For a moment, think about some singers and performances you truly love. Then ask yourself, what do you really love about them? If you’re like me, you probably love them because they are great artists. I’m guessing you never fell in love with a singer because they had great voice technique! In fact, some artists seem to succeed without much technique at all. So is technique really that important after all? In this blog post, I explore the importance, role, and meaning of voice technique. In doing so, I want to give you some powerful singing tips that outline what we are looking for in a great singer.
Importance of good voice technique
Good voice technique is never the end goal. However, it is a means to an end. A singer who has little or no technique puts themselves at a huge disadvantage. Rather than being in control of their voices, singers with poor technique are slaves to what their voice will allow them to do on any one particular day. Technique is the process by which we turn our vocal limitations into vocal possibilities and vocal choices! Keeping performances consistent, keeping your voice healthy and exploring new sounds are all difficult unless you have technique.
Role of voice technique
At Total Voice Studio, I strive to create truly excellent singers. The four pillars of excellence in singing are (i) technique, (ii) musicianship, (iii) repertoire, and (iv) artistry. Their relationship can be illustrated as a pyramid with artistry being the icing on the cake and voice technique the foundation that holds everything up.
The reason for placing technique on the bottom of the pyramid is this:
- Musicianship: You need good technique to ensure that your throat can achieve the co-ordinations necessary to allow you to sing in tune and musically. Expressive singing takes a lot of control.
- Repertoire: Without technique, your song choices are limited. You want to be able to sing the high and low notes in a song with ease.
- Artistry: Without technique, your voice is not free to express the sounds that are in your heart.
Defining Voice Technique
So what exactly is good technique? The best way to define good voice technique is to describe what it will allow you to do with your voice. With great voice technique, you can:
- Find your most balanced, efficient, beautiful and expressive vocal sounds
- Keep your voice healthy and be able to sing throughout your whole life
- Achieve consistent and predictable results with your voice
- Sing across your entire vocal range with no sudden pops, cracks, breaks or changes in sound quality
- Enjoy the act of singing and feel confident in how you use your voice
- Sing the sounds that are in your heart or that you intend to sing
Building Voice Technique
Although people may be born with good voices or a gift for singing, no-one is really born with good technique. It must be acquired through training. Singing exercises or vocalises are the primary means of teaching good technique and training the vocal muscles. However, we can’t just use any exercises. The right exercises take into account what your voice can already do and what your voice doesn’t do so well and bridge this gap. In other words, they lead you into a place of vocal balance. Good technique is about finding this place of balance, where:
- There is a balance of breath and muscle so that your voice is not breathy, nor is it pinched or tight
- There is a balance between chest and head register so that your voice is neither top or bottom heavy
- There is a balance between high and low so you can sing notes clearly across your entire range
- There is a balance between soft and loud so you can sing expressively with a variety of dynamics
- Your tone has a balance between dark and light so it finds its own natural beauty
This is difficult to achieve all of this on your own. A good voice coach who knows how to listen to your voice analytically can help significantly with the training process and give you meaningful singing tips.
In this article, I argue for the proper place of voice technique as one of the important four pillars of excellence in singing. One of the best singing tips I can offer you is to truly understand the notion of vocal balance. I have met singers and teachers who become obsessed about perfecting their technique and spend every lesson only working on this. This is another form of imbalance. It is possible to be so correct in one’s technique that the music becomes lifeless and clinical. We need to break the rules sometimes and truly great artists know how, when, and why to bend the rules. Also, they can break the rules intentionally and without it taxing their voice too much.
“Voice technique is a means to an end – the end being to know that no end exists” (Schoonmaker). In other words, technique allows you to find your own natural voice, free as many limitations as possible.