Knowing Your Voice

MIXDOWN MAGAZINE ARTICLE

How and what should I sing? What genre best suits my voice? What do Mick Jagger, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, James Hatfield, Beyoncé and Adele all have in common?

Even though all of the above vocalists sing in completely different genres, they all sing with passion and feeling! They all have fantastic technique, their own unique style, voice and personality that comes through in their music. And most importantly they all thoroughly enjoy the genre of music that they sing in.

Do you think Mick Jagger has enjoyed singing “Satisfaction” for the last 30+ years? My word he has!

If he did not enjoy the genre of music he was singing, he would have quit a long time ago like so many singers before him.Choose a genre or style of music you truly love.

How many times have you personally experienced, heard or read about that a band has broken up or a member has left the band because of musical differences? Countless times I’m sure! First and foremost and very importantly you need to pick a genre of music that you truly enjoy and have an immense passion for. Purely and simply because if you don’t enjoy the genre of music that you are performing, you will not want to continue doing it for very long. You will lose motivation very quickly and subsequently quit. How many times have you done this with a hobby or sport in your younger years?

If you are currently singing in a particular genre of music for fame, fortune and success, you are doing it for all the wrong reasons. You should be singing because you thoroughly enjoy it and you have a message that you want to get across to a greater audience.

Know your range and pick the right keys to best suit your voice.

Now that you have decided on a genre of music that moves you and that you are truly passionate about, you need to find out what your voice can do and what range and keys best suit your vocal abilities.

Please do not be intimidated by the ability of the singers, the genre or style of music that you are influenced by. For instance, the Rolling Stones were greatly influenced by early American Rhythm and Blues. Their first album included all Rhythm and Blues covers except for one original composition. On this very first Rolling Stones album, Mick Jagger transposed some of the keys of the songs higher and lower. He arranged them to best suit his vocal range and ability so that he could sing them with maximum effect, passion and feeling. A great example of this is their version of “Route 66”.

It is important to find out your range. If you are a Male you will have either a Bass, Baritone or Tenor voice register. For Females your voice register can be either Contralto, Alto or Soprano. This simply means whether your voice sits in the low, middle or higher range. It is also very common for these vocal registers to overlap; for instance a male may be a baritone light tenor. Which is a mixture of the middle and higher rangers. Your singing teacher should tell you what type of voice you have on your very first lesson as this important information will ensure you pick out songs in keys that will best suit your vocal ability.

The great news for all singers is that in every genre of music there is always low, middle or higher range singers. You just need to find your voice and use it to the best of your ability.

Listen to your voice.

When you are singing, hear where your voice sounds and sits the best within your range. If you sound thin, strangled, and muddy or constricted you are probably singing in a range or a key that does not suit your vocal abilities and natural voice. If it sounds bad, don’t use it. Sing in the part of your voice that makes you sound the best.

Feel your voice.

Pay particular attention to how your voice is feeling. If you feel pain, discomfort, scratchiness burning, irritation, fatigue or feels strange in anyway then it is not right. You are most probably singing in a key, register or a style of music that is not conducive for your vocal health. Nor will you be able to present the song to the best of your ability or sing for an extended period of time.

Realistically, with correct technique you should be able to sing at a good volume for 1 to 2 hours without your voice fatiguing. Your voice should feel like it has had a good workout. You should also feel that after some vocal rest – say an hour or two – that your voice feels refreshed and that you are able to continue to sing for a few more hours.

Sing with proper technique.

It does not matter what genre of music you are singing. You always need to remember to sing with proper technique or your voice will not last very long. You need to train your voice as an athlete trains their body to perform to the best of their abilities. Your voice is muscle and you can damage it, fatigue it and wear it out if you do not use proper technique or have adequate strength and stamina to last for the desired time that you wish to sing for. If you think that you are having technique and stamina issues it is important to seek the professional advice from a great singing teacher, one who can provide you with the correct advice and techniques to overcome this. A good teacher should cover the subjects of breathing and support, will customise scales to train, strengthen and improve your vocal abilities and will give you vocal warm up and cool down exercises.

In Summary:-

  1. Choose a genre or style of music you truly love.
  2. Pick keys or find a range that best suits your voice.
  3. Listen to your voice, does it sound good?
  4. Feel your voice, if it doesn’t feel good – don’t do it!
  5. Sing with proper technique and seek professional advice if you are unsure.

By Peter Vox