As classically trained singers, we spend years striving for ‘perfection’. Vowel sounds have been painstakingly tweaked, lung capacity used to the extreme, languages mastered, resonance found – the list goes on and on. The smallest adjustment to technique can make the biggest difference in the quality of sound produced. All of this can lead to paranoia and an obsession which is why singers get the ‘diva’ reputation.
Of course all of this is put into practise to produce a classical/operatic sound. So when a singer is asked to produce a sound of a different style it can be like asking a skier to snowboard instead.
I have done a few recordings now which have required me to sing in a completely different style. For the obsessive compulsive singer this is very scary. What sounds totally unsatisfactory to the singer can sound amazing to someone else. Learning to throw caution to the wind is very hard when in the past you have had so much control over the sound you produce. I analysed, criticised and over thought every aspect of my singing on this recording until I couldn’t bear to listen to it again.
It’s often been said that classically trained singers can’t sing musical theatre or pop. Of course this isn’t true. What they struggle to do is to let go of some of their technique in order to make a more relaxed and less resonant tone. Listening to the greats like Kiri Te Kanawa or Rene Fleming can be a cringe worthy experience when they tackle anything other than their home repertoire.
I recently witnessed a rock singer nonchalantly recording a song without a care in the world about vowels, resonance or any other form of technique. It sounded great. Perfect for the style of song. This is what singing is about isn’t it? A natural response to genuine emotion. How refreshing I thought. What must that be like?
You can hear me giving this a whirl on ‘Bells of Heaven’ by Andrew Keeling available on Amazon right now!