|This week I shared a Vocal Coach Reaction video of Sierra Boggess singing “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.” Isn’t it a great performance?!|
As the associate coach on the Broadway production of PHANTOM, I have a bit of an inside scoop on how the music team likes that song to be sung. But if you think there is only one correct way to do it- you are wrong! There are as many ways to interpret a song as there are voices in the world.
Think of all the women who have played Christine in productions of PHANTOM across the world. Sarah Brightman is vastly different than Sierra Boggess and Sierra is vastly different from Ali Ewoldt, etc etc.
This is true for all musical interpretation. Listen to classical pianist Lang Lang’s recording of Chopin’s “Minute Waltz.” Now listen to amateur pianist Matt’s recording of the same piece. Totally different tempos and interpretations. Is there a right way or a wrong way? Chopin famously said “Put all your soul into it, play the way you feel!”
Particularly with musical theatre repertoire, there are some songs that are expected to be sung a certain way. For example, on a scale from one to ten, one being “legit classical singing” and ten being “heavy belting,” “Glitter and Be Gay” from CANDIDE lands somewhere around a one and “Defying Gravity” from WICKED is somewhere around a nine.
The thing I want to encourage my students to think about is this: what is the optimal placement/interpretation for your voice? Where and how does your voice live, soar, and come alive the most?
It’s truly not worth your time to try to interpret a song the exact same, cookie cutter way you heard your favorite performer sing it. Be inspired by them? Sure! Take some cues from their vocal choices? Absolutely.
But your instrument is NOT the same, and your optimal voice may feel and sound differently from theirs. In a voice lesson, find what feels the best and let your voice teacher be your ears- trust their feedback!
Find your optimal balanced voice and you’ll be on your way to vocal freedom.
Be honest, have you ever thought:
Head voice = not chest voice, therefore it’s not impressive.
I’m here to tell you that singers who avoid their head voice (and therefore, high notes) wear out their voices *47x faster than singers who use their head voice and embrace their upper range.
*47x faster is a completely scientific, not made-up number.
But it’s true. Singers who develop and regularly sing in their chest and head voices have longer careers, more stamina, and more agility in their voice.
Just take a look at this iconic performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Patti LaBelle in the 1980’s, when she was in her late-30s/early 40s or so.
Now check out her performance from 2011, at age 67.
While our voices naturally change and eventually depreciate over time, the best singers with solid technique keep singing, and singing well, well into their 70s, 80s or even 90s!
The case for high notes is a strong one!
So if you find yourself constantly belting out songs that stay in a limited range and never touch your upper register… think again! If you want a long-lasting singing voice, remember: Balance in all things, my friend!
Charlie Puth, Voicenotes. You heard it here (definitely not) first. Charlie Puth is this year’s King of Pop. My Fave tracks include “Boy,” “Empty Cups.”
Punch Brothers, All Ashore. Punch Brothers make an album = it makes my best-of list. Fave tracks include “Just Look at This Mess,” and “It’s All Part of the Plan.”
Shawn Mendes, Shawn Mendes. If Charlie is the king, then maybe Shawn is the prince. As my friend Renee put it, Shawn is my age inappropriate crush. Fave tracks include “Lost in Japan,” “Where Were You in the Morning.”
Third Story, Cold Heart. Three-part male harmony and expertly crafted songs that makes me weak in the knees. Soulful, folk-y, pop rock, these guys don’t bother with playing the genre game and instead showcase their killer songwriting and breathtaking vocals. Fave tracks include “Searching for a Feeling,” “Still In Love,” “Only Love.”
I’m With Her, See You Around. These three insanely talented solo artists came together for this female supergroup. Three-part harmonies (do you sense a theme here?) and stringed instruments make for endless combinations of bluegrass bliss. Fave tracks include “See You Around,” “Pangea” “Game to Lose.”
Tori Kelly, Hiding Place. The gospel album the world needed. I got to see her play Riverside Church this fall and the SPIRIT WAS FELT! Fave tracks include “Psalm 42,” and “Never Alone.”
Mumford and Sons, Delta. A late in the year release and a surprising favorite. I feel like Mumford is back in the musical zeitgeist with the arena pop/rock production on this album. Fave tracks include “42,” “Guiding Light,” “Rose of Sharon.”
Panic! At The Disco, Pray For The Wicked. Been belting it out with Brendan Urie since 2005 and I’m not going to quit now. Fave tracks include “High Hopes,” “Hey Look Ma I Made It,” “Dying in LA.”
Jess Glynne, Always in Between. A boppy pop fest with (IMO) some questionable feminist messages (looking at you, “No One.”) Overall Jess brings her funky soul vibe to pick-me-up positive Brit-Pop and I am here for it. Fave tracks include “Never Let Me Go.” “All I Am,” “I’ll Be There.”
Robyn, Honey. Long awaited and really worth it. The first time I heard the title track, I cried. Pathetic? Perhaps. Fave tracks include “Honey,” “Missing U,” “Ever Again.”
What were your favorite albums of 2018? Happy listening in the new year!
Listen to my favorite tracks from my favorite albums here:
I guarantee you all of your favorite singers worked for years to get the voice they have today. Whether it was formal training with a teacher, or practicing along to Whitney’s riffs and runs in their bedroom for years on end, no one just #wokeuplikethis.
Guy Babusek said it well in a recent blog post:
“Some students will only book lessons when they have auditions or important gigs coming up. When there are no performances on the horizon, I never see them. This is not a wise way of working with a voice teacher at all. In these cases, there is no time to actually build a solid technique. These singers are trying to cram in years of training into small spurts sporadically. While this is better than no training at all, it is a very ineffective way of working. Solid singing technique is built over time, by taking weekly lessons and vocalizing daily in a systematic manner.”
I can’t agree with Guy more! The best time to start your vocal training was three years ago, but the second best time is NOW. Right this minute! Don’t wait until your dream role audition comes up, or you go into record your debut album next week. A great voice takes REAL time to train.
If you want to be a professional singer, or even just a good amateur singer, take RESPONSIBILITY for the time and effort it takes to accomplish something worthwhile. Recognize you won’t get their on your own. If you value something, give it the time, energy, and even money it deserves. In the case of your voice- book regular lessons and practice every day.