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Classical training for a female pop/rock singer? I'm so confused...

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Iridal
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Hi everyone. I'm new to this forum, and I've searched the archives but I can't find something that is precisily my question(s)... so here it goes.

I started taking voice lessons recently. I've done some vocal training in the past, but not a ton. I sang in a choir when I was little (Both the alto and soprano sections), and recently I started to sing in a rock band (almost all lower tunes). I decided I wanted to get better, because I can't seem to sing anything popular that was written for a woman, unless it was Garbage.

So, I signed up, and we were focusing on the belt range... but I really didn't take to it very well. :( It felt very strained and tense trying to reach a B-flat above middle C. I decided I didn't want to go any further with it because I thought it was going to be too much of a strain. We reevaluated and decided to take a more classical approach instead of my initial pop/rock requests, focusing on some basic technique.

Now here's where all my confusion sets in... quite a few questions... I feel like I sort of know partial answers to some of these, but I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the stuff out there. :-/

1. I like classical singing, but I'm a rock girl at heart. Is classical training going to help me? Ok, I know the majority of people will say yes... so what exactly? I assume that certain things - like breath control, vocal agility and strength, resonance, basically understanding how your voice works - are all good basics that could be applied to any style, but I'd like a sanity check on that, to make sure I'm not just fooling myself...

2. I'm worried that if I go down this road, I'll always sound like a classical singer. I read a lot about how classically trained singers have a hard time with rock/pop... on the other hand, rock and pop are no strangers to me, so maybe I won't lose that style. Thoughts? Am I going to lose what I've worked on in my own time?

3. What is it exactly that makes classical and contemporary music so different anyway? I can tell that classical singing seems placed differently, and it would sound horrible in a rock song. Conversely, you can take any song and make it "sound" classical (poorly) but I can tell there's just a different... placement, and how you say it, between the two ways you'd sing it. What exactly is the variable you adjust here? Would that be how I can apply the lessons of one to the other?

4. I guess I feel like I have two separate voices these days, a classical high voice and a rocker low, and I'm not too happy with either of them. Like I mentioned, I can get to a B-flat with my "chest" voice, then I have to flip, but I can flip much sooner if I wanted to. Can a more classical, technique-focused training help me bring them together more smoothly?

5. I hear about belting, then I hear about mixing/middle. Well, it seems like today you're not impressive unless you can belt. That being said, some of these pop girls out there hit notes that I just can't imagine being possible with a belt (as I've had it defined at least, which is chest voice pulled up). Are they in a middle voice? Is it possible for a mix to sound that convincing? Are belting and middle/mix mutually exclusive? Will I be able to sing higher with a fuller sound if I figure this middle/mix thing out?

My biggest fear I guess is finding out I'm just a bad rock/pop singer and I'm stuck with a classical voice. OK ok so nobody should feel 'stuck' with a classical voice, but its not my passion. However in 2 weeks of singing in my head voice only and doing the "ooooo" exercises to try to raise my soft palate, I made more progress than weeks of trying to belt, where I topped out at a B-flat. I'm starting to wonder if I'm just kidding myself. :(

EDIT: Oh yeah... I meant to add, sorry if this is redundant to other posts on this forum. Thing is, I've scoured for a few hours now, and the number one reason I wanted to post my own is most of the other Q&A's are for guys. Somehow, this forum is filled with men! :rolleyes: Nothing wrong with that of course, haha, I just wanted to post fresh so I could get input aimed towards a woman's voice.

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You should get a vocal coach or a vocal program that's geared towards rock 'n' roll and/or pop, if that's what you want to sing. Granted, there are SOME classical vocal coaches who have good knowledge of both opera and pop singing but they seem to be in the minority. Don't try to please your vocal coach - please yourself. And if that means switching coaches, do it! Or check out some rock/pop vocal programs that you can buy online and try to do the exercises on your own. But note that it's much harder to do it on your own vs. having a good vocal coach that you seem to connect with and has a good record of teaching rock/pop singing. There are several coaches like this on this forum, btw. And finally, note that your question applies equally to men and women. You basically want to be able to sing high, powerful notes within the context of a rock song. Welcome aboard ;) . I wouldn't try to "belt" those notes but rather use a "mixed voice" as you said, and/or use enough twang (use the search button for that) to get a more "rock bite" to your town. But one this is sure - you do NOT have to settle for those two voices you mentioned, i.e. a low rock voice and a high classical voice. Stick around and people here will definitely help you further. Cheers!

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how about breaking it down a bit. you're asking an awful lot of questions for just one post....lol!!

i'm going to state to you as a singer not an instructor that classical technique can most definitely be utilized in rock production and a lot of rockers have had classical training as their core method.

if we look at it in terms of lower core support with a relaxed open throat the benefits are applicable to any genre.

your "classical high" can be developed into your "rock high."

rock singing is highly "attitudinal" but the application of centuries old, time tested principles of natural vocal production can never be, nor ever will be a mistake i.m.h.o.

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"I can tell that classical singing seems placed differently, and it would sound horrible in a rock song" ... Maria Breon (Holyhell), Tarja Turunen (Nightwish) - she's lyrical, so you could say has the ... classical ... sound - of course amongst others (Amy Lee - Evanescence (although the searches don't cover her voice, just her influences (inc. classical)). Need I say more. (Krauss, Church, Wilson). But I guess your post relates to being "trained" classical (and having that Lyrical quality), rather than vocally being classified there.

Most "classical" coaches cover classical and theatre, and the system usually also covers sacred / folk & traditional songs too. So don't be discouraged about a "classical" technique (unless you wish to have that lyrical soprano quality, such as Tarja). You do find that students in the classical circles occasionally get bored and thus step around the theatre circles.

One of my current projects is a Nightwish song (along with the usual xmas stuff (German this year - No Latin (yipee!!)) and Halloween (Don't ask!!)), then it'll be onto one of the Holyhell songs incorporating a choir too (but that's for next year).

I would also suggest you chat to Maria - and have a read on the thread, Member Profiles : Tell Us About You » Hola Mon Capitan!

edt. as a "link" somehow got in the text!!

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Thanks for the replies everyone :)

Jon - Actually, my teacher is more of a contemporary singer, so its not a foreign concept. I actually like my teacher. I don't think the desired end result is to become an opera singer, but work on technique in general... overall I just feel bad I guess because I couldn't accomplish what was originally asked of me, and now I'm wondering if there's even a point. I'll admit, I'm probably just getting discouraged. Its good to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

VIDEO - Eeeeek! I knowwww, I'm super sorry about all the questions, but I didn't want to spam the board with multiple topics... and it was very therapeutic to just get it all out! ;) It even helped me sort some things out in my head to see my uncertainties in words instead of feelings. Anyway, its good to know the classical high can become a rock high, and that these basic techniques have an application. So if one can be developed in to the other... and they're not destined to be separate voices... maybe I should stop thinking about these registers as types as voices, so much as ways to use one voice? I mean, there are notes I can sing in both my head and chest voice, I guess its not like they're separate in any way. I guess that eventually I may be able to take some of those high classical notes and shift them into a more rock style voice, once I get some more control under my belt. Obviously not all of them, some of them are just much much too high, but I'd like to think the ones just above that B-flat can be rocked out somehow, even if its not in my chest voice!

Stew - Out of the artists you mentioned, I have heard Nightwish and Amy Lee. I really do like Amy Lee's work (Nightwish is just a bit too lyrical for my personal tastes), and I never really stopped to think about how she was different. She does sound more heady, but still very full. Thing is, if that's possible, why do people focus so much on belting? Or is it just that a lot of those female artists I hear out there "belting" it out really aren't, and are fooling me pretty damned good, like Amy Lee does?

Again, thanks a lot guys. :) Any encouragement is very much appreciated... its good to know I'm not spinning my wheels for nothing.

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Hi everyone. I'm new to this forum, and I've searched the archives but I can't find something that is precisily my question(s)... so here it goes.

Welcome, Iridal!

I teach some classical and rock singers, from time to time, even a belter or two. I will take a shot at helping you navigate the terminology and technique hurdles.

1. I like classical singing, but I'm a rock girl at heart. Is classical training going to help me? Ok, I know the majority of people will say yes... so what exactly? I assume that certain things - like breath control, vocal agility and strength, resonance, basically understanding how your voice works - are all good basics that could be applied to any style, but I'd like a sanity check on that, to make sure I'm not just fooling myself...

As others have said, there are many things that are genre-independent that are taught in classical training... breath balance, posture, phonation consistency are among the most important.

HOWEVER, there are two things, especially in the training of female singers, that are very often different (depending on the particular instructor,) and that you should be aware of.

The first is vowel shaping. In the mid and upper middle ranges, Classical singers are usually taught to make the vowels 'tall', like in Italian, whereas pop and rock singers are taught enunciation closer to speech, what I would call a 'wide' pronunciation. Its possible to learn how to do both, but it requires mental focus on your part to keep the enunciation approaches (and the differing sensations of 'placement') separate.

The second area is in the location for 'head voice' singing. In classical, its very often taught to ladies to bring the 'head voice down' into the middle voice, which leads the notes in the F4 to C5 range to be fairly dark. In pop and rock, the middle voice is given freer rein to have its own, bright quality.

There are many excellent teachers that can help you with this, but anyone that says 'learn classical and you can sing anything', is not giving you the whole picture. What I think _is_ very true is that the foundations of classical singing (mentioned above) really are the same as any other genre, and are useful to learn. Its just that you don't have to go to a 'Classical only' teacher to learn them.

4. I guess I feel like I have two separate voices these days, a classical high voice and a rocker low, and I'm not too happy with either of them. Like I mentioned, I can get to a B-flat with my "chest" voice, then I have to flip, but I can flip much sooner if I wanted to. Can a more classical, technique-focused training help me bring them together more smoothly?

Technique-focused training is not exclusive to Classical. Bridging (passaggo) technique for both genres is based on the same physical principles. As mentioned, in the case of classical, the emphasis will be 'top-down'. However, the power of the voice comes from firm phonation and good resonance, which applies in either approach.

5. I hear about belting, then I hear about mixing/middle. Well, it seems like today you're not impressive unless you can belt. That being said, some of these pop girls out there hit notes that I just can't imagine being possible with a belt (as I've had it defined at least, which is chest voice pulled up). Are they in a middle voice? Is it possible for a mix to sound that convincing? Are belting and middle/mix mutually exclusive? Will I be able to sing higher with a fuller sound if I figure this middle/mix thing out?

The 'belt' (aka 'Overdrive') is a combination of firm, well-balanced phonation and particular vowel choices that keep the main vowel resonance tracking with the 2nd harmonic, a characteristic of the male chest voice, but not the female chest voice. The belt is far more like a widened middle voice, with particular vowels chosen for their resonance alignments. About the highest that most can go with the belt is F or G5.

My biggest fear I guess is finding out I'm just a bad rock/pop singer and I'm stuck with a classical voice. OK ok so nobody should feel 'stuck' with a classical voice, but its not my passion. However in 2 weeks of singing in my head voice only and doing the "ooooo" exercises to try to raise my soft palate, I made more progress than weeks of trying to belt, where I topped out at a B-flat. I'm starting to wonder if I'm just kidding myself. :(

The work you are doing with your head voice will pay off in more voice coordination, better pitch and breath control. When the coordination is ready, you will be able to combine it with the stronger phonations that make the other genre work for you, and which suits your personality. Be patient. The work is worth the effort. If your former, non-classical teachers did not do these exercises with you... shame on them... its basic voice use.

Oh, and if you want to reach out to the belting community... look up the Estill group on the main TMV page.

I hope this is helpful

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Steven,

Thanks for such an informative response! :) First, I should mention before this instructor, I did not have any vocal training (other than choir some 15 years ago!). So this instructor really is my first. When I got in there though, I think the impression was that I did have training, when the truth is I just sang in a band! Its my fault really for not communicating properly... but the end result seems to be positive. We've reverted to technique. From the feedback I've gotten to my post, I am confident that this is a good thing, and applicable. I think deep down I knew that (especially considering my teacher, while classically trained, also prefers contemporary music for performance), but I needed some reassurance. I feel so lost! But feedback like this makes me confident I can keep trying and improve!

So, what I'm getting from your response is that the differences are all in the vowel formations and where your voice resonates/is "placed"? That would equal a lot of clarity for me... because instead of viewing this experience as a whole bunch of different voices, it would seem more like one voice with different techniques for placement, resonance, and vowel techniques to get the effect you want. I say it would bring a lot of clarity because when tackling the belting thing, I got really locked in to the entire chest voice separated from head voice concept, and it became very frustrating for me. Even just thinking differently, knowing that those are the differences, that techniques are the tools in the tool belt instead of your voice itself being separated into tools is somewhat liberating. I know, I probably sound crazy... but I guess if it helps, go for it? ;)

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Hey Iridal, just thought I would chime in since I am a female rock lover (in a band as well). I have the same issues as you do, and I always wanted to learn to belt like the lead singer of Paramore, Amy Lee, all those awesome female belters. However, one thing you have to understand is not every girl you hear belting is doing it correctly. There are a lot of singers out there who can sing but don't know a lot about technique.

That being said, I think Steven really explained everything, a classical instructor really can give you the techniques to build your voice. Belting is probably one of the most difficult techniques to master because if you are not a natural belter you really have no idea how to do it and a lot of times an inexperienced belter will tense up when they attempt to do it. However, don't be afraid to change vocal teachers if you feel this one does not "fit". It's very hard to find a good instructor, I should know, I have had 7 and I am still searching, lol.

Good luck, Iridal! Keep rockin'!

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Though some may think of belt as a technique (and to some extent, it is), I also think it can be a sound. An auditory illusion. It may sound like a belt without necessarily being one.

Pat Benatar - trained classically to be an opera singer, switched to rock/pop

Kip Winger (Alice Cooper (bass and second vocals), Winger (bass and lead vocals) - trained classically, even learning ballet, then switched to rock / heavy metal

Bruce Dickinson - taught himself from books on classical technique (chief among them, "How to Sing" by Lilli Lehmann)

Robert Lunte- trained classically, then trained with Maestro David P. Kyle.

Others who trained with Kyle are Anne Wilson (Heart), Layne Staley (Alice in Chains,) Geoff Tate (Queensryche, Geoff Tate Band). Kyle came from the world of classical singing.

Ronnie Milsap - trained classically, then changed to rock, then to country.

You can do what you want and cross styles, too. Here's a country song from a band not known for country music.

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From what I understand, constantly training in your head voice will help keep your belt voice from burning out. This is from an old web site but there is some good info on rock singing and voice problems if you scroll down. His recommendation to constantly work on the thin edge of the cords ie head voice helped me repair some damage to my voice from trying to scream blues like Koko Taylor.

http://www.voiceteacher.com/speech_level.html

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I have to say Classical Singing methods form the core of my technique - heck, they form all of it. I still remember an interview with Marylin Horne, when they ask her about her vocal longevity. She said, "I always make sure I maintain my pure "boy-soprano" head voice. It's the key to vocal health." I bet that goes for every great classical singer out there.

I remember another thing, a moment from a masterclass with Horne, Pavarotti and Dame Joan Sutherland, where again Horne demonstrates, at the bottom of her range, the difference in sound between blended singing and pure chest singing - which, to me, mostly meant that bringing head-voice mechanism as low as possible was obviously a desirable goal for someone as great as Marylin Horne, so I'd better follow her example.

Bearing that in mind, the basic principles of Classical Singing should be the primary concern of *any* singer. Now, the different sorts of sounds one produces in popular genres should be a matter of *adding effects*, not of learning to sing in a different sort of way altogether.

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From what I understand, constantly training in your head voice will help keep your belt voice from burning out. This is from an old web site but there is some good info on rock singing and voice problems if you scroll down. His recommendation to constantly work on the thin edge of the cords ie head voice helped me repair some damage to my voice from trying to scream blues like Koko Taylor.

http://www.voiceteacher.com/speech_level.html

carol, i really liked the infomation contained in this link. thanks so much for sharing. this was particularly beneficial to me.

i am not a proponent of speech level singing. i'm definitely a fan of open throat and head voice development top down (from anthont frisell).

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  • 5 months later...
  • 3 years later...

Classically-trained singers sing pop vocals. Singers who have been singing only opera music for a long time are just too use to producing that type of sound. Technique may also be another factor. There isn't only one method that all classical singers use. There are actually many methods out there. Some methods tend to be more hard-wired to achieving that operatic sound, whereas some other methods will allow you to be more versatile. The more important thing however is to sing in the most natural way appropriate for your voice.

http://www.stephaniethompsonint.com
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From what I understand, constantly training in your head voice will help keep your belt voice from burning out. This is from an old web site but there is some good info on rock singing and voice problems if you scroll down. His recommendation to constantly work on the thin edge of the cords ie head voice helped me repair some damage to my voice from trying to scream blues like Koko Taylor.

 

http://www.voiceteacher.com/speech_level.html

Thank you! I didn't know what that means. Perhaps it is High Mix... but at least I get an idea. I was wondering about "the edge of the cords" there. What a mess. :D :) 

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