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Vocal Coaches' Corner

  • 1999 10 Sep
Vocal Coaches' Corner
Updating Your Vocal Style: The Audience is Always Right!
By Roger Beale, courtesy of {{Christian Musician}} Magazine

I would like for you to consider a different approach to your vocal style. You don't develop a style, your audience does this for you. By performing, experimenting, and singing anywhere someone will allow, your audience will indicate what works best for you by their response to you. Pay close attention to the feedback your audience gives you. It could make or break your ministry.

Early in your ministry you should attempt to sing in many different styles. You may think you know what style of music you want to perform, but your audience may perceive you differently than you had expected. You must perform and perform a lot. This is the only way to find out if a particular style works for you. You will not discover your vocal and performance style in a rehearsal room. It can only be unearthed in front of a live audience.

Having said all of that, it is also important to continually update or change your style. All singers have a vocal image of how they could sound better. Some even think about whom they want to sound like. Not only can you as a singer think about singing and sounding different, you can do it. This is how!

First of all, take an inventory of all the songs you perform. Write them down and examine the songs for style, tempo, and content. Secondly, write down all the songs you have been thinking about singing. These are the songs you are afraid to sing in public, but would really like to.

So now you have two lists. One list of songs you already perform and one of songs you would like to sing but never dreamed of being able to do so. Your first list, like many other singers, will probably contain mostly ballads, while the second will have energetic, challenging upbeat tunes. You need to find and learn new up-tempo songs as soon as you can. You don't want to bore your audience with too many slow ballads. Also, if you plan on entering vocal competitions, consider singing a fast rhythmic song versus a ballad. At competitions, most people sing slow ballads. Set yourself apart with an up-tempo song. Please don't bore the judges, it won't help if they are asleep when you are singing.

Now, once you have your songs categorized, start learning the songs on the second list that intimidate you. Try the easiest ones first, then move on to the more challenging ones. Experiment and be bold when trying new vocal techniques and stylistic differences. Keep in mind, you are stretching yourself personally, vocally, and stylistically. You are becoming a well-rounded singer, instead of a stylistic wannabe.

Now take a few of these songs and perform them publicly. Don't make a wholesale change in your trusted performance list. Just add a song or two at a time, then examine the feedback of the audience as you sing them. They will let you if your new style has arrived.

On the technique side of this style change, you might want to work on your vibrato. If you have excessive vibrato, you will definitely need to learn how to sing without vibrato. Vice versa if you have no vibrato presently. There is nothing more distracting to an audience than listening to a singer who has an irritating and noticeable vibrato problem. You can't understand or enjoy the song because all you can hear is a bad vibrato. Run for your life!

Another technical issue to be aware of is to learn and understand the difference between your head and chest voice. Sometimes called your high (head) voice or low (chest) voice. Once you have conquered these points you need to move those two ends together until you develop and create a middle voice. This will take time. Be patient!

If you continue to work on different types of songs, and experiment with different styles and new vocal techniques, you will eventually develop your own sound. It will be a vocal style influenced by other singers, but individualized just for you.

Now go find some places to sing and perform. Pay attention to the response of the audience and enjoy you newly developed style. God will surely bless and approve of your diligent work.

Vocal Health Tip
You many have heard that singers should not use dairy products before singing. The reason for this is dairy products have a tendency to thicken your mucous. Singers must keep their mucous thinned out. So with this in mind, I would recommend avoiding this type of food product before singing. Also remember, what works for one might not work for another. Experiment and find out what works for you.

Roger Beale is one of Atlanta's foremost vocal coaches. He presently works with professional singers in all areas of musical performance. His teaching and coaching facility, The Voice House, is involved in the management and care of the professional voice. Roger can be contacted at: The Voice House, 1675 Virginia Ave., Suite 103, College Park, GA 30337, (404) 766-0526, e-mail:, web site: