Weekly Teaching Tip – Nov. 4, 2013
By Agata Pisko
The more voices I hear, the more I realize that you cannot separate the voice from the personality and life experience. That is why I find the division of the voice types not fully appropriate if you do not focus on who the person is and what they have vocally experienced before they appear in your studio. I would like to remind you of what voice types are to me.
1) The Classical Singer who is not fully comfortable with her voice. She may have had some choir experience, may have studied voice at a university, may have had vocal problems, she may even have taken therapy lessons by a speech pathologist. She says: ‘when I sing pop songs, my friends say I sound too classical…’, ‘I cannot sing loud in my lower range’, ‘I have problems with intonation’. It may be hard for her to understand that it is ok to sing ‘with more muscle’ in her lower voice and that ‘squeaky door’ sound is very much ok for the situation where her vocal cords are at the moment. One of my students said: ‘this exercise is terrible, I absolutely cannot accept how my voice sounds like!’. Remedy: give her as soon as possible a better cord closure feeling anyway.
2) The Young Girl who would like to sing Christina Aquiliera songs and has not had much experience in singing. She is 11 or 12 years old. Her voice sounds airy from bottom to top of her range. The strong voice she produces with ‘ae’ 5 tone scale may scare her and she may experience this as ‘much too strong’ or ‘the teacher is teasing me, it is not right’. It takes often a long time to make her sing a song with a better cord closure. Do not give up – it is their right in the time their body changes. I would repeat the exercises every single lesson, stay patient. A miracle is going to happen.
3) The Rock Singer who would like to sing stronger and higher. It is often a male teenager or a young man. They say: ‘my voice gets easily tired’, ‘I play with a loud band’, ‘I do not like my head voice, it sounds too airy or too classical to me. I want to sing all the way in my chest voice.’ When they sing a song, you could easily see the tension in their lips and neck, the top notes are much louder than the rest of the song, they have intonation problems. Remedy: show them their head voice immediately and try to connect them with their lower voice. If it does not work, I would focus on relaxing their bottom range, below the first bridge, so that they experience the lower tones without too much tension. Then their head voice should appear naturally.
4) The Broadway Belter – usually a female who is looking great and who has had already success on stage: ‘people compliment me on my voice a lot’. She is not really sure if she really needs voice lessons but she would like to stay in shape and learn something new. She has two voices, the lower that she tends to use in a strong way with a wide and loud vowels, and the upper that reminds a bit a young girl sound. Remedy: show her exercises where she uses round vowels and a smooth tension on her vocal cord. She may think that ‘this vowel thing is much too extravagant’ and not really consider that it may change her vocal life completely. Be consistent. She will check this out.
5) The Amateur Singer who needs some encouragement that what s/he does is ok. They usually represent one of the above 4 types, but you may be surprised that having vocalized this voice for a few minutes, they begin to mix in the most natural way. Your job is to basically let them stay there and tell them that what they do is the right thing!
Recommended reading: Dean Kaelin: ‘Teaching Good Singing’, pages 46-50.