Updated: Jun 27, 2020
“If you don’t get lost, there’s a chance you may never be found.” – Anonymous
There are lots of blog posts, quizzes, videos on the Internet dedicated to helping you discover what music you should sing. Some of them suggest listening to your favorite artists and imitating them and finding your singing range based on what you can easily imitate. Some suggest singing songs close to your speaking range. Some say that if you copy a certain style well – say a country twang, for instance, especially if you’ve been listening to the style for a long time – you might want to sing that style.
I’m glad that these types of quizzes and such exist. If a singer is viewing them, it means they are actively searching for their singing identity. The issue I find with this way of approaching singing – whether it is basic technical training or song coaching – is that it recommends a fabricated means of discovering your genuine voice and personal style. In addition to that, it doesn’t allow for a great deal of experimentation or a meaningful artistic journey.
For beginning singers, the best way to approach voice training and coaching is to train with an open "beginner's mind", free of preconceived notions. Here is one example of a preconceived idea. For beginners, a safe and easy default is to sing only in the range of the speaking voice – maybe 5 to 7 or 8 notes. But there are many more notes available. A trained singer should be able to sing a minimum of 2-1/2 octaves. When the singer finds those other notes, they might want to adjust their taste in music. Or not.
I often give beginning singers songs that they would not otherwise choose to perform, and songs that they don’t already know. Imitating other singers makes impressionists out of singers. But what would the genuine voice sound like if not influenced and, too often, adulterated by listening to other singers? Often, the quality of a copy is reduced.
Self-reflection is an ongoing process for any artist. If a singer isn’t regularly taking inventory, examining skills, they aren’t fully invested in their singing. At the same time, I don’t mean that people should flog themselves with a cat of nine tails over perceived inadequacies while in self-deprecation mode. As a teacher, I help singers recognize these stultifying tendencies. The singer needs to learn to deflect aversion to a task, eliminate anxiety over practice or the length of time to learn or other issues that crop up, completely get rid of jealousy over what others are doing, and a very tricky one – allowing personal subjectivity to delude or prevent them from moving forward. Subjectivity is a fine safety net for any intelligent person. But, that said, if you don’t get lost, you may never be found. YOU may never be found.
My views may not reflect popular opinion. But my goal is not to be popular. My goals are to teach people how to find their best voice, achieve artistic freedom, become more insightful individuals, and do what I can to help enhance their overall life experience.