Tips and advice for learning how to speak, sing, perform and live the dream of being a professional entertainer (speaker or singer) and performing artist, along with common sense commentary and rants on the state of today's music industry. Written by international master vocal coach, Diana Yampolsky, creator of Vocal Science (TM).
The Technical Elements of Vocal Style
How to Become and Remain to be a Professional Singer
But… What about the Vocal Style?
Can it be taught?
Let’s Find Out!
In this article, I would like to talk about interesting observations that I have made over my 37 years as a vocal coach and voice repair specialist while being the founder of the Royans Professional Vocal School aka The Royans School for the Musical Performing Arts - since 1984.
Since that time teaching voice has been our primary focus.
Not too many people realize that there are several aspects that must be addressed with respect to the singing craft in general.
Let’s elaborate on that, my dear reader:
First of all, I would like to bring to your attention that when we begin talking about singing, we will be talking about two separate, but very much so related elements: physical sound and artistic performance.
Before I will begin discussing anything further (regarding the above-described matter), I would like to bring to your attention, my reader, that the physical sound, first and foremost, should be achieved by the proper utilization of the technical aspects of singing, i.e. by “installation” of a wholesome mechanism, which consists of such components like; breathing (sound support), the structure of the sound, placement of the sound and finally the projection of the sound of the voice to its aimed destination.
Let’s examine the different but related aspect of singing performance/the style...
The artistic element of performance is essentially how the singer relates to the song and anticipates and complements the style of actual music, i.e. rock, alternative, country, R&B, dance etc.
A common view is that while the technical aspects of singing can be learned through instruction and repetition, the style is usually developed naturally over time.
There is definitely some truth to this statement; some people just naturally have it within them - some, however… do not.
As a Vocal Coach/Consultant, I strongly believe in the advantages of instruction in the technical aspects of singing.
However, I also believe that it is a mistake to completely separate style from technique and I believe that style somewhat CAN BE TAUGHT…
As an analogy, you can find quite a few parallels between singing and let’s say, for example, figure skating.
If you are familiar with figure skating at all, you will know that the skaters are always judged by two criteria: Technical Merit and, nevertheless, Artistic Merit.
Again, in this instance, it appears that the above-described components are separate, also due to the fact that they are judged separately, but with singing, they appear to be somewhat conjoined together…?
Upon closer examination though, you will realize that the latter components are very much so intertwined.
After all, a figure skater who is falling on their rear end during the jumps is most definitely not going to get high technical marks.
Therefore, the marks for an artistic impression will matter, but not as much as they would if the technical aspect of skating would be addressed stronger…
Conversely, a figure skater that can land all their jumps perfectly, but skates to the music in a robotic fashion, is not going to win any medals either.
Kathrina Witt the 1988 Olympic figure skating Champion. Even though her technical merit was not exactly the best, her artistic merit was outstanding.
On the other hand, Kathrina’s rival, Midori Ito had her technical merit like no other! Yet her artistic impression on judges was quite low. So she came 5th.
If the above would happen nowadays, Midori Ito would definitely be the champion.
As today figure skating is all about the triples and quads. I personally call it “circus on ice.”
And personally, I prefer a total balance between technical and artistic merit. But that is just me...
As well as with figure skating, the technical component of singing does play the role of the platform on which the artistic expression stands.
As mentioned earlier, the main technical components of singing are; abdominal muscles support, the structure of the sound, and finally the placement and aimed projection of the sound.
Lower abdominal muscle support is responsible for the height of the sound.
Upper diaphragm support is responsible for the width (body) of the sound.
In fact, I talk in more detail about these technical components of singing in my book, Vocal Science - Flight to the Universe.
If you are interested in obtaining the ebook version we would be happy to send it your way.
Nevertheless, there are many more components to the technical aspect of singing.
So, learning how to use these components properly, will also prevent the occurrence of voice disorders and voice problems.
The latter, in fact, applies to speakers also.
Once you learn about the aforementioned components, you most likely, at that point, will achieve technical control of the physical sound.
The next step is to “dress it up,” so that the original emotion will become exciting and, nevertheless, effective and right to the point (spot-on).
This is akin to a figure skater whose costume and movements reflect the music that is accompanying their performance.
With regards to singing, the physical sound produced must correspond with the style of music and the musical instruments used in its production.
Recently, I saw a popular pop singer deliver what was clearly an R&B song with, no doubt, a classical-sounding voice.
It didn't sound very good because the sound of the voice was so alien to the style of music being played by the band.
She actually had a strong-sounding voice and, thus, would have received high marks for technical merit, if there had been a presence of the official judges.
But there most definitely would be a failing grade for her artistic interpretation.
In this instance, the TOTAL PERFORMANCE was not achieved.
I do believe, though, that style can be guided.
In fact, many people have approached me to coach them specifically because they wanted to sing a particular style of music.
One of my recently signed clients, a dance/R&B singer, had a recording session booked and asked me to come along for assistance.
When I arrived at the studio, the session was already underway and I quickly realized that the style of the song the production team was recording, was not the one that we had previously worked on with my student.
Moreover, this song was very demanding because it actually required a combination of all three distinct styles: pop, dance and R&B.
The song required that the singer sometimes had to change between styles as frequently as every second line.
The producers were considered of high calibre and definitely knew what they wanted to hear.
However, they were having trouble conveying the instructions on how to do it to the singer.
She also knew what they wanted, but did not exactly know how to achieve it.
This is where I stepped in and was able to provide assistance.
By quickly instructing my student how she could attain the requested stylistic elements, the song was successfully recorded in much less time than even the producers anticipated.
The majority of students that come to my school for instruction have a definite idea about the style of singer they wanted to be alike, but, obviously, they did not always know how to achieve it.
From the very beginning of instruction, I always teach them the obvious, such as how to stay in key and project their voice, but also work with them on the stylistic elements of the songs they are attempting to sing.
This is often done by breaking the songs down to individual lines and even practicing the ways in which each syllable should be sung depending not only on the technical aspect, but also on the style of music.
For example; if you are singing an alternative rock song, you should be attempting it in a voice that is a little more raspy sounding and even sometimes sounding somewhat in the nasal passage.
It should also be sung, with a less smooth sound and with less or no vibrato.
Please note that the raspy sound should be achieved without straining your vocal cords and it is done by correctly coordinating the use of your facial and abdominal muscles.
Quite a few of my students sought coaching from me solely because they wanted to achieve this raspy-sounding voice without damaging their voice permanently.
This is one example of how the artistic merit/style should be based on the foundation of flawless vocal technique.
If you are interested to learn the above in more detail, please contact us: 416-857-8741 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.vocalscience.com
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