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Vocal Power, Beauty & Wisdom

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You have the technique. You even know how to use it to bring out the best of your unique gift. Now have you even considered the underlying energies at play when you sing? Why would you even want to? According to Sufi Hazrat Inayat Khan in his profound mystical work, The Mysticism of Sound and Music (Shambhala Dragon Editions) , there are three types of voices. Becoming aware of these types and becoming fluid in accessing their power can increase your magnetic influence over your audience. It can turn an average performance into something inexplicably magical.

So what are the three voice types? The first of these is Jelal, and is a voice indicative of power. Remember listening to Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech? He exudes power (as well as wisdom) with his vocal essence. Oprah Winfrey is another good example of a different flavor of Jelal. Oprah knows how to command attention and exert control with her voice. Can you think of any vocalists who have a Jelal voice? I would put Barbara Streisand in this category. Her voice is most striking for its Jelal qualities. I would also put Pink, Steve Perry, Ann Wilson, and Whitney Houston in this category.

Bear in mind, though, we all cross over into each category at different times and in different circumstances, and blending the voice types is part of our artistry. The examples I've chosen are simply for illustration, to illuminate the invisible. I'm not saying Barbara Streisand, for instance, represents only that one quality in her voice. It is merely dominant.

Next is Jemal, the voice indicative of beauty. I think of icon, Marilyn Monroe, with her lilting, breathy voice. A good example of the Jemal voice in the written word is Sufi poet, Rumi. For vocalists, I would put Fergie, Dido, Chris Martin, and Josh Groban in this category.

Kemal is the third voice indicative of wisdom. I think here of the recitations of poet Maya Angelou and the written word of author Paulo Coelho who wrote The Alchemist and many other wisdom tales. Musical artists Jack Johnson, Alicia Keyes, Sting, and Roy Orbison.

I wouldn't say that one voice type is better or more important than the other. And there are some amazing vocalist who tend to stay in only one voice type just as there are singers that tend to blend together two or more voice types. For example, I would say that Tori Amos does an amazing job of weaving beauty and wisdom together. Whereas Alanis Morrisette tends to blend power and wisdom. Who are some recording artists who have mastered the blending of all these three voice types in their music? In my opinion, U2's Bono, John Lennon, Judy Garland, Freddie Mercury, Imogen Heap, and Nina Simone are examples of sublime union of all three voice types.

There are certainly many variables at play here in determining which of the voice types is most prominent, and certainly opinions will vary. It is impossible to remove the meaning of the lyrics, the influence of the musical composition itself, and even the personalities and life experiences of the respective singers...not to mention that of the listener. The point is learning to listen with new ears and hearing the supernatural elements at play behind the music. It's an exercise in building awareness. An understanding of these three voice types represent a new approach to our own voice and its power to inspire or make an impact on others.

As a vocalist, when are you engaging power, when beauty, and when wisdom? Do you know how to blend them together to create an intentional vocal color in a song? Or when to draw upon only one for greater impact? To build an awarness and deeper understanding of these three voices, you can create a list of examples of each of the three voices from your own repetoire. Consider the message in the lyrics and the melodic structure as well as your unique vocal characteristics. Have fun here. Be intuitive. Ask your friends what they think. And enjoy your discoveries.

For further investigations into the qualities of Jelal, Jemal, and Kemal:



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Guest Adam Shaheen


Love this. Going to pick up the book now. Please listen to the first few minutes of Time Consumer by Coheed and Cambria and tell me what is evoked in that voice? Power, beauty and wisdom I would say! Pure fiery divine energy.

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