For All Vocalists Who Are Avoiding Studying Voice - This Blog's for You!
Updated: Feb 15, 2019
By: Kathleen Bavaar Cobb
When you hear your favorite vocalist sing, do you imagine that they were born making these sounds? He or she makes singing sound so effortless, so natural. Well they may have a lot of natural ability, but somewhere on their vocal journey, they found a great tour guide; they found a teacher who brought out the best in them. They developed vocal techniques.
If you have never had a voice lesson, you may be having thoughts, now, like these:
- No thanks. Not me!
- Why would anyone want to work on vocal techniques?
- Doesn’t that take all the fun out of singing?
- Doesn’t that mean that some teacher will turn your voice into something that
you don’t want it to be, like an operatic voice?
Well the reality is that if you don’t study technique with a reputable voice teacher (anyone can call themselves a “voice teacher” or “vocal coach”), you will be stuck with the techniques that you have already created on your own, whether you realize it or not.
It doesn’t matter what kind of singer you are aspiring to become, be it a classical artist, a pop artist, a jazz artist, a musical theater artist, a country artist, a folk artist, etc. Regardless of the genre you want to explore, it is likely that you will be limited by the singing habits you have acquired on your own. Techniques at any instrument are comprised of the habits that you have formed making music at that instrument. Without acquiring good vocal techniques, your range will be limited. Your capacity to project, and have your voice carry over a choir, a band or orchestra will be limited. Your ability to withstand long gigs and arduous rehearsals will be limited. Your ability to be competitive at auditions will be limited. You will be limited in a lot ways because the habits you have may not serve you well.
So we all have techniques that we acquire either intentionally, or by trial and error. We all have things that we habitually do as we sing. Some habits serve us well, and some don’t. And often times without the help of someone who knows what they’re doing, who knows how to figure out what it is that you are doing with and to your voice, we end up with vocal fatigue and strain at best, and vocal injuries at worst. We end up discouraged and disappointed in ourselves.
Just because the voice emerges from inside of us, and uttering any kind of sound, be it speaking or singing, comes very naturally to us, that doesn’t mean that making beautiful, thrilling, and enviable sounds when singing is easy. I had a musician friend who used to say that if this was easy, everyone would be doing it! To make those kinds of sounds you have to have the best instincts that only come from doing the work of breaking bad singing habits, and creating good ones. And as everyone knows, breaking bad habits is never easy. Voice lessons are all about breaking singing habits that are not helpful, and creating habits that make singing far easier in the long run, that make your voice more flexible, and durable, and consistent, and most of all that make your voice a voice that you can be proud of, a voice that will never embarrass you.
A study was done years ago and the results have become part of popular thought. You undoubtedly have heard people say it takes 21 days to create a new habit. The trouble with that quote is that it is out of context. Actually the study showed that it took 21 days, with 8 hours each day to create a new habit. So not only do you need help with creating better singing habits, but you need daily practice. We can never sing eight hours a day. The voice wasn’t meant for that. But if we practice eight hours a week, with a weekly voice lesson, it is reasonable to expect great things in 21 weeks. You can’t begin with hour-long practice sessions, however. Your teacher can advise you as to how long you can sing at a stretch, but you can practice more than once a day. And with time, your voice can endure longer and longer sessions.
If you have an aversion to classical music, please know that not all voice teachers require you to sing classical music. That was the case years ago, but it is not the case today. It is possible to develop your voice without studying classical music. I am a firm believer that singers are inspired to study voice because they have a love of a particular style of music. I believe that you should sing things that move you, and inspire you to study and become a better singer. I believe, as do many other voice teachers today, that if you want to be a really good pop singer, or rock singer, or jazz singer, etc., that it is important to create great sounds that are authentic to the type of music you aspire to sing. And to do that you need to work with a teacher who can lead you in the direction that you want to go so that you can sound authentic.
Years ago Aretha Franklin was called upon at the last minute to sing an operatic aria at the Grammy Awards, because Pavarotti had backed out. I can’t imagine being in her shoes, taking on a tenor aria in a foreign language without any preparation. What she did was nothing less than miraculous, singing the aria totally by ear in front of a live television audience. Very impressive. While I totally applaud her efforts, do know she sang it as the R & B artist that she is. Of course how else could she have sung it? Believe me when I say that I am a big fan of hers. However, I just love hearing an operatic tenor sing that aria. It makes me weep every time. And so just as I would prefer hearing a classical artist sing a classical aria, I would want to hear a rock artist singing a rock song, or an R & B artist singing an R & B piece. I have heard recordings of Pavarotti singing pop music and he did an admirable job, like Franklin did with his aria, but I would have rather heard a pop singer sing it! That is why at FAME we make it our business to teach vocal techniques for all genres.
Developing vocal technique isn’t easy but it is well worth the effort, and the expenditure of your resources and time. You will never regret it. In conclusion I will leave you with another famous line; this one is by Time Notke, a high school coach: “Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.” If you are not already studying voice at FAME, please contact us and let us help you make your musical dreams a reality.
-Kathleen Bavaar Cobb
Kathleen Bavaar Cobb is a voice and piano instructor, a lyric soprano, and an actress as well. She earned her Bachelor of Music in Applied Voice at The Hartt College of Music, and has done graduate work in theatre, music education, and vocal pedagogy, having studied at The Westminster Choir College’s Masters of Vocal Pedagogy program, Contemporary Commercial Music Vocal Pedagogy Institute at The Shenandoah Conservatory of Music, The Ward Method at Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at Catholic University, and Music Education at Trinity College, and at Bowie State University. Her background in classroom and group instruction began with The Yamaha Music Education System, and continued with work in public, private, and parochial schools, where she taught general music, choral music, planned and conducted children’s music liturgies, conducted church choirs, show choirs, choruses, and directed school musicals. She has taught group voice, and private voice and/or piano at Levine Music, The Washington Conservatory of Music, Academy of Fine Arts, and The Olney Conservatory of Music. She has directed musical theatre programs for these institutions as well, in addition to teaching and directing at Aiden ArtSummer, and The Center for the Arts. Her performing credits include Carnegie Hall, The National Theatre, The National Lyric Opera, The Potomac Valley Opera, Coachlight and Hayloft Dinner Theatres, The State of the Art State Department Recital Series, not to mention work in cabarets, night clubs, television and film.