Singing Different Styles – What Your Voice Needs
As a voice and performance coach, I’m often asked about whether or not singing different styles of music is beneficial for singers. The answer to this question depends on what you aim to do. In many cases, singers are under the impression that certain styles of music (like classical music) will give you a foundation that allows you to sing every other style of music. But, the reality is that different styles of music require different skills and abilities. Let’s break down what different styles of music require.
Pop music, in almost all circumstances, requires you to sing in your chest voice. More importantly, it almost always requires you to be able to sing high in your chest voice range. There’s not too many pop singers who have made a career without being able to do that. But doing so can cause strain and fatigue if you don’t have the vocal fitness to withstand the demands of the genre. Pop music can also require some styling like crackles on onsets, scoops, flips and breaks. It’s less of a pure sound. You’ll see these patterns in country music, too – especially modern country music on the radio. If you’re interested in singing pop music, those are some of the key skills you’re going to need.
Now, if you look at something like musical theater, you’ll also want to be able to sing with strength in your chest voice. Many singers and coaches call this belting. It’s easy to push or belt too hard in this style, so knowing how to do this efficiently will help you avoid vocal fatigue. However, singing in this style is most likely going to have a different tonal quality than pop music. If you’ve ever heard someone trying to cross over from one style to the other, it’s very telling if the nuances are missed. Also, in musical theatre, your main aim is to pay homage to the song and the character you are in the song or production. So you’ll likely need to able to make adjustments to your voice in order to do this successfully.
Jazz music is unique because it requires quite a bit of vocal agility. Whether you’re in the lighter or heavier zone of your voice, you need that flexibility… especially if you get into bebop jazz! Jazz has a lot of tonal qualities, colors, and textures which also make it unique. Another important skill for jazz singers is being able to make changes to a standard melody. You’ll want to get good at learning the original song’s melody, and then find new ways to decorate or stylize that melody without going too far from it. Through improvisation and experimentation, singers can find their signature in jazz singing.
Classical music is a style that many people believe is the foundation for all singing. But is ballet a foundation for playing basketball? It provides many excellent practices and skills, but does not equip you for all styles. For the most part I think it’s safe to say that classical music does not typically involve singing high in the chest voice range like is required in pop, gospel, rock, or musical theatre. Instead, it’s mostly head voice right from the bottom. With this style, a main aim is resonance. While we want resonance in every style of music, with classical music it is a large focal point. Similarly to musical theatre, in classical music your main aim is to honor the composer’s markings in the songs. Your job is not to re-arrange and put your own unique spin on the song. It is is to bring the original art alive through your signing.
So… what’s the point?
The reason we went through those styles of music is because I want you to see that every style of music has its own needs and requirements. If it’s your aim to sing various styles of music, or if you’re in a cover band for example, it may be important to learn the nuances of each style! But if you don’t have any desire to sing other styles, it’s a great use of time to focus on learning the nuances of your genre or signature style. While you may not need to understand every single style to be a good singer, it truly depends on your goals.
Is Singing Only One Style Bad For Me?
I want to be clear as well: only singing in one style is not bad at all and won’t ruin your voice. BUT you DO want to keep a pulse on your vocal fatigue. Having the proper vocal fitness regime can truly help you build strength so that you can branch out of your comfort zone safely and without injury. Try and look at what you’re doing to build the skills you need for crossing genres that you nurture authenticity, creativity, exploration, and a feeling of ease.