable range. Then the higher range will keep an appropriate character because the voice is truthfully producing those notes rather than collapsing.

    Hope this helps.

  • Beatrice
    November 29, 2011

    Chris, I really like your explanation. I have seen this all my singing career with chorus basses. They seem to want to “manufacture” this “masculine” sound. I believe it does happen after the voice breaks because society seems to value them more if they “sound manly.” The sad reality is that very few of them are real basses, especially at that time of life. They push the lower notes (and often are flat, or actually not even down there low enough for the notes they think they are singing). As a result even achieving middle C is nearly impossible. To the singer there is great ring to his lower notes, but to those listening, there is no ring at all. It is a dead grumble (a friend of mine calls it akin to the sound of one’s stomach rumbling and nothing more, or to gargling). Choral Tenors are a different story. They push for this “up there” sound which is very strained. And it isn’t all that high. Again, it is because tenors are to have this sound that is almost to the point of hysterics. Often choral singing contraltos (or altos, as they are indicated in the music) are really sopranos who have no clue how to sing the upper notes, so they have weak almost inaudible tones that really don’t do much, and are seldom even noticed by the audience. Unlike basses, they don’t seem to need to push for this deep sound (there is no appreciation in our society for that deep cavernous contralto sound that once was valued even in choirs). And then we have choral sopranos, who all sing like they are singing with the voice as it sounds well above the staff (the mice in Cinderella). Everything is sung as if inhaling helium. And again, I think this is because of some predetermined idea that all sopranos sing with a light very high sound. As a result, when required to even sing to the F at the top of the clef, they are sounding as if they are running out of notes. And they have the quality of the F an octave higher than the one required by the music.

    All of these situations are the result of using the voice incorrectly, of using too high a larynx position, and of actually forcing the voice into some strange position to achieve a predetermined sound. None of it is really based on proper function of the body.

    As much as choral work can be very rewarding, it seems that so much bad singing is encouraged and expected in order to produce the “sound” that choral conductors seem to think is great choral sound. I have never figured out that one. Operatic choruses are a bit better. Most of the singers in them have studied voice to some degree. They are a bit more familiar with what is better vocal production (though not necessarily good vocal production). Most operatic chorus members do have the ranges to sing the music they are required to sing. And the voices are allowed to sound more freely.

    But I think there is much wisdom in the idea that we hardwire ourselves into believing we must sound a certain way. For women, it is a high pitched pinched light soprano or one is not a soprano but an alto. But very few altos in choirs are actually altos and their lack of depth to their lower notes shows it. Tenors seem to think they must sound like they are walking the tight-rope every moment they sing, and basses think they must grumble like “real men.” I believe those bad habits get hardwired into most all singers/people who sing in choirs and with choruses. There are certain expectations of what sound is right for them.

    People like me, whose voices were far too huge for a choir, soon learn that they are not wanted in a choir because the sound is simply too large, to rich, and too ringing to blend in with the rest of the voices. We are often ridiculed a great deal as we grow up by our school choir leaders, or we are told how great our huge voices are and encouraged to “shout” all the more to show just how strong voiced we really are. And that is just as habit forming as what you mention basses in choirs do.

    I find it amazing just how much “bad instruction” a singer must overcome to even being singing well. And I am amazed at just how much of it is set up in our minds long before we even have any idea what singing is all about. The patterns are set while we are kids, and when we have no understanding at all what singing is about, or even how to use our bodies. And what is worse, it is done at a time period in our lives when we are so uncertain of our awkward bodies and what to do with them to begin with.

    A good teacher is definitely what is needed. The problem then, is finding one. I think your points are quite valid and are quite telling regarding the condition of vocal training and treatment we find in most areas of the country. People learn bad habits before they even know that there are good things to do.

  • Chris Byrne
    November 29, 2011

    Hi Bob,

    The aim of this blog and Michael’s teaching is to find the natural function of the voice. This is achieved by removing the bad habits and bodily dysfunction that we develop over years of incorrect phonation and movement. In your particular case, while your low notes might be strong (and sound great to your ear), it could be the case that years of singing (and often talking) low with lots of vocal weight has created an imbalance between the lighter mechanism and the heavy (and created a biassed perception in you as to how your voice is “supposed” to sound)- it might well be that your upper notes are actually not transitioning to head voice at all and could be a high-larynxed, pushed chest voice or belt; but if they sound quite female or child-like, you might well be flipping into falsetto – this is something that needs to be assessed and understood in order to ensure you aren’t re-enforcing bad habits in your training of the upper notes. I belted for years, and it did me no favours.
    Unfortunately, while the low notes might sound powerful and full, they will never be as full and resonant as they should be when both mechanisms are free and functioning together – there is a sense of grounding in the voice which is unmistakable, and it is consistent throughout the entire perfomance range. This is why people spend years overcoming bad vocal habits and learning to reduce vocal weight. It is not simply about being able to extend the range, it is also to free the voice from damaging usage patterns that suck the life out of it and drastically shorten careers.
    If you find that singing up high reduces the quality of your low notes, this would suggest that you are pushing or introducing unhealthy tension; and if you find your voice is better suited to the operatic sound, it could just as easily mean a pushed and darkened sound as it could simply a naturally large voice – you need a professional, objective ear to listen and critique. This is why it is so important to decide how much time and effort you are prepared to devote to developing your voice, and then find a good teacher. For years, I actually thought my lowest notes were strong and indicative of my (admittedly reedy) baritone, despite my voice being quite high – until I heard the richness of a properly produced baritone voice. That was when I first began to suspect that I was actually a tenor singing with far too much weight. Since then I have freed my upper register up considerably with careful falsetto drills and lots of tension release work, but the damage has been done and it remains to be seen if I’ll ever overcome my habit of adding too much weight, or raising the larynx to compensate for this as I ascend. I have sung in a number of choirs, and almost every single low-voiced male singer had these same habits. My personal opinion is that it has a lot to do with the period of vocal uncertainty after the voice breaks causing us to manufacture a “manly” sound, which then becomes hard-wired into our vocal habits.

  • Bob
    November 28, 2011

    Hi, I just came across your website, and this string of comments, and they are VERY enlightening. I have some questions for all of you, because I’m trying to figure out the best way to train my voice, what to avoid (damage, etc.).

    I’ve been doing instrumental music for many years (clarinet and saxophone) but just recently started singing in my church choir. Where I grew up there weren’t that many opportunities to do choral music in my area, so this is something I’ve discovered later in life.

    ANYWAY —

    I apologize in advance for my lack of understanding of the proper technical language, but basically I’m a bass singer, and my “comfortable” and best-sounding range is from around Bb or C two octaves below middle C (Bb2 or C2, I guess) up to around middle C. I can sing all the way up to the F above middle C but I sound a little like Alfalfa from “The Little Rascals” when I sing up there. :) On a good day, I can sing down to A2 or even G1 (barely).

    My voice is definitely more of the operatic variety. It just feels good to sing a Bb2, C2 or D2, and I have this very woody, coffee bean sound in that range that I like to hear. On the other hand, my voice above middle C is not so appealing. Yeah I can hit the notes but it is not very pretty.

    My question is, with my voice should I be working to extend my range lower or higher? It seems to me that the choral repertoire for liturgical music tends toward higher bass parts than I’m good at, so that argues for extending my range upward. But, I sound SO much better down low, that I almost feel I should “chuck it” with the higher range and focus on my strength, i.e. the low end, despite the more limited repertoire. And I’m afraid of damaging my voice by trying to sing too high. Or at the very least, I’m concerned that the higher singing will curb my ability to sing down low, which is my strength.

    Any advice? I would really appreciate it.

    Thanks!

    Bob

  • August 4, 2011

    Absolutely.

  • Beatrice
    August 4, 2011

    I accept your definition of falsetto. Yes, many female pop singers use their “baritonal” voice, but it still sounds like a woman and not a real baritone. But I fully agree, people should be taught how to use both parts of the voice correctly. That is one of the biggest problems I see in opera these days: most of the singers concentrate on their high notes, and the rest of the range is quite weak if it sounds noticeably at all. I find it funny; they strive to darken the voice artificially, and yet at the same time avoid learning how to use and integrate the lower notes into the voice. The natural richness comes when the voice is fully developed. Richness enters into even a coloratura’s voice when her lower notes are fully developed (they may never sound as dark and full as a contralto, but they still will have a full sound). The result is that complexity of sound. But sopranos now days and tenors seem to worry more about high C, D, and E than the rest of the voice. So many can sing glorious high notes, but have nothing below the C within the clef, and forget anything below the staff. With opera, in my view, it is completely impossible to actually portray what is necessary in the various roles if the voice is only half developed. We end up with Lucias that can blast the roof off with their high E flats, but leave us cold with their inaudible notes within the clef and at the bottom of it, where so much of her most emotional and telling music lies.

  • August 3, 2011

    Good points, Bea. The concentrated sound that appears to be dark and heavy in a well-produced voice I often explain as being “complex”. The darkness of the tone is more a product of the complexity completeness of the tone than actually singing dark. But the lack of understanding has caused many singers to actually sing dark in an attempt to imitate that quality. Big difference. But the audience doesn’t know either. So they think many of these singers are great.

    What you’re calling falsetto I define as pure head voice. All voice has some amount of Male and some amount of Female. Generally Males will have more Male and some Female voice and Females will have more Female and some Male voice. Plenty of Female Pop singers make use of their Male voice and Plenty of Male singers (like Counter-Tenors) make use of their Female voices. But to be healthy everyone should use both to some degree. It is a process of balancing them together.

  • Beatrice
    August 3, 2011

    Michael, I think the comment by Allan had more to do with the things I wrote. However, what you have said to him is correct. What most people really don’t understand is the difference in sound in a voice, an operatic voice, whether a light smaller voice, or a huge dramatic voice, in relationship to the voices they hear on record, over the Internet, even on TV, and most especially in popular or rock music. I fully disagree with the conclusions that many gospel singers have operatic qualities to their voices. Many gospel singers simply SHOUT. They do not sing. There is a huge difference.

    What most people don’t understand about an operatic voice is the intensity, as you put it, or what others call the “ring.” It is very much something one cannot know or understand at all until they actually hear it. It is what gives the sound intensity, carrying power, and that something (I don’t know exactly how to describe it) that really thrills the listener. Turning up a microphone on a small voice will not give this quality. The voice simply has’t got it to begin with.

    You mentioned LOUD singers of today. I think the issue here is people really are not understanding what LOUD singing is compared to INTENSE ringing singing, or as the Italians say, singing with Squillo (the same term used to describe how a trumpet sounds). Loud singing is simply LOUD, like when a person is screaming, yelling, or doing that sort of thing. You know, when we are calling our kids to come home, or arguing in the height of emotion. It is LOUD, it is uncomfortable to the ears, but is has NO QUALITY. It may even carry out to the audience, but it is more of a rough sound, a more uncouth rugged sound, almost like a bark in many ways. The musicality of the sound is lost. Some singers who sing only LOUD, like they are shouting, can do it and sound musical, only because they are musical to begin with and strive to make the sound reflect their musicality. It still in not the correct sound.

    When the voice is really functioning, it will find its ring because of how it is set up in the body. Sound energy flows from the body, not breath, no gushing of air, not any of those things. Only sound energy leaves the body. When a person shouts (just try it to see) you will notice a lot of air passes through the vocal folds. The sound cannot attain ring if air is lost that way. The energetic sound will not find its place in the body’s resonating chambers.

    It is true that a really well produced operatic voice can and often does sound loud to the ear, but the loudness is quite different. Unlike shouting which makes ones ears hurt, this huge sound simply envelopes the listener. In rehearsal rooms, for example, a really well produced voice will sound loud, full, and have quite a bit of presence, but it will not overpower the ears of the accompanist or anyone else in the room, even though they will feel surrounded, or wrapped up, in sound.

    This true ring needs space, and it finds it in the theatre. Super large voices actually need lots of space to really reach their fullness. Some such singers sound even better when singing in outdoor amphitheatres.

    But whether the voice is a small Rossini/Mosart voice or a huge Wagner voice, they both act the same way, and they both find their fullness in a larger space. The energy of sound carries through the air, filling it with the sound.

    The Italians said small voices that filled the theatre, even though very small, were voices that ran. They used that description because literally the voice did run to the furthest ends of the theatre. It wasn’t pushed out there, nor was it thrown out there, it ran out there of its own power or energy.

    Huge voices can seem like a tidal wave of sound that overpowers the orchestra both cutting through it and riding completely over it. Yet, at no time is this the result of “singing loudly.” The voice is naturally larger, so it naturally has the abiity to ride over an orchestra, but it also has this energy of sound that cuts through the orchestra. It just has a slightly different dimension added to it, that a smaller voice doesn’t have. The extreme loudness of such voices is NOT produced by the same means as shouting or loud singing, but because everything is set up in the body and working in such a way as to produce that huge ringing sound. The extremely well concentrated energy of sound is operating without anything blocking it.

    To many, this dimension is a darker heavy quality. And it is a misunderstanding of this quality that has led people to believe they must fabricate this dark quality in a voice to give it more body, presence, and intensity. But to manufacture it (especially if it is not part of the real voice) only causes a singer to darken the tone, then force the sound to give it carrying power, or causes them to sing loudly but without great quality of sound. Also, often to produce this dark large quality, especially if the voice is by nature small, the singer is forced to expel too much breath through the vocal folds resulting in volume but no ring or sound energy. As a result, the vocal folds cannot work efficiently.

    Most teachers now days, and most people, really have not heard a real operatic voice close up. They have no clue what it sounds like. Some people have heard it in the theatre, but really have no clue what it is like when not in a large space.

    Because of this ignorance, many voice teachers have students sing extremely softly in rehearsal rooms. Their pianissimo they use wouldn’t even carry over the pit, and would be lost even with a single instrument of the orchestra playing with them. Their forte notes would be enough only for a basic mezzo-piano in the theatre. The reason is not the volume of the sound so much as the lack of sound energy in the voice. The energy needed to create what some call the “singers formant” simply doesn’t happen. Then when such a singer has to sing in the theatre, the only thing they know is to fall back on what they do when they shout. They don’t know how to create or use the proper amount of intensity required to sing over an orchestra.

    It is quite a mistake, in my view, to compare voices that sound similar in quality (both light tenors, for example) when one is always singing with the intensity required for opera, and the other has never ever sang without a mike. We are not hearing the same sound at all. They may both be “light tenors” but one has the ring developed and thus a voice that can manage singing in a theatre over an orchestra, the other does not.

    It is comparing apples to figs. Many of those smaller less developed microphone voices can and are simply lovely and beautiful beyond belief. They have mastered the art of crooning. But the voice has not developed the same qualities of a voice that is of an operatic nature. Even though on record they may all sound like they could do the same thing, in reality, they cannot.

    And to Samuel: I am glad you have a four octave range. Just learn to use such a huge range carefully. If you transition from Bass to high tenor too often and without proper preparation, you can hault the progression of your voice, and in fact, it can become like an elastic band and become over-stretched leaving a great hole in the middle.

    That you know, Elvis and Frank Sinatra were not tenors, they were baritones, so the fact you can sing Old Man River, and any of their songs is not that much of a reach. Their songs are not high. Elton John is also not as high as one thinks for the most part. He only puts in higher notes for show occasionally, but his voice center is not all that high. The fact he may sound more like a tenor in quality doesn’t mean the music he writes is all that high. There is a huge difference in range and voice timber, a thing so often confused by so many. One can have a super huge range, but still have the qualities of voice of a bass. Even though you can sing tenor notes, you don’t have a tenor quality. Conversely, a high soprano may have the deepest contralto notes imaginable (even to a C and octave below middle C) but her sound will always be what it is, a soprano. You don’t really change what you are.

    Men can, and often do, use their head voice and their falsetto (I do not define a falsetto as a weak sound, but one that actually sounds exactly like a woman; many countertenors sing in a falsetto to the point that it is very strong, carries well in the theater, but has no masculine qualities at all; one cannot tell them from a woman) along with their regular manly voices. Women don’t really have that option, even if they have really huge ranges, they still sound like women and the sound never changes to really sound like a man, not really. That gives men an advantage in some ways. They can do more things, IF they know how to do them correctly. That is the key, not just using the notes, but using them, producing them, and everything correctly. If a man can learn to do everything in all parts of his range correctly, then why not use all of it? The key is also to know and accept what your real range is, and make sure you never lose that because you have played around too much.

  • Samuel
    August 2, 2011

    I am a bass i can sing the broadway song Old man river and I sing that very well but I also can go do Elvis or Frank Sinatra songs with ease. And than I can do Elton John songs also with ease than do I have a 4 octave voice range

  • March 17, 2011

    Thanks for your comment, Allan. Yes, of course there are varying degrees of intensity in classical singing. And I can see the point of your examples. But I think you overlook the reality of the acoustic demands of the classical singer. The key point of what I was saying is a classical singer is an acoustic singer. Meaning they have to be their own amplifier. This requires a higher level of intensity, regardless of “fullness of sound” or dynamic level. Most singers now don’t have this intensity that I’m talking about. So it might be hard to identify with. Most of the singers I hear now might sing loud, but they don’t sing with intensity. That is the big difference between the greats of the past and the perceived greats of now. This intensity can’t be used for popular singing because of the simple fact it would overload the microphone. So they just can’t be compared. Perhaps your example of the Rossini tenors might be true, but is that as it should be? I would say that is more a fault than a desirable condition. Same with the example of Jonas Kaufmann. Yes, he produces his high notes differently. But is that how it should be? No. He sings in an artificially dark manner to imitate a dramatic sound. His voice in not naturally of that character. But, so what. He gives pleasure to many people and makes a lot of money. So good for him. But it is certainly not something I would recommend to people trying to figure out their own voice. The bottom line is I’m not sure exactly what I said that you are referring to. Because I don’t think I made any statement that said anything was not possible. Just that the demands of the different genres require different levels of involvement that would not be appropriate for the other. And it was mainly directed at the question of a bass singing in the high range of a tenor. I think my answer was pretty self-evident.

  • allan
    March 17, 2011

    I agree most of the way, but I would like to say there are different degrees of fullness in sound in classical/operatic singing, depending on the genre. There are a lot of light Mozart/Rossini-tenors who could easily sing a pop tune. Freddy Mercury was mentioned in one of the comments, and I think he’s a good example of a singer who, if trained differently, could sing some classical tenor repertoire. This is just speculation of course, but my point is there are different genres within classical tenor repertoire also. If you compare Jonas Kaufmanns high notes to, say, those of John-Mark Ainsley, they are produced very differently. On the other hand, some singers in the soul genre, which originates from Gospel (unplugged, big churches), have operatic qualities.

    Just to confuse the readers… =)
    I enjoyed your article.

  • November 24, 2010

    You are always welcome, Bea. Thanks.

  • Beatrice
    November 24, 2010

    Tessitura, Michael, is exactly like you say. That is why some singers can sing some roles well, and others are a complete struggle. Yes, I am one of these rare voices that can cross from Contralto to high soprano with ease (and with understanding of how to do it safely; the natural weight of the voice still plays a part, that is why I soon concentrated more on the Dramatic Soprano range rather than always being all over the map), but very few are so gifted. To help some singers understand Tessitura, I have them actually look at a score and see where most of the notes lie, then we experiment with singing just in that area for a while. They soon learn WHY that is the wrong role for them. They simply cannot sustain that pitch level. I have found that so many singers (including tons of professionals, I must add) strive to “sing everything, because the Great Maria Callas sang everything (in reality, she didn’t, but she did sing a wide variety of roles that often differred greatly from one another in tessitura). She even became quite angry when Rudolf Bing expected her to sing Traviata and Medea too close together. Some singers know how to move their voice center up or down a small bit so they can sing various roles. Marilyn Horne speaks quite abit about how she had to do that to sing Adalgisa from NORMA or when she sang the super low Arsace from Semiramide. But both roles are basically sung now by Mezzos. But even doing that is very risky, if one is not carefully taught how to do it, and if one does give enough time between roles for the voice to settle again. There is also tradition one has to contend with, for the three middle Verdi operas (Traviata, Trovatore, and Rigoletto) all cover the same notes and are very similar in tessitura (though not exactly the same, if you exclude the traditional High notes), but they are sung by very different singers. Singers often claim that it takes THREE different singers to sing Violetta in Traviata because of the higher coloratura singing in Act one, then a more dramatic in act two, etc. Ponselle had to transpose downward in act one and remind herself to not allow her voice to travel too far up, but to also stay lighter. We associate Gilde with a very light soprano, a bright coloratura, because of the added high notes. But the music is actually not all that high, and much of it no worse than what is in Traviata. And we associate the Leonora of Trovatore with a dramatic soprano, yet, again with the lower options provided by Verdi, she is not all that different. That is what makes Verdi so hard to sing. On the surface his tessitura seems so much the same, but the weight required to sing the various roles is so different. And the tradition behind what the public expects to hear in the various roles plays a very great part. Even as I have sung all three of these roles, though the notes per se are not all that different, nor is the voice center, there is a very different feel in the singing. One is aware of different things and different dangers that one will face. But Verdi is like that. He expects a coloratura combined with a dramatic, combined with a falcon, combined with a contralto (especially with Elena in Vespri, low F sharps are needed below middle C) all able to sing with top volume over tons of very loud instruments, to exploit the extremes of the range singing super loud and dramatic music in the bottom of the voice and in the next measure blasting the roof off with the high notes. And on top of that, he wants you to sing melting pianissimi that one would expect only from a Mozart singer, and to float top notes as a thread of sound. I am not so sure he understood much about tessitura (a terrible thing to say about such a great composer) for even if one goes through a score and discovers where the center of the role lies, and then you decide what sort of singer is required, he dashes all your hopes to pieces because of what he expects that same singer do in the Lower or higher part of their range (his Baritone roles are very high compared to those of other composers of his day).

    But like you say, two things may have the same range, but a very different tessitura. Nearly all operatic sopranos roles have about the same range (some have high C written there others don’t but as I say minus a few, and usually only a very few, high or low notes, the roles appear to all have the same basic range). However, they are quite different to sing. Valentine and Marguerite (both from Les Huguenots) have the same notes, but are very different roles. The contralto role of Urbain also has the same notes (excepting the low Gs required in the “Non, non, non, non, non” aria written for Alboni, a true contralto) but again a very different tessitura and a very different sound requirement. One opera that really shows the mix of voices is La Gioconda. It requires a soprano, a mezzo, and a contralto. Yet, during many of the different passages, and even arias for the different women, much of the music is set in the same vocal place. Excepting the blind mother (who never really goes all that high, but not really all that extremely low either) there is little on paper that really lets a singer know the difference between Gioconda and Laura. The tessitura is so similar. But Laura is easier for a high mezzo than she is for a dramatic mezzo. And Gioconda is easier for a dramatic soprano than a lyric soprano. Again it is tessitura, even if that difference is only a note lower on average. It is amazing how that one note lower or higher can make so much difference.

    That is an aspect of tessitura that so many can’t see. The difference of the basic center of the range need not be very large. A role sitting more on the D/E notes at the top of the staff (for sopranos) can be easy while a role with the center more around E/F can be murder. When the tessitura is huge (like around a B/C for one role and an E/F for another) it is easy to tell which is harder for any given voice to sing. If your voice is a very high voice, the lower tessitura will be very tiring to maintain. If your voice is a very low voice, the higher tessitura will be hard to maintain. Those things are more obvious. It is those roles where things appear not to be all that different that make the real problems, for usually they fall squarely in the passaggio, which tires the voice anyway to stay there too long.

    I am so glad, Michael, that you dealt with this issue. I was thinking about writing about it after a few days of thinking, but was not sure it was the right thing to do. I am so glad you took time to discuss it, for that is really the key to discovering music that is suited to your voice. Range is the notes you cover, but how much at ease you are when singing determines what is right for the voice.

    I am also so glad that Simon is discussing things with you. I am sure he will go far. Thanks for letting me “intrude” on your blog from time to time. I really hope that your readers are learning many things that will help them in their journey to singing, from finding a good teacher (if they cannot contact you or work with your directly) to learning how to be good students always willing to learn and to study. I can assure them, ONE NEVER learns everything and I my view one is never an expert on anything. When it comes to singing, the longer you do it the more you learn, and the more you can see that there is so much to learn. It is truly a never ending journey, and a journey of great delights and possibilities.

  • November 23, 2010

    From what you were saying I got the feeling that was what you meant. Good admission. You will definitely learn more with that awareness.

  • Simon
    November 23, 2010

    Yes, tessitura! I forgot that word!

    And I do also admit that I hadn’t fully emptied my cup before writing my comment (and during my 1st lesson with Michael too). Ah well, you live and you learn.

  • November 22, 2010

    Thank you, Bea for your comments. The contribution from your experience is invaluable. I have to agree with all that you say. Although I would point out that what I think Simon is mainly concerned with is not necessarily the range but more the tessitura. He just doesn’t have the experience to know the distinction. There is definitely a difference of the tessitura of a bass and a tenor. Even small differences of tessitura can be a major struggle for some singers. As you have shared, you are one of the rare singers that is capable of crossing the demarcations of fach, which is not solely defined by tessitura, but it is a major element. I know from my own experience it is impossible to deal with the tessitura of a high tenor with the vocal weight of a normal, uncoordinated voice. So I think that is the main point of his questioning. For those readers that are not familiar with the term “tessitura”, it refers to the pitch area that the music mainly exists within. Two songs could have exactly the same range but very different tessituras. For a rough example, the Prologue from Pagliacci for Baritone has a range up to an A-flat, as does the tenor aria “De miei bollenti spiriti” from La traviata. But the tenor aria has a higher tessitura than the baritone aria. It stays around the top half of the staff most of the time, while the baritone aria stays around the lower half of the staff most of the time. (If we were to put both arias on the same staff to compare)

  • Beatrice
    November 13, 2010

    Just a note about notes in a range compared to the timbre of the voice. Simon defined what is a tenor range by notes, not the quality of sound and said he “sticks with his definition.” This is the problem with that outlook: too many singers then change their natural voices as they ascend the scale. It is rare in classical training to hear a bass suddenly trying to sound like a tenor just because he has ascended to a certain note, but it is NOT rare in amateur singers to hear exactly that. Because they get so fixated on the notes, they subconsciously feel the need to change the quality of sound as they ascend. Because popular music does allow for changes in sound that classical music will not allow, no one thinks much of it.

    Firstly, excepting the extremes of the range (the super high and the super low) ALL male voices have the same set of core notes (as do all female voices). Although Simon is correct in that we don’t HEAR many basses sing a High C, more can do it that you can imagine. Nor do we hear many tenors sing the low F in the bass clef, but even operatic tenors are often required to sing the A just above that. Simon’s decision to place the lowest tenor note as C is wrong. All males voices flip into what is called by most people “falsetto” (sounding like a women) about the same place in the voice. Tenors learn to take a mixed sound into that area rather than using a falsetto. But the voices cover nearly all of each other’s notes, excepting as said, the extremes of the range.

    Here is the problem, and although I cannot say that this is Simon’s problem for why he has trouble singing certain notes (ones he says even basses and tenors with bad or no technique can sing), it is a problem I have seen a great deal. It is CHANGING the timbre of the voice as one ascends. Instead of sounding like a real bass singing right up to the break into falsetto (and then managing that break to make it useful for popular singing) they alter the voice based on what notes are being sung. As they enter what they call the “tenor range” they consciously strive to turn their bass voice into that of a tenor, and then to pass from tenor into falsetto.

    That is the source of many problems, for in doing that the throat muscles must adjust themselves, shutting off certain freedoms to alter the quality of the sound. It isn’t really reaching and singing notes, but altering the natural sound into something else that is not natural.

    To achieve this “false tenor sound” the singer must often sing with a very raised larynx, raised so high it actually hurts. Their tongues are super flat and pushing back into the throat (and often hitting the larynx and stopping its progress upward). The Jaw is under complete stress because the neck muscles are so restricted.

    Then as they pass through this false tenor sound, they allow the voice to “crack” into the falsetto. Even if the singers manages to pass smoothly into the falsetto, the larynx is in the wrong position to allow any freedom even there.

    This is why I say defining range by notes is the wrong thing to do, as it encourages the singer to change his own sound from what it is to some artificual sound that is not at all natural.

    Many terrible singers with no technique often can sing some really difficult music and pass through the various notes in the voice without any real issues. They may sound awful, but they are not forcing the voice to sound unnatural. The larynx is still able to remain relatively lower.

    Sadly, in popular music, the notes are the range definition of the range, and singers often decide as they “enter into this range” to alter the natural sounds of their voice, which in reality don’t need to be altered at all. They can pass through those notes without any stress, if they just stopped monkeying around with the natural sound.

    That is why in my first post I asked why any bass profundo would want to sound like a tenor and sing in the tenor range? Why not sound like a bass profundo who can easily pass through his full bass range into his falsetto?

    There are singers with weird voices out there a plenty, and most of the really famous ones respected the natural voice. We have all heard of Yma Sumac and her unbeleivable range. Even though her low notes are nearly baritonal in quality, they are not created by forcing her natural voice to sing any way other than is natural for her sound. It is the same for her extremely high notes. They are wedding seamlessly to her middle sound. Her voice is one unit, one entity. There is no messing around with it to create the different parts of her range, and so it should be whether singing popular or classical.

    There is a Russian singer, however, that more effectively illustrates what I am talking about, and what Simon should seek to achieve. His name is Ivan Rebroff. He was very popular many decades ago (I am sure you can hear him on YouTube). He is a famous Russian Bass (most of them noted for being basso profundos) but who passes throughout his range into the highest and most beautiful falsetto imaginable. I mean it is breath-taking! I heard him in person many times (he does NOT sing opera, but Russian songs, so he is more along the lines of what you, Simon, are thinking of).I also heard Yma Sumac often. Both were miracles unto themselves. Although huge ranges are nothing extraordinary, they really are a dime a dozen, using the range with such mastery IS rare.

    If you can put aside whether you like the actual music either singer performs (and many young people of today cannot do such a thing, which is sad, for they would learn more than they could know) and take a moment and see how they use their voices, you would see what really great use of the voice is all about.

    Yma Sumac was supposedly NEVER trained (though I have my doubts about that to some degree), and Rebroff was mostly a Russian Trained choral singer.

    I only give these singers as examples of using the full voice as is natural to it, rather than going through these “false voices” to achieve the so called popular sound, which you so rightly expressed destroyed so many lead singers’ voices.

    Speech level singing, which is so popular today, has one pass through their sound altering it to fit those preconceived notions of when to switch from bass to baritone, to tenor, to mixed head, to full falsetto, etc. Yes, in the end, you can cover 5 octaves, but can you really sing? None of the exponents or teachers of that method seem to be able to sing, or even stay in tune, for that matter. However, they can grumble like indigestion and whistle like a tea kettle making siren sounds a plenty. That isn’t music. That is just sound.

    They claim they are teaching the “old methods” used by the castrati. The “old Bel Canto” methods? If they were, they would not need a mic to demonstrate their sound (it would carry, as the “old methods” produced voices that sounded large and ringing and filled theatres, and there were no mics back then to rely upon). They talk about breathing in the correct way, but one never sees any evidence of it when they sing. They claim they have created artists, but not one singer they have trained came to them with an unfinished voice. They already could and did sing well. They only learned the “popular style” more.

    Since singers who use this travelling through the various vocal timbres as a way of singing, and nearly NONE of those singers have had careers that lasted all that long before real vocal issues set in, I don’t think it is a wise system to use.

    For an example: I just attended a Josh Groban concert a while back. I loved his voice in the beginning. It was so fresh, so exciting, so interesting, and very beautiful. I was so disappointed, for while the voice was still beautiful, his once interesting sound was gone. His songs were very limited in range and in style (which they never used to be) and although he did do some “shifting into the higher range” it was more than disappointing. He had never studied speech level singing prior to his career, and now had worked with it. The results were not as impressive as one would want.

    This singer had lost what he originally had, and so soon into a career. Oh, that isn’t to say he was terrible, far from it. It just wasn’t the Josh of former days or of recordings.

    There is a Canadian singer, Michael Buble, who has a very interesting voice and is able to do much of what you are interested in doing. He respects his voice. You may not like all his songs, I don’t, but I do see what he does with what he has been given.

    You mentioned your range and your difficulties. To help you with your journey, I would also recommend listening to more artists than you are currently familiar with. Opening your vision to others who have mastered the WHOLE RANGE of the voice (all their notes from the lowest to the highest) and done it in a different way than you are used to hearing. There are many possible ways of achieving the same thing. Some are much better on the voice.

    Again, I have said too much. But I hope this helps you understand why just NOTES of a given range mean nothing. You cannot sing according to some rule of when one range’s notes begin and another’s end. Rather you must learn to use your entire natural voice singing all your notes in a manner that is natural to the sound and quality of your voice. Until you can do that, you will never be able to achieve the vocal freedom you seek, for you will forever be striving to alter your own sound into something it is not. And no singer should be doing that.

  • Beatrice
    November 13, 2010

    Just a note: remember to be teachable. Your comments give the impression that you have formulated, concluded, what you feel is right. But what qualifications do you have to draw such conclusions? You can define a range by notes all you want, but since range is defined by sound, not notes, you are in error. Accept that. It may be your very definitions that are holding you back, so you are not willing to open your mind to seeing things in a different way. You agree with “most” of what is said? What qualifies you to disagee with anything that is said? Are you singing well? Is it working for you? The answer to this is a definite “no.” I do not say any of this to be picky. But think about it. You are seeking help because things are not working. One of the worst things I have seen (and more often than you can imagine) are students coming to a teacher believing they know everything. They know they cannot sing, or sing as they would want, but they are alreaady so much “in the know” that they resist anything they are told. Now there is nothing wrong with thinking things through, striving to find answers to the questions, or even attempting to figure out why things are as they are. That is a GOOD thing. The problem is when you feel your conclusions, which are not working for you and producing the results you want, qualify you to disagree or dismiss what someone who has had years of experience has learned. Now I will say, NO SINGER KNOWS EVERYTHING, but singers who have sung a long time do know what they are doing (even if many can’t express it well; not all good singers make good teachers). Be willing to open your mind and learn. If you approach a singing class with the attitude “well, I think things are this way, and I will decide if what I am told fits my view” then you are not approaching a class with the desire to really learn. You want to learn to sing so you can sing your own compositions (a very good and excellent reason to sing) but are you letting your pride as a composer interfer with your needs and lack of knowledge as a singer? It is a thing to consider. I have written in this site about what makes a good teacher, and the types of teachers there are, what they can give and what limitations they also have. But I have not commented on what makes a good student. I believe your post is a perfect time to address that. NOW PLEASE, don’t think I am finding fault with you, for I am not. I just noticed these facts, you being quite willing to disagree with someone as if you know more, when the reality is you don’t know enough.

    A good student will listen and learn. They will not come to a class with preconceived ideas of what is right and wrong. Even if you have read a million books on singing, that hardly means you fully understand what is even being said in those books. Terms change with time and with societies. What something means (like the coupe de glotis) can mean very different things to different people. Even the author of that term realized what he meant to say was being grossly misinterpreted in no time flat.

    To prepare to be a good student, you must first throw aside ALL thoughts of fame, fortune, and career. Yes, that may be your goal, but at this point, it will only cloud your ablity to learn.

    Seek a good teacher. Go see what the various teachers in your area teach. Judge them, not on how you think things work, but on the results of their teachings. Are their students singing well? Are they producing a good sound? Do they sound like themselves or like copies of each other? Can he express what he wants them to do clearly (you must sit in a class to know this)? Does the teacher understand what it is you wish to accomplish with your studies?

    OK, now you have found the ideal teacher. What makes you the ideal student? Firstly, the desire to work and to learn. You cannot go to your teacher and believe you have the right or the qualifications to instantly begin questioning what he is telling you. You are there to learn, not to teach, and not to debate. You are not above the basics, so don’t rebel when he makes you work at them a long time. You are there to learn your craft, which is singing. You may have a voice, even a nice one, but it has not reached its protential, and in fact, if you are untrained, it is unlikely you even know what your real voice range, or fach, is. You may think you are a tenor or a bass, but when the voice begins to actually develop find out that you are not at all what you thought you were. If you rebel at this point because you WANT to be this or that range, then you are allowing your preconceived notion of what you SHOULD be interfer with what you are. If you have a good teacher, he will not be training you as anything, not a tenor, a bass, or a baritone. He will be simply training your voice, teaching you how to use it, to develop the sound, and help you sing freer. What range you actually are will come much later as you sing. Your voice will gravite to what is most comfortable for it.

    If your teacher gives you exercises dealing with the use of the tongue, vowel production, scales until you could scream — Do them! That is the only way the voice will develop the strength, not just the flexibility, to sing. There is no such a thing as learning to sing in five easy steps, nor can you really learn to sing from any program on tape. No one can hear you sing and monitor if you are achieving that sound correctly or just imitating what you hear doing all the wrong things. Understand that fact, and accept it.

    Learning to sing well takes TIME. It is not something you can do over night, nor is it something that always moves forward with a constant progression. One will hit plateaus where nothing seems to be happening. That is the result of the fact you body and its muscular development has not moved forward as quickly as your understanding. It must be given time to catch up.

    After listening carefully to your teacher, following the advice you have be taught, take a moment to evaluate your progress (you cannot do this normally until after a good 6 months to a year of study; the only exception is if you are feeling really tight in the throat, the sound is feeling more and more restricted, and what range you did have is decreasing; these are warnings that something is not right, either you are not understanding what you are being taught — get clarification, or the teacher does not know what they are doing — get a new teacher). If you have been progressing well, and you have noticed your voice really begin to bloom into something wonderful, but at this point in time things seem to be at a standstill, then be patient. You need not run to a new teacher. Like said earlier, you have plateaued because your physical body has not yet developed enough to produce the sound you want. As it develops, you will once again move forward. Such plateaux can last up to 6 months.

    If there are things you are not understanding, do ask your teacher. You are not there to be some puppet or some “creation” for some Svengali, you are there to learn, and eventually become able to monitor yourself during your own career (teachers do die). But do NOT approach the question with a sense of arrogance. You are not the teacher, and what you think is a correct conclusion may be so wide of the mark it isn’t funny. Allow your teacher to explain WHY things are done as they are done. Don’t dismiss that knowledge just because you think you know better. If you knew better you would be doing not studying.

    There is nothing wrong with asking questions until the answers are absolutely clear. However, this is where you should have set up your rules (the teacher will share their rules of study right from the beginning, and so should you). Make it a rule right from the start that if you do not understand something you will ask about it. But again, don’t ask as if you know everything, rather simply ask for clarification so that you can fully understand.

    There is nothing worse than working with a student who THINKS THEY KNOW EVERYTHING. You give them advice, explain why things must be as they are, and instantly they edit what they are told accepting this rejecting that, all because it doesn’t fit their personal view of what things aught to be. That student is NOT there to learn. They really are being quite insincere about learning to sing. All they want is someone to be weak willed enough to second all their false conclusions. WHY does this happen? Because of ego. Such students usually are failing terribly with any attempt at a career, but they haven’t the guts to face the fact THEY are the cause. They haven’t the skills, they don’t know what they are doing, and they simply have a too high-minded view of their talent. It is everyone else’s fault they are not progressing and learning. It is the managers faults they won’t take them on. It is the theatre’s fault they won’t hire them. It is everyone else’s fault that no one wants to listen to them (especially when their singing is the most painful experience you can imagine). The one thing they have not accepted is the fact “they must accept their faults in order to change them.”

    Teachers figure out quite quickly when they have such a student. These students don’t question so as to learn, but are constantly striving to “show up the teacher,” striving to prove that their ideas are better than the “old fashioned things they are learning,” and they also NEVER practice anything they are told, but do things on their own time exactly as they want to do them.

    Good teachers will dismiss such students and send them on their way, for both are wasting their money: the teacher is wasting his time and effort on a student that is unwilling to learn, and the student is wasting money on a teacher they (the student) feel knows less than they do.

    Sadly, this latter kind of student these days is the NORM. So many students think they can sing. They have sung a song or two in church and mommy and daddy think they are great (as do their friends), but in reality, they have nearly NOTHING of value to offer. They have no technique, not understanding, no musicality even, yet feel there is nothing they have yet to learn. They imitate other singers passably well, especially they faults, but they have no understanding at all of what they are doing or why.

    They squawk in front of a microphone singing some karaoke club singing only partially in tune, and think they are the next “American Idol.” And they actually blow everyone away with their LACK of talent and ability, not by what they do have to offer.

    They then descend on the teachers with the attitude of “teach me to sing, I have time for three lessons.” They won’t listen to reason or to what they are being told because they think they know it all. They question what they are being taught, because it doesn’t fit what they think they know, and in their eyes, they are experts, even though they know absolutely nothing.

    They constantly tell teachers “Oh, don’t turn me into an opera singer” and have this silly idea that somehow what they want to sing doesn’t require anything to really sound good, and that singing country, gospel, rock, what have you, is somehow above all the understanding of just how the body works that they would learn from a teacher. Though many singers in those fields DID begin singing with no training, after numerous operations to remove nodes, they all usually ended up seeking real vocal teachers, not coaches, to fix the problems and teach them what they didn’t know so as to prevent problems from returning in the future.

    So every student must decide right from the start:
    1) Do I really want to learn how to sing?
    2) Am I willing to do what is needed to accomplish that?
    3) Can I take instruction from a teacher who knows what they are doing, or do I think I know so much I don’t have to listen?
    4) Am I willing to do all those boring scales, all those other boring things, breathing exercises, etc. to learn HOW to do what it is I want to do?
    5) Will I pay attention carefully during a lesson (record it if you can) and practice exactly what I am told to do?
    6) Will I put career and fame out of my head and concentrate on the project at hand, learning to sing?
    7) Will I allow myself the chance to actually let my teacher teach me?
    8) If I don’t understand, will I learn to carefully question or ask about what we are doing so I can learn, and so it doesn’t sound like I am challenging my teacher’s understanding?
    9) Can I really be honest with myself when it comes to my faults, and understand that only by accepting them will I be able to fix them?
    10) Can I accept that 99% of what may go wrong will really be my own doing, either because I am not doing what I am told, or I do not understand what I am being taught, or that I simply am too impatient with the process?
    11) And then will I rejoice in the fact that 99% of what is going wrong IS my fault and therefore I have the power to fix it, to make the changes necessary to make things work, and to move ahead?

    A good singing student will also find the joy in singing, even when things are tough, and they do get tough. A student/teacher relationship is not heartless and cold, even if you never actually become friends in the traditional sense (and you shouldn’t become friends and buddies, that destroys that division that is so needed so as to give the correct deference needed to the wisdom of your teacher). There is much give and take in it. But remember, you are the student, and hopefully your teacher is a master of what they are teaching.

    Approach being a student as a blank page. Don’t come as an encyclopedia wanting to impress. Teachers are more impressed by your ability to grow and learn, than by your ability to spout off axioms and cliches. Any good teacher would want you to succeed, even if your goal is as simple as singing so the neighbors don’t call the police. Trust in that. And any teacher who is out only to add you to a list of “others I have created” is in reality not a good teacher at all. A teacher really feels a deep glow inside when they see their students move ahead, and if they actually become successful with a wonderful career, a good teacher rejoices in their hearts with you. Learn humility, as that is something that will take you very far, not just in the learning process, but in the career as well. Yes, you must develop confidence, but you don’t need arrogance. You must know your mind and your goals, but you need not have them written in stone. And you will need courage, a great deal of courage, for even as a student, you are putting your very soul out there to be accepted or rejected. Never forget that.

    Once you have mastered being a great student (which takes time, one learns it as one learns to sing) you will eventually learn to become a great performer and musician, a real singer who can touch the hearts of all those to whom they sing.

    I wish all well who read this blog, and I commend Simon on his questions and his willingness to say what he thinks. That takes courage. I commend him on knowing what he would like to do, and that is to sing well enough to enjoy the act of singing. How many approach learning with even that much thought out? Believe me, not many. Now for those who many think, including Simon himself, that HE is the inspiration for this comment, that I see him as that “horrible student” I described, I DO NOT see him that way at all. He just simply inspired me to write about being a good student, for it is something that is seldom talked about. And since being a good student is actually even more important in some ways than having a great teacher (as I said before, we never learn all there is to learn from one person, but usually from many) it is a goal that all those truly wanting to learn should fix, whether it is for singing, or any other endeavor one is seeking to accomplish.

    Thank you all for reading, and thank you, Michael, for tolerating my comments, which really DO go beyond the bounds of correctness. This is, after all, your blog, not mine, and you are the master here, not me. I only hope that all those who read this blog really take the time to learn, not just answers to their questions on singing and the mechanics of it, but also the mechanics of how to learn itself.

  • Beatrice
    November 10, 2010

    I fully agree that NOT all music has to be serious to be enjoyable to sing. I love singing really weird things sometimes, too. I also love all sorts of music, not just what my training taught me. I was never intending to discourage you from learning how to use your upper range, only not to feel you have to sing up there all the time to find enjoyment singing the music you like. You are right in that not all tenor music hits those lower notes (though you would be surprised at how low Rossini’s Otello goes and how high he is required to sing; but voice production then was something quite different than today and I am not sure, in the operatic world, if the public — the critics never would — could accept that music sung as it was sung then, and they used headvoice and falsetto a huge amount).

    I can understand your frustration of wanting to sing all the music you just love (the music that moves you) and then finding it impossible to do so because your voice simply (at this point) can’t manage it. Believe me, opera singers endure that as well. Sometimes it isn’t because their voices don’t have the notes, but because they simply are not suited to the music. I can assure you that there are many opera singers who are dying to sing various roles they know they will never be able to do. And that is with training.

    I have a dear friend who is like you, untrained and loves to sing, and with a lovely voice. He just really moves you when he sings (he sings popular music) and he cannot do so much of the things he wants to either because he cannot access that range well. He, like you, can sing the notes, but cannot sustain them. He tires too easily. That is where support really comes in. The tension from the neck/throat muscles has to be released. That happens when good support is developed. But you have to work specifically at it. So many singers (both of popular and of classical) really don’t understand the need for proper breathing and support. There are tons of discussions about this on this site and on David Jones’ site.

    Of course, proper support is not the only thing to learn. You want to learn a good technique, one that opens up your ability to sing freely.

    One can learn a great deal from blogs like this, and from sites with articles about singing. The only problem with that is you don’t have a second set of ears listening to you. What often sounds great to us, sounds horrible to everyone else. That is because we hear in our heads (the vibrations creating the sound) and with our ears. The audience only hears what is outside of your head.

    The only thing I can suggest is you study voice, and with a good voice teacher (read my comments on the different types of teachers and the difference between a coach and a real teacher; the wrong choice can put you back even further). If your teacher has a sound understanding of the voice, they should be able to help you unlock your voice and keep you singing the music you love (not turning you into an opera singer, unless that is what you want). I, myself, do not approve of the “speech level singing technique” because I have heard NO ONE who teaches it (and I have heard many of them) who actually can sing. They cannot demonstrate (and you need a teacher who can demonstrate what good sound is like) what they are hoping you achieve. Not all teachers are themselves great singers, but they usually can illustrate their points in a very acceptable way. I have not heard this with any speech level teacher (and they mostly teach popular singers). They can squeak their way through several octaves as proof their method works, but they cannot combine all that into a real song.

    Of course, they list off a catalogue of award winning singers they have “trained” as proof of their skills, but when you look at it, most of those singers were well established before the supposedly great teacher even learned any technique. They may have provided pointers, but not really taught them.

    Almost no singer has only one teacher. Some do, but most of us have had many teachers, and each one brought with them wonderful information and limitations.

    I really feel you need a teacher who understands voice, and who can hear your voice and help you with evaluating it. You are writing in this blog, so why not actually contact Michael and personally discuss your case. I am not shamelessly promoting Michael, as I have never actually met the man. But his understanding of voice works well with what I have learned. Also, I would think he has a better ear than I do when it comes to really helping a singer who wants to sing more popular music.

    I hope that you didn’t think I felt you should limit yourself, for if you felt that, you really didn’t understand what I was saying, and I didn’t express it clearly enough. I believe you should and can develop to your full potential. My desire was only that you don’t limit yourself by assuming that if you couldn’t sing those super high notes you had nothing to offer.

    If you want technical freedom, you have to learn how to achieve it. That comes with study. The fact you can honestly assess you are having difficulties is the first step (and one you would be surprised so many people avoid doing). Take your time to find out all you can about what any given teacher teaches (including any you may find in your own town), see what their students sound like (you may hate their sound, for many teachers FORCE all their students to sound the same), talk with them very frankly to learn what they do, how they do it, and what are their goals. Even though a portion of finding a teacher is them accepting you, a major portion of that is you accepting them. If they want you to sing Wagner and you have no love of opera, well, you will always be at loggerheads.

    A career is not the goal. That may come or it may not. Many great singers who have excellent voices and techniques never make careers. And whether or not one has a career or not should have no bearing on whether they learn to sing and sing well.

    No one would tell you (I wouldn’t) that because you don’t have a career that you don’t need to learn all you can. I happen to have been one of those very lucky ones who had a career (and still do). I have also met many people who have the career who are the saddest people you could imagine, and they really HATE singing.

    I guess the real thing is, if you really want to sing well and feel free to sing everything you want to sing (and we ALL want that), then seek out a real teacher, someone to guide you who knows how to make singing enjoyable while you do it correctly.

    But there are things you can start to do now, even without a teacher. Begin by learning how to breathe. There are tons of books on it, and much discussion on this site. Practice breathing about 20 minutes everyday. What this does is build the muscles needed to support the tone, whether singing opera or popular music. The only difference in support between the two is degree: opera needs unbelievable support, while popular doesn’t need quite as much. They BOTH need it, however. Buiding those muscles takes a long time, often years. But you will notice in a very short time improvements in your sound. Holding notes for a long time is hardly the goal, even if at times it is a very nice by-product. Figure out breathing patterns in the music. Often difficult notes are the result of improper support because we either try to sing too long with the limited supply of breath we have, or we breathe in the wrong places robbing us of support.

    A fun exercise my teacher gave me is “metered breathing.” You can do it while walking. It is really simple. All you do is inhale slowly (about the count of five, but since you are walking make the count by noticing each time your right foot takes a step, and that is a single count), and as soon as the inhale count is over you begin to exhale slowly using all your abs and solar plexus muscles to control the speed of the exhale. The thing is to see the inhale/exhale as a single movement, not as two separate things. The time/count to inhale is exactly the same as exhaling. There is no pause between the two things. Eventually you will be able to increase the length of the count from five steps to as high as 20 steps. Play with it. Sometimes walking very slowly, sometimes quickly, but keeping the count exact. That helps you not become rigid (like many singers do). You learn that there are times you must breathe quickly, and at times you must breathe slowly. One thing I found that helps get the breath low enough into the body is beginning the inhalation through the nose and after but a small moment transferring it to the mouth. There is no break in the change. You don’t begin in the nose, pause, and move to the mouth. It is like both things happen at once. Some teachers would discourage this, but it is simply something I found that reminded me to keep things LOW, as breathing through the nose puts the breath naturally low into the body.

    Well, I have actually spoken too much. This is Michael’s blog, not mine, and it is his wisdom you really need to consult. I would talk directly with him, really learn what he has to offer (for he has far more to offer than you see on this site or in this blog). Honestly discuss your personal goals about singing. If they are not formulated fully in your mind, that is not important. The fact you are developing them is what is important. Because you have a desire to really learn and explore, I think that will take you far in reaching your goal.

  • Simon
    November 9, 2010

    Hi Beatrice,

    Thanks for the comments (I was the one who posed the questions to Michael).

    I agree with most of what you say. The reasons why I am interested in singing in the upper range is that it would seem quite fun to do – not everything has to be timeless, profound or have great depth to be enjoyed. I enjoy the music of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC and would love to sing those songs in the key they were written without trashing my voice like both lead singers of the band have done (particularly Brian Johnson of AC/DC). Another reason is that I’m simply curious about how it is done.

    Your point about ranges is a good one and that bass/baritone/tenor are classifications that define colour. I agree. But do not deny for one second that much music written for opera tenors do not hit (for example) the F 2 octaves below the middle C and nor do bass arias hit tenor C. I define tenor range as roughly C below middle C to high C, so my definition stands.

    Of course, not all the songs I would like to sing are in the super high range of rock music. But you must understand as an untrained bass surrounded by pop music written for baritones and tenors and being unable to sing and sustain non-falsetto/head voice notes beyond middle C, I’ve been constantly frustrated my whole life at being unable to sing such songs. Consider the beautiful song Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard: the chorus is constant at middle C,D,and B. I can sing about two lines of this chorus and I’m done. Any trained bass worth his salt should be able to sing that with no problems. And most baritones and tenors can sing this with bad technique. But I can’t.

    Despite all this talk about range, what I’m essentially after as a singer is that of technical freedom. So if I want to use the big resonance of my bass voice, I can. But if I want to sing a crazily high rock song I should be able to do so as well. There is no reason why I should limit myself, particularly because I don’t have a career as a singer. Obviously over time I will find/write songs that suit my voice best, but for now I want to explore.

  • Beatrice
    October 31, 2010

    Just a sub-note dealing with range. The person writing the question mentioned that many singers have 4 actave ranges and use them. There is NOTHING wrong with using your entire range, if you use it correctly. I have actually a 6 octave ranger myself. Of course, singng opera, there is NOTHING written that would use my range completely. When I was young, I used to make sure that people could see and hear just how blessed I was. I thought nothing of singing a super low contralto song and following it with something way up in the rafters (and if the super high notes were not written there, why, what was there to stop me from singing it 2 octaves higher than written). Of course, I couldn’t do any of that in an actual opera, so I did it in concerts. I made good money, but I soon found that the really serious musicians were NOT taking me seriously. I wondered why. I asked my teacher (who herself was an excellent singer with a 45 year career) and she was blunt: “You have turned yourself into a freak singer, a freak voice, something to come and see like one would see a freak in the circus.”

    Of course, that kind of freak singing is not frowned on in popular music, and many singers do it for nothing more than affect. It adds NOTHING to the music at all. It certainly adds nothing to the emotions communicated in the music.

    But it did make me think: Do I really want to be just some freak voice, or do I want to be a real voice?

    Because of my range, I also sang a huge variety of musical roles: Erda (a deep contralto), Fides (a mezzo-contralto) Gilde (a soprano, mostly a coloratura) the Queen of the night (a definite coloratura) and a whole list of Mozart concert arias that take the singer to a G above the Queen’s F. I sang all over the map, and made a good living. But again, why was I not taken seriously? My teacher then again told me: “You are still trying to impress by showing off your extremes; that will touch no one, it impresses, but only for a short while.”

    It took me a few years to finally find my fit, what Fach was best for me, and it turned out to be the dramatic soprano range. I could do anything in that area with ease, not too high to sing, and not too low. It fit me. I could also add high notes from time to time (like a High E flat at the end of the Triumphal scene in Aida) and astound, but not to the point it looked like I was out simply to show off.

    For the next 35 years all I sang was music that fitted me well, and I excelled. In later years, yes, I have sung a Gilde now and again, and even a few Queen of the nights, as those roles are still well within my range and abilities, but they are not a habit. I stick mostly with what works.

    And although I do vocalize using my entire range, I really have found that it is hardly necessary to use it all when publicly performing.

    So ask yourself this question: Why must you use your entire range (If you have a four octave range like some singers do) and does covering the entire range really add to the musical emotions you intend to communicate. From the examples you shared (the video) there is NOTHING in that performance that is enhanced by what is done. It is simply covering notes to cover notes. Popular music often does that. Emotional communication has no emotion to it at all, save a face pulled by the singer that shows incredible strain (when attempting high notes that aren’t even high), or looking like one is super constipated forcing for relief. That is now what we see as expression in popular music, and it actually falls DEAD on the listener. All that is remembered is the singer could sing super high and super low.

    It is again, what is it you wish to express through your singing? You are intending to communicate something? What emotions are you striving to capture, and what are you hoping your audience feels? Does singing in a really strained production really add those things to the message you are trying to give through the music? Unless you are singing about people getting strangled, I really cannot see how it would benefit you at all.

    Whether a person is singing classical music or popular, they still have to communicate something to an audience. If they don’t do that, no matter how interesting they were (in the circus act tradition) they have failed in the musical communication department.

    Only you can decide which is best for you. But in the end, believe me, just showing off how many notes you are able to sing will not make you a really moving performer. Many great popular singers are NOT moving performers (and many without the recording studio to “fix them” would shock you with how badly they really do sing and with how little talent they really have), but those who really are able to move us, are able to be so because they have a message, a reason, something personal to share. If you learn to do that, whether your range is 2 notes or 52 notes you will make an audience stand up and take notice. You will move them with your music. And isn’t that what all of us are striving to do?

  • Beatrice
    October 31, 2010

    There is a huge difference in requirements for modern and classical singing, this fact is seldom understood by students, and that is often why young people will say to voice teachers: “I don’t want to sound like and opera singer.” Michael has hit on many differences, and in this case dealing with the use of the range of the voice. The sheer muscular strength needed to sing opera is often under-estimated, even and often by voice teachers who are supposedly in the know for that sort of singing. That level of muscular involvement is simply NOT required in popular singing (though good support still is a benefit, especially for those who croon). The “squillo” needed for opera is NEVER achieved in popular music, nor is it even sought after.

    Examples of the kind of singing Michael is speaking about can be found all over the place, and often super great popular singers of the past represent that better than most modern singers (Freddy Mercury was mentioned, but one cannot forget Roy Orbison, even Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, and to a very small degree Elvis Presley; even groups like the Beach Boys and the Beatles used this form of vocal production to a degree; and we all know how fabulous these singers sounded). Now days, singers, men, can actually go from the normal male sounding voice to their falsetto. I will not call it a head voice, because a true male head voice still sounds like a man, but once it sounds fully like a woman, to me, it is no longer a head voice. Falsetto now days seems to be defined simply as a super high “female sounding” sound that is breathy and unsupported. Perhaps that is how it is handled now days when taught. When I was studying, that was NEVER the case. A falsetto was well supported, completely NO-BREATHY, used the exact same technique as producing the regular notes, and ONLY AFTER it was developed (and an undeveloped falsetto can be breathy, just as any undeveloped voice can and often is) was it wedded to the normal head voice to give it greater sheen. And it was taught ONLY to light tenors or the Super high tenors used in singing some of Gluck’s French operas. It was NEVER taught to baritones or basses (excepting when they sought to be countertenors). But that is how things were back then. The idea of a regular male voice (bass, baritone, and any tenor who could sing regular repertoire) learning falsetto (and in this case it was ALWAYS defined as a man sounding like a woman) was seen as vulgar and believe it or not, immoral. And even those times it is used, for comic affect (as in La Boheme) one never expects the baritone to ever sound like Mimi. There are many techniques out there that teach singers how to move through those registers, to bind them, but they are never blended, one simply doesn’t “crack” ones way through the change. Blending of registers makes them sound as if they are ONE sound, no changes, no difference in quality excepting that higher notes do sound higher. The richness of the lower range is part of the upper range, just as the height and brilliance of the upper range is part of the lower range. But as you find with most opera singers, the voice sounds the same from top to bottom or from bottom to top, there are no cracks, no breaks, and no alteration in tonal quality. Some operatic tenors will actually go into a head voice that is almost a falsetto to sing pianissimi, and that is because they have not learned how to do it with their natural voices. And each part of the voice must be fully developed in classical singing, or the voice will soon fail and fall apart. And the singer will be “Booed” off the stage for sounding WRONG and being vulgar.

    Since no register in popular music is required to be fully developed, it is far easier to create these pathways through the entire range, and to use them at will. Popular singers are not required to develop the “squillo”, they are not required to sound large enough to even be heard 2 feet away. Nor are they required to have the “classic beauty” of singers who sing opera and classical music (but that doesn’t mean that they don’t sound beautiful, just that level of production is not a requirement). Nor are popular singers required to have “rounded vowels” and all those things. They can shape a vowel any way they want, if it fits the expression they wish to give the music. Another difference with classically trained singers is they are required to sing the consonants differently. Consonants are sing clearly but as quickly as possible so that the beat falls on the vowel. Such exactness is not a requirement of singing popular music, so singers are allowed the luxury to work the words, stress the consonants, working into the vowel in a way that gives a greater sense of “freedom” and is almost like just talking like you would talk to a friend.

    Many of those techniques, which work well with modern music are not necessarily safe for the voice or based on sound physical functioning of the body (like blowing air across the vocal folds to form the sound; breathy airy sounds are NOT good singing, even though they do create that intimate feeling often sought after in popular singing; and there is also creating the vibrato through using the solar plexus muscles, what some vocal coaches call creating it with the Diaphragm). It is hardly rare in popular music to find singers who have had nodes removed multiple times. And sadly, this is also becoming quite common in classical singing (and at one time it was seen as the worst thing ever to happen to anyone; it could end a career). That is because many BAD popular techniques are creeping into classical singing.

    For me, what I find confusing is saying you are a bass singing in the tenor range. You may be a bass singing in the upper parts of your range, but unless you actually begin to sound like a tenor, you are NOT singing in the tenor range. That is a confusion that is so common amongst singers who sing popular music; they define the voice by its notes not my its sound. What makes a bass a bass, a baritone a baritone, and a tenor a tenor is NOT the notes they sing, for often they sing the exact same notes, and excepting the legendary high C often basses do sing very good high notes with no strain at all. The thing that makes a person a bass or what have you is the “timbre” of the voice, what it actually sounds like, the quality of the darkness and lightness mixture. The natural speaking voice for most men (with the exception of very high voiced men, which do exist, but often have rather low singing voices) is that of the baritone quality. When a tenor speaks in this quality (which most do) it is usually closer to the lower parts of the vocal range, not the middle of it. When a bass speaks with this natural baritonal quality it is actually more the middle of his range.

    Many great tenors could produce super powerful low notes that we associate with bass profundos, but that was simply the lowest part of the range, and not the best part for normal use. Many basses can sing the famous High C, but wouldn’t as it is not really of the quality of the rest of the voice, even if very good.

    You have defined yourself as a bass profundo, which I often have heard singers of popular music call themselves, but in reality, they are no such a thing. They are simply a regular bass who happens to not produce their lower notes well and as a result they sound low and gravelly and give the appearance of being quite low, when in point of fact, they really are not as low as an average bass is required to sing, even in some choral music.

    To be a true bass profundo requires you sing VERY LOW, and with good open sound down there, no gravelly growling is allowed.

    Actor John Rys-Davis has what most call a very great “bass profundo” speaking voice. In reality, it is nothing of the kind. It is a super well produced bass voice. Why I would say that is because of my own life experiences. Back when I started singing (over 40 years ago) what we heard then as basses, baritones, bass-baritones, and basso profundos was quite a different thing than what people hear today. NONE of the current reigning operatic basses of today would have been even considered to sing anything other than Rossini. Their voices are simply too light, too bright, too weak in the lower range, and they simply do NOT sound like a true bass. The ring of a true bass is something to behold, and is in everyway as thrilling as any soprano’s high E or any tenor’s high C. The upper range of course would be glorious, but it is as they descended into the depths that one was moved to goose bumps. The voice increased in size, sound, ring, and in every way. I remember when I sang my first Ortrud, the bass simply was wonderful. I was amazed. But what got me more thrilled than imaginable was not when he sang his part in Wagner, but when he was rehearsing the music from Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots. As he descended to the depths in Marcellus’ music it just sent shivers through me. It was dark, thrilling, ringing, all encompassing, and totally enveloped the listener in the sound. Here was a voice that easily did those Fs and Gs below the bass cleff and even lower. I have NEVER heard that part sung that way since, and in fact, most basses transpose those parts up and create different ornaments or sing the cadenzas an octave higher totally destroying the affect that Meyerbeer was creating.

    Now of course, with modern music you will not be developing the voice enough to create this affect (but why not, it still can be used with super great affect in popular singing). If you are a bass profundo, why would you want to sing so much in the upper range? The greatest beauty of your voice (whether singing popular or opera) is really your depth. It is wonderful to fully develop the upper range so you can use it to bring about certain music and interpretive ideas, but why sing all the time outside of where you have your greatest strength? To me, it is no different than listening to a popular female singer who has a lovely upper voice, something to behold, then tries with all her might to sing constantly with some gravelly dark contralto sound that is not her. The results are NOT inspiring. To sing those notes now and again (especially when done with proper voice production) is fine, but not to make a diet of it. In the end, her voice will constantly break off into something small and squeaky, if not super breathy, to create her upper voice sound. Her career would end.

    So it would be with your voice, if you truly are a bass or a bass profundo. In striving to always sing in this tenor range (as you call it) or in your super high upper range, you are denying the reality of your own sound, the actual glory of your voice. It is one thing to go up there for affect, for some musical expression (and doing things this way will not usually cause any problems, like Michael has told you) but to strive to “live up there” when your natural sound is quite different is unwise. Learn to love your sound, and don’t feel it necessary to be all things to every body else. Being versatile can actually be a singers undoing, for they can to everything, but in the end do nothing well.

    I had to face this same thing in the beginning of my career. I LOVED singing Broadway, and much modern music (when I was growing up, it was not nearly as different in sound to classical as it is now; really good sounding voices sounded really good and they were super beautiful, and beauty of sound was still something people wanted to hear) but my voice was WRONG. I could do it, and did, in school. But my voice was huge (it overpowered anything, even those singing with microphones), it was a dark (not articially dark as one hears today, but really dark and ringing, that is why most teachers throught I was a contralto) ringing, full, very agile (I could trill without even thinking about it, and scales in Handel, which we sang in the school choir, were child’s play for me) and flexible (able to sing super loud or super soft and still fill the room). I wanted to sing on Broadway, be another Ethel Merman (you may not even know who she is, but you can find her on YouTube). But it didn’t matter how often I auditioned for parts, I NEVER got them.

    Now back then, Broadway was NOT sung using mics as it is now, so having a huge voice was not a problem. The problem was the quality of the voice. It was NOT a Broadway sound. I could sing with fabulous diction, just as clear as anyone, and even sing the music with the correct style. But as one director said: “I don’t need a Brunhilde to sing Maria — Sound of Music). I hadn’t sung much opera at that time, but I knew who Brunhilde was, for I had sung in competition the Immolation Scene that end the Ring Cycle. I was heart broken, I really was. None of my friends liked opera (they hated it actually, and still do) and my family didn’t like it (they were either jazz musicians or classical violinists, all professionals) and I felt lost.

    That is when I had to face up to what I had, learn to love it, and make the most of it. So, I became an opera singer and have done so for over 40 years now.

    I guess my point here is why do you want to sing the super high music that is often done in popular music? Why do you want to create that strained and painful sound just so you can sing what everyone else is singing? Why not learn to use what you have, and use that extra ability to sing up there as icing on the cake?

    Take the time to really learn how to do it right so as not to ever hurt your voice, and then use things with wisdom. Singing super high notes and super low notes just for the sake of them is “freak singing” and reallly has no musical value, even if it can become popular and make you money. But learning to really sing with your voice in your chosen style of music, and really make that sing in a way that it really touches the listener’s heart, that is what you should be striving to achieve. Consider using this high voice ONLY where it fits the mood to create the desired affect musically, but NEVER make it the cause or purpose behind your singing. That will destroy what you have.

    I believe that is what David Jones is speaking about. Even if he is more centered on classical technique, the facts are really the same: sing what is you and use the gift you have been given the best and most correct way possible so that you can share your love of music, your desire to touch human hearts, and fill your own love of singing for many decades to come. Yes, I say “Many Decades to Come.” Too many singers (in both classical and modern music) are thinking of now and the big bucks. They don’t think about singing for a long time. When I began we were told to work so we could sing for the next 40 years. That is our career and like any career, it should provide for us into our old age. Your goal should be no different. You should seek to learn how to use your voice for the style of music you love to sing, in the best way possible, with the best and most correct technique, so you can sing for many decades to come.

    Perhaps being an opera singer makes it wrong for me to comment as I have, for I am NOT singing the popular music you are wanting to sing. But for me, when someone wants to sing, no matter what type of music, I want them to achieve their best. I want them to learn how to do things in the most effective way so as to have a great career for many many years. I wish you all the best, I really do. Just remember: what voice were you given? Why weaken it just for showy but often not all that musical affects? Make it reach its heights, and then joy in the accomplishment.

  • October 29, 2010

    Thanks for your suggestion, Olga. You are right that many singers from that era could be used as examples.

  • Olga Silva
    October 28, 2010

    Hi Michael! I think that singers like Ian Gillan and Freddie Mercury would be a good example of the condition you’re describing. Quite a few vocalists in the 70s used to have that kind of sound. Today mainstream rock sounds nothing like that.

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