There’s a moment in my Neuro-Vocal seminars for singers and voice teachers that I ask:
"How many of you have been told that pop singing will ruin your voice"?
Hands always go up. Never less than a third of the participants, actually; both voice teachers and students.
This informal study...
...indicates to me that some voice teachers and college voice departments:
still adhere to the myth that classical singing is the only "real" singing
still believe singing with technique that is appropriate to popular styles will actually damage the vocal folds
don’t listen to music that features vocal technique for microphone-based genres
don’t consider that the overwhelming majority of singing opportunities are in popular musics
With rare exceptions, voice teachers both love their students and want to help them improve. If a voice teacher believes that singing with a sound that's appropriate for popular styles will harm their students’ voices, then they cannot teach that style of singing. Even if that’s the music their students want to sing. Even if they knew how. Which they probably don't.
The problem isn't the style of singing...the problem is the education.
The evidence is all around us.
There are scores of successful, professional singers of popular styles that have been singing the same way, with the same voice, with no vocal damage, for decades. It’s obviously not hurting them. Because, just like classical singing, there's sustainable technique and technique that isn't. Being a professional performing singer, in any genre, can be vocally punishing. A singer's ability to sing well and joyfully over the long haul is based on any number of components unique to that singer. Singing Western Classical music with appropriate technique does not guarantee vocal longevity.
The problem, then, isn't the style of singing. The problem is the education (or lack thereof) of voice teachers. People are often afraid of things they know nothing about. Experts can be guilty of adhering to old and negated “facts,” or uninformed opinions which they believe to be facts. Many experts in voice training, based on outdated or fear-based knowledge, still believe that singing with technique appropriate for popular styles will harm their students’ voices. Then, of course, they share those “facts” with their students in an effort to help them, frighten them, or both.
Nobody asks them
The tragedy of this is that very likely, not one of those students was asked if they wanted to sing classical music. They were simply shoved into voice training for Western Classical, acoustic genres, and told that what they were learning was "singing." Not "singing for a very small and specific musical niche." Just "singing." The facts are that, statistically, almost none of them started voice training with a desire to learn to sing classical music.
Some essential qualities a singer needs to embrace music and singing as an active, living part of their life are curiosity, creativity, joy, and the confidence to participate. None of these attributes thrive in environments that limit and constrain them.
Stealing a diamond
If a singer wants to learn to be great at singing country-western music, and she’s told by her voice teacher, whom she trusts, that singing her own heart’s song will ruin her voice, she may or may not exercise her right to quit studying voice with that person.
not understand that what the teacher is saying is not true,
trust the teacher and believe what she's being told,
continue simply to meet requirements or expectations.
But eventually - even if she comes to love and appreciate Western Classical singing - she will realize that something precious was taken from her. Not through malice or greed, but through ignorance, pride, and fear.
So here's a love note from me to all caring and committed voice teachers:
You are a teacher in the arts, on a sacred journey. You hold tender hearts in your hands. Learn what you need to learn, and learn to love it all. Help them find their music.
Meredith Colby, 2023
Meredith Colby is an expert on singing in popular styles.
She's an author and the creator of Neuro-Vocal for Popular Styles, a way to teach healthy technique for popular styles based on brain science. Meredith teaches privately online to professional & adult singers, and voice teachers & coaches from all over the world.
You can get information and book individual sessions or classes from this site.
Want a resource to help you pick PM
(popular music, CCM, pop/rock, microphone genres, etc)
songs for your students?
This resource is a short (45-ish songs) list with keys, styles, ranges, an "artists like this one" section, and teacher suggestions.
It also includes some online resources as well as fun studio suggestions.
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This blog post is about #singingforpopularstyles and #singingtechnique. It is meant for #singers, #vocalists, #voiceteachers and #voicecoaches. It is also meant for #vocalcoaches and #freelance professionals. In #voicestudy singers are often guided to take #voicelessons and #vocalcoaching in with #vocaltechnique that is not appropriate for the #musicalstyles they want to sing. This post indicates that is a problem, and attributes it to ignorance of #collegemusicprograms , #universityvoiceprograms, and #collegetrainedteachers.