When I am working on exercises with an R&B singer and their voice is very balanced, the reaction inevitably comes up, “That’s great, but I can’t sing like that in my show!“
That is a very good and valid point. Few musical styles sing with a perfectly balanced technique (including opera). Excellent singers of any musical style must frequently deviate, at least a bit, from perfect technique so as to remain true to their given style.
While there may be some church and oratorio soloists which will perform with this “perfect balance,” there are actually very few styles of singing which sound appropriate when performed at twelve o’clock. For instance, a singer who is singing a Mozart aria might actually be singing at eleven o’clock, or one o’clock. A Helden Tenor singing fortissimo in a Wagnerian opera might be more at ten o’clock or two o’clock. A broadway performer in a more legit role might be around eleven o’clock, while a broadway “belter” might be closer to nine o’clock. Our R&B singer could be performing at around eight o’clock, while a hard-core punk singer could be singing all the way down at the six o’clock mark.
In performance, singers may be all over the chart as far as perfect balance is concerned. Yet, any time I sit in on a good voice lesson and hear someone vocalizing, I really shouldn’t be able to discern the style of music that they sing. Unless we are temporarily using some unfinished (unbalanced) sounds, when we vocalize we strive, for the most part, to find a perfect balance in our tone.
A good voice teacher is there to help their students to find twelve o’clock (perfect balance) when they vocalize through their range and this means using a perfect balance of air flow and vocal fold resistance, with the larynx at a resting posture.
When a good performer goes on stage and performs brilliantly, they are often singing in a slightly unbalanced manner in order to be true to their style and interpretation; when they come to me for a lesson after a series of gigs, I need to help them to find balance and sing at twelve o’clock once more.
As a voice teacher who has clients who tour in different musical genres, I sometimes can feel kind of like a chiropractor.
Good singers don’t, however, use good technique only when vocalizing and then just throw the whole thing out the window when they go on stage. On the contrary, they train with a well-qualified voice teacher to help them to find and maintain the best balance possible while singing and still allow themselves to move off of the twelve o’clock mark and into their style in the healthiest way possible. Therefore, they are able to return to balance vocalizing quite easily.
As a new singer, the first step is finding twelve o’clock (balance), and then building the voice from that balanced state. If you don’t have a foundation from which to work (twelve o’clock), then too much styling may very well cause poor singing habits and inhibit you from building a solid technique. If the you haven’t trained for it, and built your voice properly, it is difficult (and sometimes impossible) at best to maintain a healthy voice while maintaining a professional performance schedule.
If you haven’t trained for it, and built your voice properly, it is difficult (and sometimes impossible) to maintain a healthy voice while maintaining a professional performance schedule.