Performing With A Healthy Singing Technique:
When I am vocalizing a rock singer and the technique is sounding very balanced, the question often arises, “how am I supposed to sing a rock song like this?” That is a valid question. Very few styles (including opera by the way) sing with the exact degree of vocal balance we strive for when we are vocalizing. Good singers of all styles of music must move away, at least somewhat, from perfect vocal balance in order to accommodate the style and emotional qualities necessary for performance.
I frequently use the image of a clock when describing the difference between vocal balance and style. Let’s call perfect balance 12:00. Not many styles of music sound right singing at 12:00; perhaps some Gregorian Chant singers, maybe some church soloists and occasionally some oratorio soloists might sound right singing at 12:00, but most styles of music won’t ever sing with the same balance as we are attempting to achieve when vocalizing in a lesson.
Singing a hard core rock style with the same balance we use when vocalizing would sound very comical.
A singer who is singing a Mozart aria, might sing at 11:00, or 1:00; a singer in a Wagnerian opera might sing at 10:00 or 2:00. A musical theater singer who is singing “legit” may sing at 11:00, while a “belter” may be at 9:00. Some R&B singers may sing down at 8:00, while a very heavy rock singer may sing all the way at 6:00.
All that being said, if I were to walk in on a voice lesson and hear a singer vocalizing, ultimately I shouldn’t be able to tell what style of music they sing when they perform; all I should hear is balance. The job of a voice teacher is to assist the singer in getting back to 12:00 (perfect balance) and vocalize them through their range with this balance.
Sometimes a good voice teacher can feel like a chiropractor. The student goes out and performs well, but in an unbalanced manner; when they come into the studio for a lesson we have to get them back in balance. Also, we have to make sure that they are able to sing in their style in a believable manner while maintaining vocal health and integrity.
The first step is to build the voice and establish this 12:00; then we find the healthiest way possible to move away from 12:00 in order to achieve the sound necessary for a singer’s performances. Between performances, we move right back to 12:00 when we vocalize.
If you don’t have a decent 12:00, then finding style is only going to tend to cause poor singing habits and inhibit the building of healthy singing technique. If the voice hasn’t been built healthfully, it is difficult at best to maintain vocal health while maintaining a professional performance schedule. Over time, too much singing off balance can even cause vocal damage and require medical intervention.
Start building technique early, so you have versatility and stamina to maintain your vocal health throughout your career.